CD Review – Storm Corrosion
After years of both hype and mystery, the long-awaited collaboration between the leaders of progressive giants Opeth and Porcupine Tree has surfaced.
Mikael Åkerfeldt and Steven Wilson have been in cahoots for many years, but until now,, the extent of their collaborative efforts has simply been the appearance on one another’s albums. While Åkerfeldt provided some backing vocals and guitar on The Porcupine Tree gem Deadwing, Wilson has famously had a hand in most of Opeth’s albums since Blackwater Park. To hear that they were joining forces in Storm Corrosion was not much of a surprise, but it was still something to get very excited about.
What was a surprise, was when the pair announced that the result of the collaboration included zero metal elements and barely any drums. Considering a third name in this project early on was Mike Portnoy, of Dream Theater fame, it’s not a shock, in hindsight, that his name was removed from the project.
The final product is still a very immersive and intense record It is heavy in a different way, yet very beautiful and dark.
The album is a fairly short affair and only includes six songs on the standard edition, so I decided to tackle it song by song.
1. Drag Ropes
This song seemingly picks off where Steven Wilson’s Grace For Drowning left off, which makes sense actually. Storm Corrosion is the final part of a trilogy that includes Opeth’s Heritage and Grace For Drowning. It’s easy to become hypnotized by this song when Åkerfeldt begins singing. Something about how he opens the album is just right. The music is haunting and sounds like something Danny Elfman would write for Tim Burton, but the vocals Åkerfeldt and Wilson go on to add another level of creepiness to this song. Their vocal harmonies great at the halfway point of the song. The song then takes a complete turn in structure and mood. Wilson makes his first prominent vocal appearance as the music beneath transforms into like something right out of Heritage. After one last vocal layer, the song exits just as it entered.
2. Storm Corrosion
The song title alone is kind of interesting considering the influences of the band. Åkerfeldt and the Opeth guys have covered Iron Maiden and there has been some previous mention of respect for Black Sabbath. Both of these legendary bands have a song named after themselves (or vice versa) on their eponymous debut albums. So it sort of seems like an homage to their heroes. Seeing “Storm Corrosion – Storm Corrosion – Storm Corrosion” will always bring me a smile when it comes up on my media player.
As the song itself, I listened to the song about six times trying to figure out what it reminded me of. After the hour or so doing this took, I finally realized that the beginning of the song sounds a lot like “Wings For Marie” for Tool’s 10,000 Days album. This is not a slight against the song at all, as it is probably my favorite song on the album. The refrain of the song is beautiful as Wilson’s falsetto echoes over a very ethereal piece of music. Complementing the vocals is Åkerfeldt (presumably) responding with some short clean Buckethead-Electric Tears-like guitar licks. Like “Drag Ropes,” the song takes a turn towards the latter half. This section of the song devolves into a very creepy noise breakdown that features some digital mayhem before Wilson’s voice and Åkerfeldt’s trademark fingerpicking return to conclude the song.
Of all the songs on the album, “Hag” sounds the most like a Wilson solo song. It is minimalistic initially with Wilson singing over a piano. Some light guitar work comes in with a shaker of some kind before a brief drum solo by Porcupine Tree drummer Gavin Harrison.
This song is mostly ambient chanting over light sad Opeth style guitar plucking with breaks for eerie soundscapes. If it wasn’t for the short vocal and guitar decent near the middle of the song, this would be an easy one to forget.
5. Lock Howl
The fifth song on the album seemingly tries to reclaim some of the momentum that “Happy” lost. This might be the first time both Åkerfeldt and Wilson play guitar at the same time, as the track opens with a galloping guitar accompanied by some quick licks as the song unfolds. Various layers begin to merge with the song that include piano, pads, a shaker and others. This section continues until a single bell rings out welcoming a surprisingly Latin-influenced section, which felt very much like a Heritage moment. The song concludes on section that could be likened to Wilson’s first solo album Insurgentes or even Porcupine Tree. It is long after the track has concluded that I realized that the song was instrumental. There are so many different parts to “Lock Howl” that it didn’t need a word uttered. This is another song I really like on the album.
6. Ljudet Innan
The album’s closer opens on a lovely falsetto and an ambient bed of music, before it fades to a quiet bit of ambience. This song is quite ingenious in its use of volume dynamics to create emotion. I love it. The vocals return as Wilson sings soulfully over a section of music that feels like a ballad from the sixties. A few more layers of keys enter the song with some drum accompanying them, and the album begins to conclude with a relaxed guitar solo.
The album then fades on a single note falling into an abyss.
This is not an album for those looking for Åkerfeldt’s return to death metal, nor is this and album for Porcupine Tree fans awaiting Wilson to bring what heaviness PT has. This is a prog album. Fans of Grace for Drowning and Heritage might even be turned off by how relaxed the album is, honestly. I find it to be a really interesting journey though a lot of different ideas that Åkerfeldt and Wilson have been playing with, but it doesn’t live up to the hype. The good parts are Amazing, but I could have done without many of the filler parts that are seemingly just ambience and sound manipulation. When the guys are playing music or singing they are brilliant without a doubt, but them making noise to bridge their brilliance is just a cop-out. I also could have done without the months and months of the pair putting out interviews instead of just releasing music. They should have just let the music do the talking.
This album was a positive experience for me. I would even say very positive, actually, but I am curious to see how others react since this one will surely be a divisive album.
Storm Corrosion’s self-titled debut will be released by Roadrunner Records on May 8th.
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Listen to Far Beyond Metal on Monday May 7th for a special episode of artists exploring non-metal territory much like Åkerfeldt and Wilson did with Storm Corrosion.