Tag Archives: Storm Corrosion

2012 Albums of the Year – Part Two

Continuing the end-of-year list, these six are the year’s Great releases. Again, though they represent nos 11 down to 6, I haven’t attempted to rank them in order, and have just listed them alphabetically. It says something about the quality of this year’s releases in that any of these would have been top-3 contenders in many other years.

AnathemaWeather Systems

With their intense and atmospheric sound, it’s hard to imagine that Anathema started out as a death-metal band. It has a lot in common with 2010′s “We’re Here Because We’re Here”, and like that it’s best experienced as a single piece of music that builds in emotionally intensity as the album proceeds. Anathema are precisely the sort of band who deserve wider mainstream recognition.

GojiraL’Enfant Sauvage

The strongest modern-style metal release I’ve heard all year. This release by the French technical metallers is the sort of thing that grabs you by the throat and doesn’t let go. It’s a monstrously heavy and unrelenting piledriver of a record that sounds like something out of the twenty-first century rather than anything out of the 1970s or 1980s.

MarillionSounds That Can’t Be Made

Thirty years into their career, at a stage where most bands have long since burned out and turned into their own tribute acts, Marillion prove that they’ve still got something to say in their own inimitable style. It’s an album of lengthy epics, with three songs extending past the 10-minute mark, and yet again Steve Rothery’s fantastic less-is-more guitar playing demonstrates why he’s one of the best guitarists in the business.

Morpheus RisingLet The Sleeper Awake

Classy old-school twin-guitar hard rock with echoes of NWOBHM bands like Iron Maiden and Diamond Head without ever sounding like a derivative pastiche. It contains some very strong songwriting combined with great guitar harmonies and tight arrangements. It’s all unashamedly retro, but none the worse for it. If they’d been around in 1981, they’d have been huge.

Muse 2nd LawMuseThe 2nd Law

This is the one big mainstream stadium-rock act in this list. With their mix of rock, metal, glam, funk, opera and God knows what else, they put it all in a blender resulting in prog-rock with a pop sensibility. It’s all completely and gloriously over the top, of course, and they steal shamelessly from many other bands and somehow manage to get away with it in a way that Oasis didn’t. But that’s precisely what’s great about Muse.

Storm Corrosions/t

One of the most “out there” releases of 2012, the collaboration between Porcupine Tree’s Steven Wilson and Opeth’s Mikael Åkerfeldt sees them take off into uncharted territory, eschewing the expected prog-metal in favour of dark and sinister semi-acoustic soundscapes. A clearly experimental record, the result sounds like a cross between “Simon and Garfunkle on magic mushrooms” and the soundtrack of a 1970s horror film shot in grainy back-and-white.

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Storm Corrosion

Storm Corrosion is the much anticipated Anglo-Swedish collaborative project between two of the biggest names in the contemporary progressive rock world, Opeth mainman Mikael Åkerfeldt and Steven Wilson of Porcupine Tree and myriad side-projects. While initial expectations might have been that they were going to do something along the lines of the prog-metal of their respective bands’ recent work, they soon made it clear it was going to be something altogether different.

The lengthy, atmospheric and sinister-sounding opener “Drag Ropes” sets the tone. With dominant sounds of acoustic guitar and mellotron plus piano, strings and woodwind it comes over as a soundtrack of a particularly spooky film, probably shot in grainy black-and-white. The film probably has subtitles, and everyone dies at the end.

It’s a record that owes as much to classical and folk music as it does to rock, and manages to combine a stripped-down minimalism with an ambitious cinematic scope. Save for one clattering outburst on “Hag”, accompanied by the only powerchords on the entire album, there is very little in the way of conventional rock drumming. But despite those dissonant strings and even the odd outbreak of pure white noise, it’s by no means an impenetrable record. It does need a few listens to fully appreciate it’s subtleties, which means it’s something you can listen to many times and keep discovering something new. It’s a work filled with moments of delicate beauty, whether it’s vocal harmonies or the sparse acoustic and electric guitar work.

There are elements of both musician’s other work, from Steve Wilson’s solo work to Opeth’s “Heritage” and “Damnation”. Parts of the instrumental “Lock Howl”, built around a rhythm loop and swirling keyboards recalls mid-period Tangerine Dream before giving way to percussion loops and disturbing discordant strings. There is also something of Talk Talk’s classic “Spirit of Eden” in it’s eschewing of conventional song structures in favour of soundscapes and textures, and that comparison is especially apparent on the dreamy closing track “Ljudet Innen”. There is also a bit of the spirit of Radiohead’s “Kid A” in it’s refusal to make any compromise towards commerciality or pander to audience expectations. In the unlikely event that you were still expecting Blackwater Park meets In Absentia, this is not the record you were looking for.

What we have is the sound of two of the progressive rock world’s most talented individuals following their combined muses wherever it takes them. It takes them and their listeners through some strange and exotic sonic landscapes, and it’s a more than worthwhile journey for anyone who chooses to follow. Bold and experimental, but still remaining accessible, it’s a genuinely progressive record in the true sense of the word.

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Storm Corrosion – Drag Ropes

First taste of Mikael Åkerfeldt and Steve Wilson’s new project Storm Corrosion, accompanied by a dark and tragic puppet show which fundamentalists are probably not going to like.

As for the brooding, sinister and cinematic music, for which the imagery is a perfect match, there are the occasional echoes of both Porcupine Tree and Opeth, but it’s got a sound all of it’s own.

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