Flashback Album of the Week

Jeff Yerger

Although they’ve been around for a little over two decades, Porcupine Tree has struggled to find its niche, especially in America.

Unfortunately, progressive rock isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about the American mainstream, but with their 2002 album, “In Absentia,” Porcupine Tree proved that you don’t need to be on the radio in order to create a brilliant album.

If you don’t know Porcupine Tree, getting lost in the opening chaos of “Blackest Eyes” will enlighten you. Like much of the album, “Blackest Eyes” is dark and heavy, yet filled with glimmers of light and euphoria.

Thanks to singer/guitarist Steven Wilson’s songwriting, each song on this album is carefully crafted and well-groomed with elements of rock, pop and metal.

One thing to know is that Porcupine Tree is a set of very talented musicians: Gavin Harrison is one of the most talented drummers in the business, and Wilson receives help from bassist Colin Edwin and keyboardist Richard Barbieri in creating the luscious atmospheres and brooding undertones in songs like “3” and the schizophrenic “Gravity Eyelids.”

On songs like “Prodigal” and “The Sound of Muzak,” the band comes together through their heartfelt harmonies that would give Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young a run for their money.

“In Absentia” struts along the boundaries of serenity and disorder as it clearly flirts and teases with your emotions.

There is the dream-like “Lips of Ashes,” which immerses you into a sea of swirling guitars and celestial tones before it unravels into one of the most heartfelt guitar solos of this decade.

Then there is the dark and disturbing “Strip the Soul,” which develops into a massive interlude that is as funky as it is heavy, until it finally spits you back into its devilish main riff.

The nostalgic “Trains” is one of the most beautiful songs on the album. Being the most radio-friendly of the bunch, “Trains” contains all the highs and lows of a normal ballad, but its eccentricities engage you for a more fulfilling experience.

“Collapse the Light Into Earth” is a chilling piano piece reminiscent of Coldplay’s “Fix You,” but with more poignancy and emotion.

On “The Sound of Muzak,” Wilson sings that music is one of the wonders of the world that is going down, and yet, no one seems to care.

“In Absentia” demonstrates the power of music and all it has become; it is raw, heartrending and it brings you to your knees.

If the state of music as we know it is indeed going down as Wilson says, then “In Absentia” is its saving grace.