Artist: Steven Wilson
Track Listing: 1) Harmony Korine 2) Abandoner 3) Salvaging 4) Veneno Para Las Hadas 5) No Twilight Within the Courts of the Sun 6) Significant Other 7) Only Child 8) Twilight Coda 9) Get All You Deserve 10) Insurgentes
Steven Wilson has been involved in numerous bands over the years, most notably Porcupine Tree, so it was inevitable that one day he would gather all his experiences and direct them toward a solo effort. The highly anticipated Insurgentes rides on the back of a wave of excellent releases. The most notable of these were the last four Porcupine Tree albums. Lightbulb Sun was the last of the softer ‘prog rock’ ‘Tree albums with In Absentia and Deadwing incorporating metal influences thanks to Wilson’s recent work with Opeth. The mood shifted dramatically with Fear of a Blank Planet which is an incredibly dark and atmospheric concept album depicting the demise of our younger generation from society. The vibes from that record have been taken and amplified to a new level with Insurgentes, it’s very dark, very atmospheric and very bleak.
With the help of various guest musicians and fuelled by his angst for the modern world (in particular the shape of today’s music industry),Wilsoncreates a stunning debut.
Harmony Korine is about as uplifting as it gets. A somewhat catchy opener that is the first step of the listener’s journey into the deep, dark cave that is this album. Abandoner uses sampling and various sound effects to create a rather chilling piece of music. The use of dynamics is absolutely excellent as tension, sadness and anger erupt fantastically. This pares well with Salvaging, the beautiful string orchestration becomes violated by a wave of noise that is designed to disturb. The tempo drops with Veneno Para Las Hadas, the reverberated guitar chords echo delicately and the mood becomes ever more sombre. So immediately it becomes apparent where the emotional mind-set of this album is going.
No Twilight Within the Courts of the Sun provides some needed daylight. This energetic song showcases lead guitar work that otherwise doesn’t have the opportunity to exist elsewhere amongst the other song landscapes. Essences of Porcupine Tree fused with a bluesy chug come off well in the longest track at nearly nine minutes. More multi-layered vocals drift across the template along with more haunting piano soloing and keyboard layering.
Significant Other is a nod in the Pink Floyd area of inspiration that Wilson executes so well. As a song it sounds like a mixture of Dark Side of the Moon fragments, fractured twinkling of guitar chords with the wailing of improvised vocal parts are iconic transpositions. Only Child takes the tempo up slightly. It could do with an injection of something though, the dull plod never amounting to much of a breakthrough that seemed inevitable. Instead it leads through to Twilight Coda which is a return to the shadows, a brief instrumental that amongst darkness is rather soothing.
The closing two tracks are as strong as the opening pair. Get All You Deserve is one of the angriest tracks here, tension slowly mounting over the course of six minutes that this time explodes gloriously. Finally the title track rounds off the whole record, a 17 string bass koto meanders away, the music drifting quietly, slowly, into the void.
Insurgentes is to be treated as one continuous flow of music. Yes there was a single released in Harmony Korine, but it’s just a piece of the whole thing.Wilson’s vocals have a sense of honesty; for here he’s quite simply, as he always does, telling you how things are and what he has to say about it.
If you liked Fear of a Blank Planet then you’ll love this. However, if you’re a more optimistic individual, you may find it a bit too bleak. It’s worth noting that the 5.1 surround sound mix is highly recommended, the roars of the overhead aeroplane in Abandoner being felt in its full force is a particular highlight.
This album really shines. It is has an extremely powerful emotional vibe that is communicated to perfection. Take a look at the album art and you can get a sense of the ghostly presence that this record has. The heavy metal riffage has been replaced with furious synthesized monstrosities that unite among a crowd of various musical styles, all incorporated into one excellent album. This is how it’s done.
1) Harmony Korine
3) Get All You Deserve
Reviewed by: Daniel Aston, 24/01/2010