Porcupine Tree and Opeth are both bands with distinctive sounds – Pink Floydian prog rock on one side, and sprawling progressive death metal on the other. So you could be forgiven for expecting a collaboration between each band’s masterminds (Porcupine Tree’s Steven Wilson, Opeth’s Mikael Åkerfeldt) to be a progressive death metal epic full of odd time signatures, crushing riffs, growled vocals and ambient guitar solos. But for hints as to what you can expect from Storm Corrosion, you need to look into each artist’s most recent works. Wilson’s Grace For Drowning leans more towards lush soundscapes and psychedelic ambience, while Opeth’s Heritage could have come straight out of the seventies, with its vintage progressive rock (rather than progressive metal) elements that share more in common with King Crimson and Yes than Dream Theater and Symphony X.
And it’s here, in the middle of these two releases, that we find Storm Corrosion. The album’s six tracks – the term ‘song’ doesn’t quite cover it in this case – typically end up in a very different place to where they start, with structures that seem dictated by the previous note rather than any adherence to accepted song structures. And that’s a big reason why it’s such an engaging experience.
Opener “Drag Ropes” takes on a folky character filtered through a much darker sensibility, almost like the ambient noise lifted out of the weirder moments of David Bowie’s 1.Outside album. The reliance on repeated rhythms and stacked layers recalls Mike Keneally’s acoustic-based Wooden Smoke album or some of Crimson’s more moody pieces. The title track is propelled by guitar arpeggios and an almost A Perfect Circle-esque vocal performance before darker layers flow in. “Hag” starts off contemplative, almost menacing, flirting with darker vibes before becoming almost a Mr Bungle Disco Volante-era fuzz jam. “Happy” turns things around in a sort of ‘Radiohead making a soundtrack for a space documentary in the 1970s’ vibe, with close-mic’d acoustic guitars interspersed with heavily reverbed electric fusion melodies and trippy effects. “Lock Howl” builds tension with a tremolo’d organ, joined by an insistent rhythm and more spacious arpeggios. And the listener is brought back down to Earth again with the moody, free-time atmosphere of “Ljudet Innan” – all 10 minutes and 20 seconds of it.
Storm Corrosion is not a difficult listen, but it’s one that requires the right mood and setting to fully absorb, especially if you were hoping for something more straightforward and indicative of Wilson and Åkerfeldt’s day jobs. The first listen or two can be a little jarring, but if you let the album seduce you into its little world, it can be difficult to let yourself get out again.
Storm Corrosion is out now via Roadrunner Records.