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PORCUPINE TREE - In Absentia cover
4.34 | 91 ratings | 5 reviews
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Album · 2002


1. Blackest Eyes (4:23)
2. Trains (5:56)
3. Lips Of Ashes (4:39)
4. The Sound Of Muzak (4:59)
5. Gravity Eyelids (7:56)
6. Wedding Nails (6:33)
7. Prodigal (5:32)
8. .3 (5:25)
9. The Creator Has A Mastertape (5:21)
10. Heartattack In A Layby (4:15)
11. Strip The Soul (7:21)
12. Collapse The Light Into Earth (5:54)

Total Time 68:14

European Special Edition Bonus Disc:

1. Drown With Me (5:21)
2. Chloroform (7:14)
3. Strip The Soul (video edit) (3:35)

Total Time 16:10

DVD-A Edition Video Bonus Tracks:

1. Strip The Soul
2. Blackest Eyes
3. Wedding Nails


- Steven Wilson / vocals, guitar, piano
- Gavin Harrison / drums, percussion
- Colin Edwin / bass guitar, backing vocals
- Richard Barbieri / analog synths, mellotron, Hammond organ

- Aviv Geffen / backing vocals (track 4, 7)
- John Wesley / backing vocals, guitars (track 1, 4, 7)

About this release

24 September 2002
Lava Records

European special edition includes a bonus disc. There also exists a DVD-A version with bonus video material.

Thanks to The Angry Scotsman for the addition and J-Man, NecronCommander, Lynx33, Unitron, adg211288, Necrotica, Bosh66 for the updates


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Specialists/collaborators reviews

siLLy puPPy
Slowly but surely the solo project of Steven Wilson that began as a joke and was created simply to create music inspired by the most lysergic sounds of Pink Floyd incrementally gained steam and the momentum to reach the status of international prog stardom. After Wilson turned the project into a full band experience with 1996’s “Signify,” PORCUPINE TREE had all but set its basic blueprint of mixing 90s alternative rock with 70s psychedelic space rock made all the better with elements of progressive rock mined from various sources. In many ways PORCUPINE TREE was like the more progressive counterparts to Radiohead with a very similar approach of mixing Krautrock inspired electronica, beefy guitar grooves reminiscent of the grunge era and a propensity for Pink Floyd’s space rock set to thought provoking lyrical content.

The band’s second phase culminated with “Lightbulb Sun” which found them crafting some of the catchiest crossover prog tunes of the new millenium thus showcasing the band’s propensity for delivering strong ear wormy hooks, eerily haunting harmonies and cleverly crafted space rock contrasted with a bit of alternative rock heft however the best was yet to come as the band ratcheted the aforementioned elements up a few notches and cranked out a trilogy of what many would deem three of the greatest prog rock albums of the 21st century. The first of this string of well-crafted albums came in the form of IN ABSENTIA in 2002 and with its instantly eye-catching album cover you know immediately you’re in for something a bit out of the ordinary. This was also the first album to be released on a major record label. Lava Records may not ring a bell for many but is in face in partnership with Atlantic Records and has sold over 100 million albums, so they know what they’re doing obviously!

While the next step of PORCUPINE TREE’s inevitable ascent to the top of the prog world may have been unstoppable, a couple well known factors played a pivotal role in how the band developed and upped its game. The first was the addition of drummer Gavin Harrison who played with an impressive number of artists before landing his role with Steven Wilson and friends. His seasoned approach and technical drumming prowess were exactly what PORCUPINE TREE needed to take them to the next level of technical wizardry and take them out of the dream pop-infused sorta prog camp to the whole enchilada. Add to that, Wilson acquired a taste for the world of metal music having discovered Burzum, Meshuggah and prog metal superstars Opeth. After meeting Mikael Åkerfeldt and producing Opeth’s “Blackwater Park,” the indelible mark of metal would leave its filthy little claws in Wilson’s psyche and PORCUPINE TREE would never be the same.

The differences are noticeable immediately. While IN ABSENTIA begins with some psychedelic teasers as the album starts, the opening track “Blackest Eyes” doesn’t take long to showcase the band’s newly acquired progressive metal bombast taken to the proper level of technical wizardry with Harrison’s drumming skills. The beautiful thing about PORCUPINE TREE is that Wilson never jettisoned the old to make room for the new. Like a beautiful orchestral symphony he simply added more complimentary elements to the band’s already established sound and improved what had come before as well and IN ABSENTIA presents those standards impeccably with all the attention placed on the melodic developments first and foremost and the supporting elements simply falling where they may. The result was an amazing display of prog compositional fortitude made all the better by an immaculate production job and mixing.

For the most part IN ABSENTIA is the perfect balancing act between the art of ear wormy art rock, sophisticated prog, heavy guitar oriented alternative metal and psychedelic space rock made all the more ethereal by an excellent display of electronic musical forms such as trip hop and ambient music at key moments. The tracks all stand on their own with each adding a vital element to the band’s repertoire. While the opening “Blackest Eyes” displays the band’s new love of metal, the album spends most of the time in the space rock zone with tracks like “Trains” and “The Sound of Muzak” more in the vein of material off of “Lightbulb Sun.” At this point the metal had made its debut but was used sparingly. The heavy music is let off the leash though on the all instrumental “Wedding Nails” which displayed that the band’s fascination with heavier music was not a mere fad.

While the Pink Floyd, Radiohead and Nirvana style grunge are the key ingredients on IN ABSENTIA, on the hardcore prog side of things, there is a heavy King Crimson influence at times most prominent on the proggiest track of the album “Strip The Soul” however much of the proggier elements came in the form of production with subtle contrasts between mixing the various instrumental parts. While guitar solos erupt occasionally IN ABSENTIA was still more psychedelic space rock than anything remotely metal madness. This was controlled heavy but in a good way. What the band’s biggest achievement on this album was that it featured a keen display of various musical motifs and interesting ways of crafting a series of interconnected ideas that somehow resulted in a warm organic process. Take “Gravity Eyelids” for example. It starts off as a trip hop arty space rock song and then transitions seamlessly into a a grunge-fueled Nirvana meets Radiohead sorta track.

While many have hailed IN ABSENTIA as the first prog masterpiece of the new millenium i have to disagree that there had been some fine albums already released by Spock’s Beard, Transatlantic, Pendragon and even avant-proggers Present but where PORCUPINE TREE succeeded where they did not was in the fact that a major label offered a much larger audience and therefore IN ABSENTIA did indeed become one of the best known and best selling prog releases in the early 2000s. Although this is a prog classic indeed, personally i don’t find it perfect but nearly so. While PORCUPINE TREE had mastered the art of fusing its influences and idiosyncrasies into a seamless whole on this release, the track “Prodigal” just seems like filler to my ears. It’s not a bad track but is the one that screams Pink Floyd the loudest and ultimately comes off as totally unneeded. Same for the following “.3” which delivers a lot of psychedelic noodling before finding some true substance. It should’ve been edited to half the length or deleted altogether. The track “Heartattack in a Layby” would’ve been a perfect followup downer track to pacify the feisty metal oriented “Wedding Nails.”

Overall IN ABSENTIA truly is one of the great works of the 21st century not only in terms of prog but in the greater rock universe as well. Everything Wilson and company had been working towards came to fruition on this album and made PORCUPINE TREE one of the biggest prog acts OF the 21st century. While i may not find this album absolutely perfect i certainly cannot deny its relevance, its professionalism and the uncanny strength of most of the material presented. Yes it is a bit too long at over 68 minutes and had the two weakest tracks been nixed it would’ve made this a perfect listening experience for my ears but even as it is i can’t complain too much. I much prefer the following “Deadwing” and “Fear Of A Blank Planet” which took the approach delivered on IN ABSENTIA in sheer perfection however there’s no reason to deny this first installation of the band’s peak years of its classic status. Given my preference for the following albums i had to psychoanalyze my reasoning for listening to this one less and my conclusion is that the metal and space rock elements hadn’t quite completely integrated quite yet in addition to my already presented nitpicking. Anyways, no matter how you slice it, IN ABSENTIA is brilliant prog release that signified prog was alive and well in the new millennium.
Porcupine Tree's In Absentia certainly caused a stir when it came out - some prog-heads even going so far as to suggest the time Steven Wilson spent with Opeth had rubbed off on him - but listened to in the context of their whole discography it's clear that it's an evolution of their sound, not a reinvention of it. You can still just about hear the spacey psychedelic prog foundations of the band (which they'd never really given up) and you can also still hear the Radiohead-inspired indie rock/prog rock crossover of the triptych of Stupid Dream, Lightbulb Sun, and Recordings.

On top of this, there's an injection of a heap of hard rock, heavy metal, and heavy prog (a la King Crimson - see, for instance, the opening of The Creator Has a Mastertape) influences which add a third new layer of musical genetic material into the rich mixture Porcupine Tree habitually offer. And to be honest, this isn't even the most prominent feature of the album - sure, there's a big dose in the lead track, but there's also several gentler songs which wouldn't have sounded out of place on Lightbulb Sun.

And come to think of it, the title track of that one had some fairly hard riffing on it too, didn't it? Just like I said: evoltuion, not revolution. But what an evolution!
One of the greatest example of neo-progressive rock by arguably the best in the business. Porcupine Tree have triumphed with their unique blend of soft acoustic melodica merged with heavy crunching killer guitar riffs. Wilson's voice is mesmirizing on every track. Barbieri's keyboards are a beautiful touch that permeate the album from beginning to end. It is a masterfully produced work that deserves all the attention it has garnered. Streets ahead of previous Porcupine Tree material and the best was yet to come following this album. But 'In Absentia' is an excellent way of being introduced to this important heavy prog band. They are complex in parts but never over excessive. And the melodies remain in your head well after the CD has ended. The production and art work are worthy of note too, a juxtaposition of sound, visual images and symbolism to paint a picture that is powerful enough to remember. Highlights include the wonderful 'Blackest Eyes' with the inspired riff that propels it to its sudden conclusion. The time signature shifts are classic prog rock.

'Trains' is an excellent acoustically driven track that even sounds at one point like a train on a track, especially the ending. A lot of this track,and others, sound curiously like Pink Floyd meets Yes. There are undoubtedly huge influences from classic prog bands in this music. 'The Sound of Muzak' has a very catchy melody and Wilson is in full voice, as are the harmonies from other band members. Check this song out for a great example of melody and awesome musical interludes. 'Collapse the Light Into Earth' is a mesmirising slow moving track that uses techniques of minimalism and a huge wall of sound builds up to a crescendo. The track sends you to another place, and has the power to entrance the listener. Close your eyes and let it take you. It is as relaxing as anything the band were producing in their early days.

All the tracks are unique, inspired and demonstrate the musical complexity that is essentially Porcupine Tree. Many tracks appear on the live DVD 'Arriving Somewhere...' but the studio versions presented on this album are the best versions.

A real surprise! I was blown away by the musical dexterity and depth of this album. Following this was 'Deadwing' which is even better! Both are recommended!

This album saw a more slightly more heavier side, but still keeping within the alternative rock like style with a healthy dose of prog.

Again, faces and eyes are present on the artwork (must be a fetish of Mr. Wilson).

Their seems to be a concept present, about a serial killer, and if there is, the story is more cryptic if anything. Maybe it's a bildungsroman...who knows.

1. Blackest Eyes - Amazing song and one of their best, no flaws at all. Killer riff as well. They do this song amazing live as well.

2. Trains - A more relaxed song, but still with a rock like edge to it, they never fail to impress.

3. Lips Of Ashes - Amazing eerie song. Spine chilling to say the least.

4. The Sound Of Muzak - Amazing satiracal song about modern music (a bit like 4 Chords That Made A Million). I love the line " The music of rebellion makes you want to rage, but it's made by millionares who are nearlly twice your age." Completely ironic and true. The chorus is also amazing.

5. Gravity Eyelids - Again an amazing chorus. I love the atmosphere of the instrumentals. Amazing song, epic and interesting.

6. Wedding Nails - Obvious King Crimson style instrumental. Dead on though.

7. Prodigal - The more upbeat long song. Another great chorus and the counterpoint vocals are quite extraordinary.

8. 3 - Again, amazing instrumentation.

9. The Creator Has A Mastertape - Very weird. This song is very interesting, I love the almost monologic like vocals and the amazing kick ass riffs.

10. Heartattack In A Layby - Very beautiful. The piano sections are very beautiful and the chorus is very memorable.

11. Strip The Soul - Kick ass! Quite angry for a Porcupine Tree song.

12. Collapse The Light Into Earth - How do you end a Porcupine Tree album, slow and nice obviosuly.

CONCLUSION - It's Porcupine Tree, expect nothing but an amazing piece of music.

Phonebook Eater

"In Absentia" has a new, explosive, change of sound for Steven Wilson and his band!

"In Absentia" was most definitely the heaviest PT record at the time, and certainly completely different from all the previous albums. In an interview, now available as an eleven minute track in the EP "Futile", Steven Wilson, PT leader, explains that during this period he was listening to some Extreme prog metal bands such as Opeth and Meshuggah, and that they were his main influence for writing all the heavier songs. The style of the album is, other than having some new, heavy moods, has. Like many previous albums, some pop, prog, jazz at times, ambience and psych. It is, stylistically speaking, PT's most eclectic album to date. The structure of the album is kind of different: no short songs ,as well as no excessively long songs (not longer than seven minutes), and there twelve songs, even though this amount of tracks isn't new for the band. In this way, you can't really feel the album as a journey that you must listen to all the way through, but more like a collection of songs, which isn't necessarily a bad thing, like in this album.

"Blackest Eyes", "Trains", "Sound Of Muzak" are three very big hits for a prog band, mainly because they're very melodic, catchy, and at times exquisitely heavy. " Lips Of Ashes" finds itself in the middle of these three hits, and it's probably the weakest song here. "Gravity Eyelids", however, is a masterpiece, seven minutes of an increasing climax, and before you know it the song explodes from a calm keyboard driven mood into a fantastic heavy riff. "Wedding Nails" is a great instrumental piece, almost all of it guitar driven, unlike other PT instrumentals. "Prodigal" is a beautiful song, very underrated, a lot of soft and dreamy moods. "3." Is a spacey, keyboard driven song, almost all instrumental, but with many great moments. "The Creator Has A Mastertape" is kind of odd, with a heavy bass driven verse, and has generally speaking kind of an energetic feel to it. "Heartattack In A Lay By" is a soft, beautiful song, with a very melancholic and sad sounding melody. "Strip The Soul" is another heavy masterpiece, with plenty of great moments that you won't forget. The last song "Collapse Light In the Earth" is another calm song, but very beautiful, with a heartbreaking melody that warms you up everytime you listen to it.

In conclusion, "In Absentia" is an album that is essential if you like progressive rock music, since it did go down in prog history as one of PT's best and most complete albums.

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