Thursday, May 10, 2012

Music Review: Storm Corrosion - Storm Corrosion (2012)

When I had first heard announcement of a collaboration project between Opeth’s Mikael Åkerfeldt and Porcupine Tree’s Steven Wilson, I had to pause for a minute just to think about what such a fusion could possibly manifest. Many right off the bat assumed it was going to be in the veins of a “progressive rock super group,” which would have made sense to those who frequent the material usually put out by these two. As time and interviews about the project went on, we learned that these two artists would not only be going in a completely different direction, but that the sound would encompass more of an ambient folk and rock experimental tone, rather than anything in the progressive direction. Wilson even stated that he felt this collaboration was unlike anything put out by him or Åkerfeldt up until now. This project was originally announced back in 2006, though it wasn’t until 2010 that the two began working together, and 2011 that the project’s title “Storm Corrosion” was finally announced. There were all sorts of theories as to what their work together could sound like. Many figured the Opeth album “Damnation” would give some hints due to Wilson’s contributions, but not many would have likely predicted the actual result here.

Let’s get some quick facts out of the way before I delve into the heart of this release. The first thing to note is that there is very limited use of drums in the album (Wilson said the drums made up about 15-20% of the album, give or take, and it is very noticeable). There is also barely anything in the album that can even be construed as progressive rock/metal. If you’re looking for any of the above items, this album likely won’t be your cup of tea. This project is about as experimental as experimental can get. They made it to explore their own musical tastes and try out new themes and directions. With that said, let’s move on to what we actually are getting instead of what we are not.

The sound in this album can best be described as a “dream-like” atmosphere, with many ambient sound effects, orchestrations, acoustics, organ, and many other bells and whistles. You’ll hear influences to baroque and many 70’s folk groups of the past, while still getting a much more unique vibe with each listen. It’s not to say that the theory has never been put out there before, but I don’t have much recollection of it ever sounding quite like this at the same time. Åkerfeldt takes care of the guitar work and some vocal work, while Wilson handled the keyboards and arrangements of the songs, while also contributing his vocals quite a bit as well. Those familiar with some of Wilson’s solo work may feel a little more at home with this release (as he experiments as an artist quite often, with multiple projects), while those coming from the Opeth bandwagon may or may not find this album as easy to digest (due to the departure from their original sound, similar to the reaction of their latest album, “Heritage”). While there are only six cuts on this entire album, I would argue in favor of this count, as they are each quite unique and magnificent in their own ways. I’d much rather pay for six songs that I loved than 12 songs that I got less general fulfillment out of.

In order to truly get the most enjoyment out of this album (depending on what type of music fan you are), you may be better off going into this with little to no expectations at all. There is no reason to create false hype for something that isn’t coming. What better way to go into an album like this, than with a completely open mind and a yearning for something different and unique, even if this includes the occasional small misstep?

Now, I will say again, that this album is not going to be everyone’s forte, and that is understandable, given the fan base of Åkerfeldt and Wilson’s past projects. I believe that the biggest reason that I myself enjoy this debut release is due to my musical tastes extending into very broad territories that can sometimes go over other people’s heads, who may focus more on one or two specific genres. Knowing this, I do however urge everyone to give this album a try. In a current economy where many other creative minds are too afraid to do anything other than “play it safe” over an underlying fear of commercial failure, it is beyond refreshing to see a project like this come to form. Due to the different sounds and emotions conveyed in each track, it is likely you’ll find more than you were expecting, regardless of which camp you were coming from.

If there is anything I feel I can even knock this release for, it is that sometimes the experimentation levels can go a little far even for these two artists, to the point where a bit of redundancy can step in during sections of a few tracks. I also have to note however, that this does not really occur more than once or twice between the multiple listens I have now given this LP, and even then, these little hiccups do not last for very long or pull from the experience. It is no more a complaint than something that can be said for many improvisational jazz pieces and the like, which I also happen to take a liking to.

To sum everything up here, I am happy to state that while this album is a radical departure from what many fans will come to expect, I also feel that this project is a success in that it manages to demonstrate new bounds that many might not have believed these two songwriters were capable of. I think what may hurt this album more than anything is the background that these two artists came from, and the fan following that resulted, whom of which are likely to feel divided here. Experimentation can be dangerous in this very sense, but I am happy to say that I feel it paid off in a very large way. Repeated listening only allowed it to grow on me further, as I’m sure it will for many of those who give it a fair chance. I implore all music fans, regardless of your backgrounds, to give this album a try and see what I’m talking about for yourself. You may even surprise yourselves with your reactions, especially after multiple listens. This is a hauntingly immersive journey and a beautiful representation of true art in music today.

9 Out Of 10

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