Closure/Continuation

Porcupine Tree

Sony, 2022

http://www.porcupinetree.com

REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 07/28/2022

It’s been 13 years since Porcupine Tree released a studio album (the excellent song cycle The Incident) and 10 years since any release at all (the double-live Octane Twisted); with the various members going on to play solo albums, tour with King Crimson, record with The Pineapple Thief, play as a studio musician or produce other bands, it seemed Porcupine Tree was a done deal.

And then, after secret recording sessions, news of Closure/Continuation began to leak out, followed by the album arriving in summer 2022, with the band back together minus bassist Colin Edwin. A lot has changed since 2009, and yet Porcupine Tree has been able to pick up where they left off, with a set of seven (or 10, if you listen on Spotify) knotty prog-rock tunes that alternate between spacy and driving hard rock.

For fans of the more rock side of the band, opener “Harridan” is excellent, with singer/guitarist/founder Steven Wilson sitting in on bass and opening with a great bassline before the full band kicks in. Not quite prog metal, but in the same spirit, and a welcome introduction. “Rats Return” is just as good, a jagged rocker with overtures of late-period King Crimson (no doubt brought back by Gavin Harrison’s time touring with the legendary band), shifting from the spacy unsettling verses to the angular punctuations of guitar in the wordless choruses. my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

“Of The New Day” feels like more classic PT, a ballad that abruptly breaks open into cascading falls of guitar and Richard Barbieri’s keyboards; “Dignity” is similar in approach, and both songs are solid if unlikely to make the same impact as “Harridan.” Elsewhere, “Herd Culling” is a study in contrasts, spooky keyboards and jazzy drumming exploding in the chorus (with its repeated refrain of “liar”), and a false ending that frankly isn’t warranted.

“Walk The Plank” is a mishmash of sound effects and interesting ideas that don’t cohere into a whole, while “Chimera’s Wreck” is a 10-minute affair that falls into the trap of being too long for its own good. The song takes a long time to actually get going, but around the four-minute mark the bassline comes to the fore and starts driving the song along with Harrison, over which Wilson sings his cheerful chorus (“I’m afraid to be happy and I / Couldn’t care less if I was to die”). A killer guitar solo sails in after around six minutes, then Harrison’s beats get jittery and the band rides the main theme to the end. It’s not quite the triumphant epic it could have been, but it’s still a thoughtful and engrossing piece.

As for the bonus tracks, “Population Three” is an unmemorable proggy instrumental but “Never Have” (more of a ballad) and “Love in the Past Tense” (a solid rocker that builds to a true climax). Together, they flesh out an album that—like most prog rock—may take a few listens to fully sink in, but your mileage will still vary based on your love of this band (or, say, Rush) and the genre in general. What makes the experience interesting is the tension of the album, no doubt informed by the real-life tension between the musicians and the separate recording of the various instruments. There are few moments on Closure/Continuation that feel settled or relaxed, which gives the album an anxious spark, yet it still doesn’t reach the heights of the great PT albums of the 2005-2011 era.

The title reflects Wilson’s thoughts on the band in general; in an interview, he said he genuinely does not know if this album is the end of this band, or the start of a new chapter after a 13-year hiatus. If so, there are worse ways to end a band, but I can’t help but think that once the tensions are resolved, PT may yet have another killer album in them. This falls short of that mark, but it’s still solid.

Rating: B

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