Artist: Porcupine Tree
Title: “Fear Of A Blank Planet” DVD
Label: Atlantic Records
Genre: Progressive Hard Rock
Now that you have had more than enough time to enjoy the original release by Porcupine Tree “Fear Of A Blank Planet”, I can discuss a little bit about the Special Limited Edition version that presents the album on a DVD as opposed to CD and not only delivers the 5.1 audio mix but gives you video extras and bonus tracks. Having absorbed the initial album for many months I still find it a profound piece of creative music and that it probably captured some of the best that composer/guitarist Steven Wilson has ever done. My original comments on the release are presented in recap for you below and then I will discuss some of the finer points about the special edition.
“While I have long enjoyed Progressive Rock and Metal acts like Dream Theater and Rush along with the legends of the genre such as ELP and Yes, I never quite sat down and took the time to absorb what the band Porcupine Tree was all about until the band’s 2007 release “Fear Of A Blank Planet”. Going into the group with a limited background was rather exciting because I had no pre-conceived notions or expectations from them other than the learned knowledge that founder Steven Wilson had written the album based on his views of the way in which we are living in the world today. We are still the MTV generation in some sense or at least an Internet and video game console generation when it comes down to it. The constant flow and feed of information and stimuli to our senses end up as nothing more than distractions to actually living ones life and with this framework to build upon, Wilson has delivered that which is being referred to as Porcupine Tree’s most stunning album to date.
As I listened I could agree that the band does not fall into any sort of mold or particular genre scope because while Progressive in its roots, there is a healthy dose of conventional Rock as well as touches of Psychedelia going on. This angle comes into play later one, but when the album begins with its title track there is a solid groove that instantly satisfies the need for a rocking number. Wilson’s voice is slightly echoed which gives it a fantastic effect and while the guitar work is nice, the drumming of Gavin Harrison is what stands out the most for me under the lyrical drive of Wilson’s composition. The songs blend into one another on the release and when it boils down to it this works for the flow and feeling of this being one large piece as opposed to six individual songs. Of course this is the kind of band that you cannot skip around the tracks and hope to know what they are doing and instead you must find the mental space to absorb the whole thing from start to finish. There is no real “single” for the release, but the title track can easily serve as the best means for the new fans to find themselves wanting to learn more. Lyrically it is rather profound as it describes the desensitized youth of today to a tee. The mood shifts to a slower pace with “My Aches” and there are some almost Pink Floyd touches in here to enjoy in this one. “Anesthetize” is the most epic of the bands output here and clocks in at a whopping seventeen plus minutes with much of it led by drummer Harrison while the guitar solo is offered up by none other than Rush’s own Alex Lifeson. There is a lot of atmosphere projecting out to the listener and for its length there isn’t a boring melody to be found in the track and instead they will find themselves bopping their head to the rhythm and perhaps even doing some drum tapping of their own.
Prog-Godfather Robert Fripp delivers some of his famous soundscapes during “Way Out Of Here” and I really loved the way that the vocals were presented on this one. There is a soaring airiness to them that just appealed to me based on the way the melody was being done. The album ended with “Sleep Together” and while this was another type of driving rock piece, I had to admit that it takes the listener a few goes at the release to “get” the best idea about what Wilson is trying to give us with this one. It’s a good thing that it almost forces you to sit through it once again because like the albums subject material we are often so jaded to the world around us based on the speed and simplicity that things are delivered to us. At least with “Fear Of A Blank Planet” we can examine these feelings as an outside observer and hopefully come away having learned something. This was a stand out release for me to experience as a new listener and this was based on it being flawlessly produced just as much as it was profoundly written. The lyrics are delivered to us in the provided booklet and I recommend that one listens to the album first without them and then for the second go round to use them in order to get a better grasp of the concept being discussed. Fans of the band had recommended that based on my enjoying this album that I look into the album before this one, “Deadwing”, and to also dig up a copy of their first-ever concert DVD “Arriving Somewhere, But Not Here”. Those are on my purchase radar so if you liked this release and are also one of the newbie’s then I pass this suggestion along to you.”
As mentioned briefly in the beginning of the article, the album is presented on DVD with this version and that’s primarily to be able to deliver the 5.1 audio mix in the proper fashion but I am still one of those listeners who needs to upgrade their equipment to best enjoy that. It sounded great playing out of my high end DVD player, but I must admit that my speakers are still rather lacking when it comes down to it. The DVD is also the home to four additional tracks that make up the EP entitled “Nil Recurring” and according to research these are tracks that were done during the “FOABP” sessions but for whatever reason did not make the final edit of the album. My guess is that they chose to leave it as it was or risk running into a double disc release. In listening to the tracks I had to say that they did not seem to be mere cutting floor discards and instead are equally strong to the material we found on this original album. “Nil Recurring” as a track has a lot of Funk and groove feel to it and its original intent was perhaps to be a track that led from one them into another. “Normal” fooled me at first because it had a number of feels and changes. It began slightly heavy and then became an almost airy ballad only to get heavy once again. To me the lyrical theme that Wilson is singing about makes one feel that this would have fit right in on the original album. “Cheating the Polygraph” is another one of those peaks and valley tracks as Wilson and company keep it on the smooth side only to end up delivering crunching riffs and thunderous drumming. The production on this particular track is outstanding as one can almost tell what each and every drum and cymbal that are being hit actually are. The EP portion of the release closes with an atmospheric Wilson vocal over some militaristic syncopated drumming at its beginning and it all ends with intensity and fire. There is a lot of cool time signature changes in this one as well and a perfect closure to the four tracks we were luckily offered. The booklet that came with the original CD has been expanded to feature lyrics for the new tracks and a couple of additional photos as well.
Mini-Album: “Nil Recurring” – Nil Recurring, Normal, Cheating The Polygraph, What Happen’s Now?
Bonus Features: Blank Planet short film, “Fear Of A Blank Planet” – uncensored promo video, “Anesthetize” – live film. The videos were rather interesting and the short film depicts rather vividly the youth of today in terms of how some of their routines and daily life is placed to the songs on the album. Alarming in some regards and enlightening in others.
Being a limited edition for a cult-level band means this might actually be harder to find than it is not, but at the end of the day it’s really worth owning if you are one of the bands ardent followers. Wilson and the guys did a great job on this particular album and it will be interesting to see what he comes up with next based on all the acclaim that this one received.
1. Fear Of A Blank Planet
2. My Ashes
5. Way Out Of Here
6. Sleep Together
Official Website: www.porcupinetree.com