Album Review: Porcupine Tree – Closure/Continuation

Band: Porcupine Tree | Album:Closure/Continuation | Genre: Progressive rock | Year: 2022

From: Hemel Hempstead, UK | Label: Music for Nations

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After years of waffling back and forth over whether or not he’d ever revive the band, Steven Wilson has brought Porcupine Tree back to life. While Porcupine Tree remained in limbo, Wilson remained in regular contact with both drummer Gavin Harrison and keyboardist Richard Barbieri. However, Wilson lost touch with bassist Colin Edwin, so he does not appear on this album. Instead, Wilson handles all the bass parts himself.

The title for this album is quite fitting. I honestly doubt Porcupine Tree are going to record another album together. Wilson’s increasingly poppy solo career belies that heavy progressive rock probably isn’t what he wants to focus on now. And Harrison has stated that his style of drumming is very physically demanding, and he’s unsure how much longer he can continue playing this style of music. The band’s ambiguous position following The Incident left pretty much everyone unsatisfied, so this album feels like a way for Wilson to close the book on Porcupine Tree on his own terms.

As for the content of the album itself, it’s good. It’s a marked improvement over Wilson’s last three solo albums (Yes, that includes Hand. Cannot Erase. That is Wilson’s most overrated release. Fight me!), but it’s not quite on par with the best output of either his solo career or of the band.

Closure/Continuation opens on “Harridan”. The bassline is funkier and more aggressive than Colin Edwin’s style, and it’s more akin to Steven Wilson’s solo work, but the keys and lightly-processed vocals are classic Porcupine Tree. The song is dark and dramatic, and the occasional stab of brighter tones makes for an excellent contrast. The song’s second half is a bit mellower and more meditative. Barbieri’s electronic influences get some time in the spotlight, and results in some pretty good instrumental interplay. Though metal influences are reduced overall on C/C, this song features a few fantastic heavy riffs which evoke Deadwing and In Absentia.

“Of the New Day” is a mellower piece and the only solo Wilson composition on the album. Its opening feels more like a Wilson solo piece than even the band’s previous mellow pieces, but the jagged guitar riffs are great. This composition is one of the less-interesting pieces on C/C, but if you’re a fan of Wilson’s slower solo work, you’ll probably like it.

The opening riff of “Rats Return” is herky-jerky and aggressive, and it abruptly shifts into a rather quiet, foreboding verse. Harrison’s drumming is tight under the oddball riffs, but the verses feel like a generic Porcupine Tree song. Don’t get me wrong; I enjoy this song and the album overall, but there are passages here that feel like they were either phoned in, done out of obligation, or just lacking spirit.

Gentle, strummed acoustic guitar kicks off “Dignity”, and unlike “Of the New Day”, this feels like a proper Porcupine Tree song. There are little textural flourishes, and the melody is more engaging. There’s a good gradual build throughout the song, and the big, crunchy bassline in the middle is a very nice touch. Unfortunately, this song overstays its welcome a bit. It would have been a good six-minute song, but eight-and-a-half minutes is a bit much in this instance.

“Herd Culling” opens on a bit of music that sounds like it’s right off In Absentia. In fact, the odd twanginess of the main guitar line, coupled with how it erupts into a louder section, feels a bit too much like “Blackest Eyes’’ at moments. This song features one of Wilson’s best vocal performances of his career, though. He demonstrates a greater versatility than I normally expect of him.

Odd, unsettling electronic bloops open up “Walk the Plank”, and piano and echoing vocals add to the askew atmosphere. This song features no guitar, and it thrives on its eerie aura. This piece is probably the most original-sounding cut on the album, and it’s a major success.

The album (or at least the standard edition) ends on “Chimera’s Walk”, which moves slowly to start and becomes more anxious as it progresses. The tempo gradually increases, and by the song’s midpoint, it’s turned into an insistent march. Wilson’s vocal arrangements are strong here, and the growl of the bass and keys adds a sinister element.

The deluxe edition of Closure/Continuation features a trio of bonus tracks. I enjoy them all, but I’m glad they weren’t included in the standard tracklisting. They don’t fit in with the overall flow of the record. “Population Three” is a great instrumental with a lot of cool ideas and themes. “Never Have” sounds like a moderately-overblown version of a typical Wilsonian piano ballad in its first half, and the second half has more great instrumental antics. “Love in the Past Tense” is my least favorite of the bonus tracks. It’s fine, but nothing stands out about it.

Overall, I like Closure/Continuation. It features a lot of the characteristics I’ve been missing from Wilson’s recent solo releases, and it’s evident that the band members have good chemistry with one another. This isn’t a perfect album, though. Parts of it feel unenthusiastic, and I mentioned several moments where the music just sounds like “Generic Porcupine Tree Song #138”. Despite those issues, this isn’t a bad way for the band to close things out. They always could continue, but I’m not expecting anything imminent, if at all.

Score: 74/100

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