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I'm guessing that most people who have listened to this album have done so because of Steven Wilson, Mikael Akerfeldt, or both. I know that I would never have considered buying Storm Corrosion if I hadn't known about the involvement of Porcupine Tree's and Opeth's leaders, although I would place a warning hand on the shoulder of anyone else so hasty to act on the reputation of those bands. While Porcupine Tree have circled the rim of metal's consciousness for much of their career and Opeth carved out a very specific niche before digging themselves back out, Storm Corrosion is not a project that bears much resemblance to metal in any sense, nor prog rock, nor any kind of popular music. Instead, the concoction that is distilled in this here bottle is flavoured much more by folk and ambient, using a sparse arrangement of acoustic guitar, keys, synthesizers, and vocals to dwell lightly on fragile outdoor vistas and lonely cottages that seem a world away from the chaos and activity of the cover image.
Alert readers should already have picked up on the words "lightly" and "fragile" in the previous sentence, for indeed this is an album that barely raises itself above a whisper, preferring to tread cautiously through the empty, dusty house that I keep seeing and expand itself a little wider and freer (though no louder) when the music finally finds its way to an unlatched back door. The standout track in this sense is surely 'Lock Howl', since it is the only piece that has any courage to exert itself, although the muted rhythm of an acoustic guitar is the only thing separating it from the others. Then again, there is the intensely spacious near-silence of 'Hag' that drips past at absolute zero intensity for much of its length and several sections in other songs which simply lose the idea of being music at all and become atmospheric exercises intent on unsettling the listener. Part of the reason for this album's drift is that there are barely any drums included: excepting the rather energetic percussion towards the end of 'Hag', there appears only to be a hi-hat or even tambourine used to keep time right in the very distance.
Another thing that is quite distinctive about Storm Corrosion is how it tries to be at once wistful and spooky in a manner that Akerfeldt or Wilson might have gathered from Comus. The delicately picked acoustic guitars are usually near the front of the sound, though combined with the keyboards and other effects there is a constant threat lingering in the background like the sinister static from some rogue radio station. Some of the disintegrations into noise and effects remind me less of older groups and actually of something very modern, although I need you to stay calm and proceed quickly to the next sentence when I say that it's dubstep. Now, I'm not talking about any attention-seeking party music like Skrillex or the like, but about the pioneering groups such as Burial who brought dub into the arena of modern music with processed beats and over-worked samples to represent the grey blur of urban life. The weird ambience that unfolds in the latter half of the title track or the sudden still of several interludes have that "half-heard" sensation that I catch a lot in Burial's work, especially as the action seems to be going on at a distance or through a filter, so that the listener is some way from engaging with reality. Storm Corrosion aren't using that sound in the same way (certainly no processed beats here) though if one could imagine a rural version of that sound one would be almost there.
Having spoken a lot about the influence and attention that has gone into making this album, it feels somewhat of a cop-out to say that the actual music isn't really that good. Granted, I don't think Wilson and Akerfeldt were going for something especially musical, more for atmospheric proximity and mood-enhancing soundscapes, but that doesn't stop me getting frustrated qutie a few times during the album. For starters, some of the songs are a little low on content and that isn't just me griping about how 'Ljudet Innan' or 'Happy' are totally sparse and slow, but more the fact that those songs feel empty at times. Then there's the fact that the duo are actually making things more difficult for themselves by trying to play atmospheric music and make songs side by side. The kind of post-(un)rock climb of 'Ljudet Innan' as it reaches its conclusion is evidence that the band could have simply gone the route of making instrumental music or at least music unrestrained by its need to sound like people are playing it. It's the constant shifting between the haunting atmospheres and the loose acoustic jamming that makes the least sense, each surprising the other at every new appearance and breaking the spell cast in each style in the collision. Some songs, such as 'Hag', just about stick to a focus throughout, but for the most part there are too many changes to settle into the atmosphere and not enough content to appreciate the songs.
It's very true that listeners will find something worthwhile here, especially if one has experienced 'Drag Ropes' along with its accompanying video, an activity which is strongly recommended. The weak lilting vocals at the opening of 'Happy' and even the drip of words at the start and end of 'Hag' are also lovely, while some of Akerfeldt's guitar work is warm and longing, coming the closest to Opeth's work on some of their acoustic songs. I would have to say that this album needs some time to sink in and get used to the odd movements of the songs, so listen quietly and carefully a few times before you give it up. That said, although Storm Corrosion is something very different to most of what's going on in the world, it's not the best ambient or atmospheric album that I've heard by a long stretch.
Storm Corrosion is a magnificent band formed by two of the (arguably) best composers of our time. I am talking of course about Mikael Akerfeldt (Opeth, Bloodbath) and Steven Wilson (Steven Wilson, Porcupine Tree, etc). Separated from each other, they had made quite a status in the metal community with their own critically-acclaimed bands. Therefore, the anticipation of this release was immensely high and high standards were created.
Metalheads often dread a release that lacks energy, that lacks speed, and most importantly, lacks METAL! This is why most of the dislikers of this album immediately labeled this album as a failure, and with good reason. However, I disagree with those opinions and here is why.
Lyrically, this album is quite amazing even though there isn’t a significant amount of vocals present on this record. The lyrics are soothing, yet dark and sinister, creating a tumult of dreadful misery and sometimes confusion and doubt. The lyrics fit flawlessly in with the music itself and are irremovable from the album. Here is a great example of lyrics that are present of this album:
Maps of a lift to the scaffold
On a nursery floor
Begs aloud not to stay
Cut from the stone in the quarry
This old friend of mine
In his silence the storm corrodes
The vocals on this record aren’t your regular metal vocals. In fact, I do not even understand how a band such as Storm Corrosion has been registered on a site that is exclusively made for real metal bands. Vocal-wise this album is just as stunning as the lyrics. This album contains prodigiously beautiful harmonies, such as those on “Drag Ropes”. The separate vocals are just as neat, for instance those on “Storm Corrosion”. Both Mikael Akerfeldt and Steven Wilson did a great job, vocal-wise.
This album is composed in a magnificently Eldritch way. Most of the instrumentals on this album sound so antediluvian and ancient that the eeriness prevails entirely throughout the record and makes this album a gem in its rare genre. The diversification between guitars and piano are prodigious. Both masterminds must have put lots of effort into balancing the perfect amount of each instrument to fit each other flawlessly. They succeeded in this task, without a doubt. Though the chord progressions might not be the most technical, they sure do create a nice atmosphere that is so uncomfortable that it is somewhat surprising at first listen. This might appall most listeners, however those who are not persuaded by these first impressions will soon discover the beauty of the lingering darkness that is Storm Corrosion.
This album is an ambient masterpiece that combines characteristics from different genres and combined they are one great dark record that is not an easy listen, but is sure as hell worth your time.
Steven Wilson and Mikael Akerfeldt are both modern prog rock legends as the respective masterminds of Porcupine Tree and Opeth. The friendship between them may be just as legendary as both men have contributed to the other’s band on several occasions. Now after a decade of speculation, the pair finally got around to writing an album’s worth of material for a completely new project known as Storm Corrosion and have brought Porcupine Tree/King Crimson drummer Gavin Harrison along the ride!
Considering how this release is supposed to be the final destination of a trilogy that also consists of Opeth’s Heritage and Wilson’s Grace For Drowning, it’s a rather tricky one to describe. Fans like myself have been clamoring for a Damnation repeat but the reality presented here is a bit different. Storm Corrosion has a similarly bleak (No pun intended) sound and the same lack of metal, but there are noticeably larger inclusion of folk and ambient influences.
Seeing as how Opeth and Porcupine Tree have both always been more about odd sounds and atypical structures as opposed to technical wankery, it isn’t too surprising to say the instrumentation is quite intriguing despite the lack of flash. The guitars and keyboards are the most noteworthy instruments as the former mostly focuses on dreary acoustic work while the latter throws in a variety of piano, drones, and other effects that are quite reminiscent of Opeth’s work. And while Harrison rarely breaks out the full drum kit, his percussion is solid and brings some tension on their rather sparse appearances.
The vocals are also noteworthy as both Akerfeldt and Wilson trade off the singing duties and show off their distinct characteristics. Unfortunately, the two never really sing together that often as Wilson is in the spotlight much more frequently while Akerfeldt’s contributions are only prominent on a single track. It would’ve been amazing to hear the two immerse themselves in a series of duets, especially since Wilson uses a lot of dense vocal layering as is, but the final performances are certainly competent.
While no one expected the pair’s chemistry to be anything less than compatible, the songwriting was a valid point of speculation. Despite their similar aesthetics, their writing approaches are polar opposites as Akerfeldt tends to be a rather copy-paste songwriter while Wilson has one of the greatest pop sensibilities in prog history. In an odd compromise, the six songs on Storm Corrosion’s debut are mostly coherent but still far from instant accessibility. Each track can be enjoyed on its own terms though they tend to run together at times and the album clearly must to be listened to all at once.
With a near ten minute duration, “Drag Ropes” was certainly an odd choice for a lead single though it is the most memorable song due to it actually having the pair singing on the same song and trading off some catchy vocal lines against a rather lethargic backdrop. “Lock Howl” is also memorable thanks to it being an instrumental that focuses on some intricate acoustic playing and an odd handclapping segment that pans out like a more depressed version of Porcupine Tree’s “Trains.”
From there, the other four tracks are quieter and focus more on the atmosphere. The title track and “Hag” are the most memorable songs of this type with the latter song offering the closest thing this album has to a heavy segment. “Happy” and the closing “Ljudet Innan” are also solid though the former’s four minute duration gives it a lesser impact and the latter doesn’t have as much development as the other ten minute suites…
No matter how good this album may be, there was no way in hell that it ever could’ve met the expectations held by the pair’s mutual fanbase. A more active sound and further vocal involvement from Akerfeldt would’ve made this an absolutely ethereal release, but it still manages to be pretty damn good. Much like OSI (You know, the other prog duo that roped in Gavin Harrison this year), it calls for patience and a good pair of headphones. Either way, you should give this one a chance if you are a fan of Opeth or Porcupine Tree; it just might surprise you.
Originally published at http://suite101.com
As much as I admire Steven Wilson of Porcupine Tree and Mikael Åkerfeldt of Opeth (one of my favorite bands), their hotly anticipated (and long overdue) collaboration album under the moniker Storm Corrosion made me leery. Supergroups are always a gamble; for every Down there’s a Hellyeah, for every Them Crooked Vultures a Chickenfoot. We always hope pitting great minds together will yield something unique and timeless, but just as often such a situation becomes a breeding ground for clashing egos.
However, neither of these expected outcomes occurred - the respective geniuses of Åkerfeldt and Wilson manage remarkably not to clash in an ego battle; in fact, they’re largely absent. The self-titled album sounds like an unfinished, cut and paste series of song ideas that at times hint at something more but always manage to fall flat. Sonically the album reflects their shared love of 70’s progressive rock music (as loosely as this can be called “rock”), and is largely percussionless. Delicate fingerpicked guitars, high pitched vocal harmonies and King Crimson-esque pseudo-jazz fusion flourishes dominate the album’s 6 tracks. That said, very little actually happens for the album’s full 47 minutes – each song plays like an intro track, never taking much time to develop or build into a cohesive song, preferring to flirt with idea after idea until the song eventually ends, listless and climaxless. While this lack of a linear song structure isn’t something inherently bad (in fact I love plenty of bands that eschew such conventions), the material fails to deliver in terms of atmosphere, evocative power or emotional panache.
The listless nature of the songs is particularly frustrating considering the compositional excellence and emotionally captivating body of work of Porcupine Tree and (especially) Opeth. It’s not a simple desire for the death metal bombast of Opeth or the hard rock accessibility of Porcupine Tree that leaves so much to be desired in Storm Corrosion, as both bands have proven themselves capable of producing music just as subdued, and in some cases entire albums (see Opeth’s excellent album Damnation for such an example) that are miles away from such limp, half-baked mediocrity.
Opening number Drag Ropes, while sporting some odd, almost eerie fingerpicked guitar, is nearly 10 minutes of pure buildup – all tease and no climax. Despite the crystal clear production (as is typical of Wilson) and the lushly layered arrangements of flutes, keyboards, acoustic and electric guitar, (sparse) percussion, bass and a multitude of vocal tracks, at no point does the song sound like anything more than a glorified jam session that was chopped up, run through Pro Tools and garnished with some symphonic bells and whistles. The rest of the songs more or less suffer from similar issues – the title track, while opening with beautifully delicate acoustic guitar and vocal melodies courtesy of Wilson, ultimately spends all of its bloated 10 minute running time either preparing for an actual song to start or uselessly building an atmosphere that simply isn’t there – it’s hard to tell where the song (or any of them for that matter) was ever intended to go. Happy, Lock Howl and closer Ljudet Innan continue down the same path, with the latter sounding like stock music to be played quietly and on a loop as the soundtrack to an Animal Planet documentary.
Granted, I really don’t hate Storm Corrosion at all – with a little bit of the cohesion and focus Wilson and Åkerfeldt are more than capable of, Storm Corrosion could have easily achieved something great instead of merely hinting at it. Unfortunately I think I’ll have to stick with Blackwater Park and Deadwing to scratch that Åkerfeldt/Wilson itch when it arises.
I can't think of too many albums that have inspired such anticipation in me. I mean, Wintersun's "Time" had been pretty big on the excitement, but even then, it felt like a remote dream before it actually met a release date this past October. When the collaboration between Steven Wilson, Mikael Akerfeldt and Mike Portnoy was introduced years back, it was like a dream come true. Even when Portnoy ducked out, it was still an immensely exciting prospect to hear two of my musical heroes come together in an equal partnership. Now that it's out, it's been getting a pretty mixed reception, and there's no wondering why. Even for fans of Porcupine Tree and Opeth, Storm Corrosion's challenging take on prog is more parts ambient than rock. Although this project's self-titled debut ranks among the most unique things I've heard in 2012, not all of Wilson/Akerfeldt's musical experiments are successful. In any case, it's exciting to hear two of progressive rock's most iconic modern figures combining their distinctive sounds. The result doesn't match up to the sum of its parts as we may have hoped, but "Storm Corrosion" showcases both musicians treading into territory they're not entirely comfortable with, and that makes it an essential listen for fans of either.
From the beginning, Storm Corrosion makes good on their promise that this album will be unlike what either artist had done before. For one, there is almost no presence of a metal or even rock sound. To an extent, "Storm Corrosion" is a progressive rock album that extracts and discards much of the rock rhythms and distortion you might hear even on the classic prog records. Like Van der Graaf Generator, Storm Corrosion largely eschews use of the electric guitar, instead favouring use of keyboards. An atmospheric strings section and subtle acoustic guitar work also play significant roles in Storm Corrosion's sound. Also notable is the conscious scarcity of percussion throughout the album. Although Porcupine Tree drummer Gavin Harrison is listed here, there's none of his signature precision and technical flair. Instead, what definitive rhythms that are offered here are extremely minimalistic. Harrison gets a few seconds to spread his wings and assault the kit towards the end of "Hag", but for the most part, Storm Corrosion makes music that upholds texture and timbre above all else.
For those familiar with both Wilson and Akerfeldt's work, it shouldn't take much detective work to figure out who wrote particular ideas. Each musician has a very particular and oft-imitated style, and both sounds are showcased in equal proportion on "Storm Corrosion". Although the string arrangements, melodies and overarching song structures bear the signature of Wilson, Akerfeldt's immediately distinctive acoustic fingerpicking is fresh from the Opeth brewing barrel. Storm Corrosion passes me as a cross between jazz fusion and the dissonance of 20th century neoclassical music. The production and sonic scope of the record is par for Wilson. Like just about everything else he’s touched over the past ten years, “Storm Corrosion” enjoys a vast soundscape that favours higher-end stereos. Although most of the album sticks within a fairly ambient range, the atmosphere is haunting and the arrangement is surprisingly deep. Particularly on the opener “Drag Ropes” and epic title track, a great part of the joy comes from the textures Wilson and Akerfeldt choose to present the compositions. Unfortunately, although the title track of “Storm Corrosion” is as beautifully written as anything in Porcupine Tree’s catalogue, most of these tracks feel as if they could have used some adhesive. Perhaps it’s intrinsic to the style they chose, but some focus and added dynamic could have made the Storm Corrosion project more interesting. As it is, the album’s bound to leave a holistic impression, but there are few ideas here that really stand out.
Although I had hoped for a more natural mix of their two styles, Storm Corrosion's style is fresh and even unique. This isn't the ultimate progressive masterpiece that I reckon fans (including myself) were looking forward to, but there's no disappointment here. "Storm Corrosion" is a memorable, haunting ambient journey, taking both Wilson and Akerfeldt down a darker path than either has been before. It's great to accompany these two visionaries as they explore fresh territory with their music, but the mellow, film score-esque style should alienate a fair portion of each musician's fanbase. Storm Corrosion presents more depth and challenge to the sound that the band's ambient frame would suggest, and if you're able to look past the disappointment of its context as an artistic combination of two of progressive music's greatest forces, "Storm Corrosion" makes for a pleasant, albeit heady listen.
If you like the introspective parts of Porcupine Tree or the more laid back Opeth records such as the last one, the chances are high that you might also like the debut release of the finally fruitful collaboration between Opeth frontman Mikael Åkerfeldt and Porcupine Tree frontman Steven Wilson.
This record has though nothing to do with metal music and can rather be described as dark ambient music. From the beginning on, the band builds up a laid back but still somewhat eerie and even menacing atmosphere. The clean vocals always remain soft, the instrumental parts are mostly acoustic, sound rather ethereal and appear as a mixture of minor folk blends with loads of progressive rock influences from the seventies but there are still some haunting sound effects that keep the tension high. You mostly only hear the calm vocals, an acoustic guitar and some quite dark sound effects.
The band has though something very intriguing to offer in their song structures. Sometimes, the band works on a calm and hypnotizing melody and you suddenly have a change after several minutes into a song and you get drowned into a very apocalyptic atmosphere where you can also hear distorted electric guitars, hevaier drumming and a few pumping bass chords. These suprises happen to be quite efficient and they never last too long as the band always goes back to a calmer and rather peaceful mood. In other tracks, the band plays with wrong expectations. A song starts very calm but at the same time scary and uneasy and you expect a sudden sort of musical explosion, an agressive part, a passage of bleak darkness but this eventually never arrives or only when you expect it the least. Even after several tries of the record, this hypnotizing technique still works perfectly as you can't quite remember what exactly happened at which moment during your last discovery of the release.
This kind of music works best if you put your headphones on and lay down on a couch in a dark room. The overall tone of the record is quite dreamy, floating and progressive. At first try, one might think that the tracks are too slow and that there is not much going on but the more you listen to this stunning record again and again, the more you discover new tiny details and the more you get addicted by this record's unique atmosphere. I would describe the album's vibe as a mixture of bleak, depressive, natural, relaxed and transcendant parts.
The four first songs are stunning and precisely elaborated and you can always discover something new. The closing two tracks fall a little bit off the edge for me even if they aren't that bad. They just sound somewhat like more of the same and don't feel as unique as the first four tracks. They have less changes and some ideas sound quite similar to the first songs in here or to some older Opeth tracks.
In the end, this release here requests quite a lot of time and patience. If you are the kind of guy who usually listens to music while taking the bus, washing the dishes or chatting with friends, then this won't be your kind of record. This release is made for sentimental people who enjoy to pass a couple of calm hours on their own from time to time. Even though the lyrics are neither elaborated nor that intriguing, this release has a grippingly unique atmosphere and should grow on you as time passes by. This band is really big when they are minimalistic, they are really intense when they are most laid back and this kind of contradictoriness gives the album a charming soul. In the future, I would maybe even give this release a higher note as I give right now as there is a lot of potential in this.
Wow, am I the first to review this anticipated record? Stranger things have been known to happen I guess...
Whatever, this is the first full-length release by the eclectic progressive rock duo made by Steven Wilson (Porcupine Tree) and Mikael Akerfeldt (Opeth). I'm going to try to fully describe the band's sound here, mainly because I have nothing to compare it to. On the surface, it doesn’t have a lot of similarities with what both have already done, but that by no means is an indication that the band is running out of ideas. In fact, this record is original, new, weird and beautiful.
I will start this review with one big advertisement : THIS IS NOT OPETH, THIS IS NOT PORCUPINE TREE, THIS IS SOMETHING NEW!
The first track Drag Ropes starts things off pretty strangely, with a catchy yet crushing atmospheric rock riff (Kind of like King Crimson mixed with the new Anathema). However, after a few minutes, something new comes up. The clean guitar passages are often accompanied by clean vocals as well, something that was well-orchestred and unpredictable. While some may find them a bit boring or unoriginal, it is my opinion that they contribute to a gigantic rock release that we will remember in ten years from now. The vocals show up in four songs out of six, and they are obviously clean, so it has nothing to do with old Opeth releases like Morningrise or Orchid. Steven and Mikael’s voices are really deep and they bring the fans in an unique atmosphere which belong only to Storm Corrosion. The only song with electric guitar in it is Storm Corrosion but it doesn’t make the album too strange or unlistenable.
A slightly less obvious thing that makes their first release awesome comes in the songwriting department. The songs feel cohesive here, always to the point and without any "why did they just do that" bits. Some may find parts a bit long at times (I think about Ljudet Innan), but I don't believe that to be the case. The band throws a lot of curveballs in the mix to keep things interesting, and many of the tracks contain hidden little gems that aren't obvious at first, keeping the record interesting for multiple listens. Although I wouldn't call it an all-time favorite, there are many things waiting to be discovered here, especially for open-minded listeners that enjoy Pink Floyd, Gentle Giant or any progressive rock artist. It is certainly of of the best progressive release of the year.
Standout songs (for me) would have to be Drag Ropes, Storm Corrosion, and Lock Howl. Each has an excellent blend of weirdness, musicianship and clean excursions which take you on an awesome journey. The track Hag is also great, with its chaotic ending and its darkness that I have rarely seen before.
All this to say, Storm Corrosion have made a mighty impressive eclectic rock album, and one of my very favorite records of 2012. Every element is done exceedingly well, the guitars, the mastering (Steven Wilson is a god!), the harmonies (You can see Opeth-esque harmonies here if you pay attention), etc. It is an astonishing album, and it has something new every time I listen to it. If this collaboration between two progressive rock/metal artists can keep up this streak, they both will earn their place to the hall of fame of progressive music. If you are open-minded and a fan of weird music, you must buy it!