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Porcupine Tree / Should Wilson, Barbieri and Harrison have let sleeping progs lie?

When the news dropped last year that legendary modern progressive rockers Porcupine Tree would be releasing a new album after a 12-year hiatus AND playing some gigs, their legions of fans were left salivating like Pavlov’s pooches. Now the album Closure / Continuation is finally here, MetalTalk are asking if Steven Wilson, Richard Barbieri and Gavin Harrison should have let sleeping progs lie?

Porcupine Tree – Closure / Continuation (Music For Nations / Sony)

Release Date: Out Now

Words: Robert Adams

Closure / Continuation was written and recorded in stages over the last ten years. Ten years that have seen Steven Wilson further his hugely successful solo career, Gavin Harrison take one of King Crimson’s drum stools as well as joining The Pineapple Thief and Richard Barbieri continuing to create beautiful soundscapes as well as recording a couple of albums with Marillion singer Steve Hogarth.

Porcupine Tree – Closure / Continuation
Porcupine Tree – Closure / Continuation

The elephant in the room is the omission of bassist Colin Edwin in the entire Closure / Continuation project. His absence has been explained as Wilson playing bass instead of guitar alongside Harrison during the demo stages of the album and finding that they liked the sound of the bass being played like a guitar rather than the way a conventional bass player would approach it.

That makes perfect sense from a musical point of view. For those that have read Steven Wilson’s excellent Limited Edition Of One autobiography, part of Edwin’s omission may or may not be found in the opening chapters.

It’s also telling that the copyright holder of the Closure / Continuation album is a company called Porcupine 3 Ltd.

So, now we’ve got the album’s gestation and creation out of the way, let’s dig in and find out what Closure / Continuation is REALLY like.

Opener Harridan was the first single dropped from the album back in November 2021, albeit in an edited form. Here we get it in all of its eight-minute and seven seconds glory, and it’s nothing more than old school Porcupine Tree with some clever tweaks to bring them up to date. That’s not a bad thing at all.

The aggressive picked bass from Steven Wilson hits you straight between the eyes, followed by a gorgeous 5/4 drum pattern that could only be Gavin Harrison. As the song progresses, you find that you are drawn more to the subtle soundscapes that Richard Barbieri is producing in the background rather than the in-your-face bass and drums. When the guitars finally kick in, I found myself smiling as the memories of classic Porcupine Tree came flooding back.

This felt so familiar, yet somehow different. It changes feel and tempo throughout its run time, which was always something that Porcupine Tree were masters of. It’s comforting to hear that, at least, some things never change.

Next up, we have the gorgeous Of The New Day, the second single from the album, which was released in March 2022. There’s a wonderful single edit live studio video that accompanied the release and this track just screams Lazarus in feel and delivery.

Rats Return follows, which is the most recent single from the album and is the first proper guitar-driven song on the album. This could’ve been plucked from Porcupine Tree’s excellent Fear Of A Blank Planet album.

Again, there’s a sense of familiarity which runs throughout the whole of Closure / Continuation. You could place any of the seven tracks in previous Porcupine Tree albums, yet it doesn’t feel old or that the band are treading old ground. Indeed, after the jolt of familiarity, there’s always an unexpected left turn that makes you realise that this is the sound of Porcupine Tree in 2022.

Dignity finds us in traditional progressive rock territory with a subtle keyboard line with children’s voices in the background before a plucked chord guitar pattern ushers us straight into what could be classic Pink Floyd. It’s one of the standout tracks on the album for me, and although there’s the aforementioned Floyd feel, it remains resolutely Porcupine Tree. A beautiful clean guitar solo comes in around the five-minute mark, which elevates the song to new heights.

Herd Culling is the product of the first jam/demo session that Steven Wilson and Gavin Harrison did ten years ago, along with Harridan.

Obviously, those tracks have been worked on through the years. It’s a guitar-based, polyrhythmic-based beast, with crunching overdrive rearing its head in places along with Wilson’s plaintive falsetto vocals adding extra textures.

Walk The Plank finds abstract keyboards and sparse drumming guiding us into a pretty straightforward classic sounding Porcupine Tree track. It’s the shortest track on the album, clocking in at four minutes 27 seconds and does its job well.

Chimera’s Wreck brings the album to a close, and it’s nine-minute plus run time makes it the longest track on the album. As expected from a Porcupine Tree song of this length, the twists and turns are many. Not one second of it is wasted or unnecessary, and it is a wonderful ending to the album.

Porcupine Tree in 2022 are a different beast from the Porcupine Tree that long-time fans remember. While Closure / Continuation isn’t drastically different to their previous output, there’s still enough of a progression in the band’s songwriting and performances to take it from nostalgia to new.

Sure, there are elements of classic Porcupine Tree everywhere you look, but it never feels like they’re rehashing old ideas or have run out of steam.
Closure / Continuation isn’t Porcupine Tree’s best album – that’s still In Absentia – but it more than warrants a place in their catalogue.

As for the album’s title, the band have stated that it could be seen as closure to Porcupine Tree or a continuation. They aren’t certain which it will be themselves. They wanted to release an album that they were proud of if this was to be the last chapter in Porcupine Tree’s recording history.

To answer the question posed at the start of this review, I’m glad that Steven Wilson, Richard Barbieri and Gavin Harrison didn’t let sleeping progs lie.

Porcupine Tree – Closure / Continuation

Harridan
Of The New Day
Rats Return
Dignity
Herd Culling
Walk The Plank
Chimera’s Wreck

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Comments

  1. I love how no one remembers the fact that this dude called Eddie Van Halen vile after he died. And I’m not taking it out of context.

    This band sucks.

  2. SW was refering to the “shredder phenomenon” rather that EVH as “vile”, but still a poor choice of words

    For context, you can review the full quote from an interview with ‘Face Culture’ as reported in various outlets (including: https://www.nme.com/news/music/steven-wilson-says-he-was-unaffected-by-eddie-van-halens-death-2870515)

    In the same article, there’s this comment from the ever-classy Wolfie “the title is a little too clickbait-y, because what he said really wasn’t that rude.”

  3. Let’s hope in the new concert series we get a chance to revisit some of the old porcupine tree songs. So far this album hasn’t hit me like the old ones. Maybe I just have to give it time. I will be at a live concert at the auditorium in Chicago.

  4. I saw the old Porcupine Tree band several times. I saw the show in Denver last night and was not impressed. They have revamped old songs making them more like rock. The show seemed routine missing the passion. The sound system was off with the volume of the guitar so loud you could not hear the keyboard. Gavin was not into the show or the crowd he just did his job to perfection. I left this show early which I would never have done with the original band.

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