Album Review: Storm Corrosion

3 May 2012 | 7:54 pm | Brendan Crabb

Anticipation for this collaboration by these revered prog masterminds is suffocating.

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In this instant gratification age listeners have shorter attention spans than ever, yet demand ever more. If it doesn't immediately turn their world upside down, it's deemed disappointing. Then there's Storm Corrosion, featuring long-time friends Steven Wilson (Porcupine Tree) and Opeth's Mikael Åkerfeldt. Several years in the works, anticipation for this collaboration by these revered prog masterminds is suffocating; unless immediately achieving Album of the Year status, it will be lambasted by sections of their dedicated fanbases.

Some of their most diehard followers will approach this debut expecting a prog-metal monster. Those folks will be disappointed. Conversely, had they created just that, other devotees would have rightly criticised them for being too predictable. About the most “obvious” element is the King Crimson-esque artwork. Otherwise, the finale in a loose trilogy begun by Opeth's polarising Heritage and Wilson's excellent Grace For Drowning solo effort looks beyond what Wilson dubs the “conventional rock music vocabulary”, uncovering new methods of being heavy – sonically and emotionally – and progressive. It's rarely conventional, although there are elements of past works. Drums and guitars regularly submit to woodwinds, electric pianos, orchestral flourishes, Mellotrons and keyboards within cinematic, deeply textured arrangements whose contrasting of nihilism and beauty often surprises. From opener, Drag Ropes, their vocal chemistry is apparent. Åkerfeldt's falsetto extends himself in this respect on LjudetInnan, while Wilson sublimely lullabies over a folk-like acoustic foundation in the title track.

Rather than self-indulgent twaddle, then, this album represents seasoned veterans revelling in the creative freedom afforded them, operating only according to their own whims. Storm Corrosion aren't pushing boundaries so much as challenging the definition of heaviness and forward-thinking music.