Storm Corrosion (Roadrunner)
Many years from now when nerds everywhere look back at the year 2012, they will fondly remember it for many things. Will it be remembered as the year for geek movies like The Avengers, Prometheus, and The Dark Knight Rises came out. IPhone 5 perhaps? Or maybe when Diablo 3 was released? The Facebook IPO? Nah. It will go down at the year MIKAEL ÅKERFELDT and STEVEN WILLSON put out their long teased about Storm Corrosion album. It sounds neither truly like OPETH or PORCUPINE TREE which were the groups that brought these great artists together. Nor does it sound too much like Wilson’s solo high quality work. While there are hints of the talents and styles of each titan, the blend of the two is something new, if not unexpected. It is definitely not the progressive rock masterpiece fans (amd I) have dreamed of and that likely is either a plus or a minus depending on your taste.
The album as a whole is more like a series of emotional peaks and valleys rather than the bombastic riff fests these two are better known for in their earlier, more metal-related careers. “Drag Ropes” begins as a somber affair sonically with some gentile keyboards and guitar. ÅKERFELDT’s chant like delivery of pastoral chords sets the table mysteriously. When Wilson’s voice comes in later it is magical. They contrast and compliment each other well as they have for years. There is also some interesting guitars that resemble neo-folk sounds almost like a movie sound track. In fact it does almost sound like the sound track to one of the past Diablo games. Trippy! Further along the music draws you into a mantra like chant like classic music cannons. Not only are these masterfully done parts of songs, the melody’s will stick with you for days. Some sparse drumming is provided by PORCUPINE TREE ace Gavin Harrison and the track fades back to the beginning after some interesting restrained guitar solo/synth parts. Overall the production is as neat and crisp as you could imagine from this pairing. The title track is next and even though is never gets beyond a hush volume wish, it can be described best as epic and jazzy. The lyrics are thoughtful and also as delicate as the performances. Wilson’s voice leads first with his partner in crime second. Their jazz harmonizing is on a special level. Wilson in particular shows off a surprising amount of soulfulness vocally without falling prey to a rote blues style that another might try. The guitar and keys interplay is again intricate and tasteful. There is a bit of early GENESIS/PINK FLOYD style music-concrete in the end of the track that adds some horror movie tension. “Hag” is almost like listening to two different songs A-B tested against each other. Åkerfeldts’ voice leads here and you have another piece that builds up into something special. From a eerie, creeping tone poem into a bit of a waltz the track definitely takes you out of yourself. You wonder what the faint laughter is about in the background. Fancy dinner party or insane asylum. You never know with these guys. “Happy” is anything but happy sounding. It is very sad and foreboding even with the la-Dee-dah vocalese at the end adding a ray of hopefulness. “Lock Howl” is an all instrumental piece that also sounds like the soundtrack with no movie. Without falling into a gallop beat, it definitely has the feeling of the road traveled, rhythmically and sonically. The final cut, “Ludjet Innan” is a spacial, shoe gazer that will even call to mind good 1980s Brit pop! More great guitar work and peaceful bass and drums. The tones just call to you with remnants of 60s and 70s psychedelic references. Although there is no ceiling on what these fellows can do, it is their stylistic and musical choices that really make this album a winner. It is about as far from metal as they can get collectively. But if you, like them, love great song writing and story telling, this album is for you.
by Keith (Keefy) Chachkes