Tuesday, May 15th 2012
Reviews: Storm Corrosion
When Porcupine Tree’s Steven Wilson and Opeth’s Mikael Åkerfeldt announced their collaborative project Storm Corrosion, it was hard to know exactly what to expect. Even though both frontmen came from a progressive rock/metal background, and had already made appearances on each other’s albums, they admittedly wanted to avoid the predictable “prog supergroup” approach. Instead, they took the chance to start something entirely new, and work on music that wouldn’t have fit with either of their bands.
Right off the bat, it’s necessary to make clear that Storm Corrosion’s self-titled debut is not a metal album, and would hardly even qualify as a rock album for a lot of people. While Wilson’s and Åkerfeldt’s most recent releases (Wilson’s solo LP Grace For Drowning and Opeth’s Heritage) could easily be called “progressive rock,” Storm Corrosion would only loosely fit that genre label. This is a mostly acoustic album, led by soft guitars, string arrangements, and background keyboards, with beautiful, long-winded songs that wouldn’t fit in a Porcupine Tree record as well as they do here, and would probably feel too harmless for Opeth.
The six tracks contained here are far from mere acoustic ballads. There are elements of progressive rock at use, but they come from the less-familiar end of the genre’s spectrum, borrowing not its grandiose structures and tempo changes, but its meticulously layered soundscapes. Much like Pink Floyd managed to set themselves apart from their peers back in the day, Wilson and Åkerfeldt go into new territory, favoring the construction of slowly-evolving, incredibly textured music, instead of the complex time signatures and instrumental solos usually associated with their bands. Both musicians had already shown a clear talent for stretching out jams without making them feel unnecessarily lengthy, and they do so here as well, although with fewer changes in song structure than one might expect.
That’s not to say that guitar solos and intricate drum beats are actually gone, but they are very few and far between, contained within rare explosions of sound, which come across as a surprise on a first listen. These bursts, such as the King Crimson-esque breakdown towards the end of Hag, or the synth beat that comes from out of nowhere halfway through Lock Howl, work precisely because of how scarce and quick they are; their impact lasts longer than the time it took to sink in what just happened. Some listeners will have their faith and patience tested if they keep waiting for these moments – which, of course, would be to miss the point of the record, but it’s inevitable to not wish for something a bit more immediate at times.
It’s tough to say to whom exactly this album is made for, as it doesn’t sound enough like either of the two associated acts to warrant an instant recommendation to their respective fans. Still, given how many among those were loyal enough to sell out the record’s special edition before having listened to any of it, it’s safe to assume that they’re open-minded (or faithful) enough to appreciate this project. Furthermore, because of the few resemblances to Porcupine Tree and (especially) Opeth, those who’ve never enjoyed either of those two bands are very perfectly capable of getting something out of Storm Corrosion, regardless of their definition of “progressive rock.”
It’s impressive the way in which Wilson and Åkerfeldt aim not to wow with technique, but to gradually entrance through its rich textures, as each song feels like a particular journey that fully grabs the listener. The slow pace can be a bit too much to bear at times, especially since the percussion is used only to a minimal extent, making some parts of the record crawl along. Fortunately, while the tracks average more than seven minutes in length, the LP itself lasts a mere forty-seven minutes, which is pretty much a record in conciseness for both parties involved. Storm Corrosion ends up far from outstaying its welcome, and feels cohesive in its own right, welcoming repeated, start-to-finish plays, which in turn reward with more details and nuances within the music.
You can order Storm Corrosion’s debut here.