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Old 06-18-2014, 12:32 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Porcupine Tree - Signify

Porcupine Tree
Signify
Delerium Records - 1996


Signify. Sort of an ironic title to me. This album is quite significant to me. It is one of my favorite albums ever, and a personal favorite of mine by Porcupine Tree. The heavy guitars, the sweeping electronic ambiance, the incredible drummer and smooth bassman, this album is the very definition of what I expect from music. Varied songs and moods, each standalone song sounding incredible in their own unique ways, but it all still fits as a whole. Catchy, dark, brooding, mixing both fast paced, heavy hitters with slow, ambient masterpieces, Signify is one of those albums everyone should listen to at least once in their life, whether they are into Progressive Rock or not.

It begins with Bornlivedie, a little preview of what is about to come. A radio host audio clip gives this the most wonderful intro: "We invite you, wherever you are – whether you are at home or whatever – to kick your shoes off and put your feet up and lean back and get yourself a cup of coffee or something, and just relax and join us in enjoying some very quietened, romantic and relaxed music for a couple of hours." Given sweeping and interesting effects, mood setting at its finest, as well as giving the three stages of life: Birth, life and death. Born being a disorienting sort of experience, Live being an explosion of sound and beauty, and die being an echoing sound of emptiness...

Then suddenly, the album kicks up, wrenching into a heavy guitar riff to snap you into what will be this roller coaster of an album. This is the song Signify, a relentless riff that burns right into your ears in the best way possible.

Next, we get into Sleep of No Dreaming. Like most of the songs off the album, has a very dark and brooding feel, the lyrics chilling and sharp. "At the age of 16, I grew out of hope. I regarded the cosmos through a circle of rope. So I threw out all plans, ran onto the wheel. And emptied my head of all childish ideals." Losing your innocence and child like ways through age is one of the major themes of this album, as well as drugs taking over and the questioning of religion in your life.

Pagan is a quick transitionary piece. Merely an ambient sweep of sounds with a strange, washed out instrument in the background, like a broken music box of some sort. It leads us into one of the best songs on the album.

Waiting Phase One and Phase Two, two of my favorite tracks from the album, is a jazzy, acoustic song with some more devastating lyrics: "Nothing is what I feel. Waiting for the drugs to make it real." We're taken into this dark and cold world Steven Wilson is carving out for us, one song at a time. The chord progression is very unique, and actually very challenging (F#m7 on the second fret isn't a very easy chord to pull off in a high paced song such as this, but you can do a little cheat and play it with a capo on two) Plus, one of the greatest solos ever created by a living human being is in Phase One.

Sever, dealing more with being trapped in a society he doesn't want to be in, and living in a way that hurts his soul. Mixing the religious themes with audio clips of an unknown pastor in a sermon, it feels so dark and demonic, the laughter from the audio seeming evil and devious. It holds the listener in a cage of stone and pulls them lower down. There's nothing left to be afraid of anymore. You're already as low as you can go. "Only way I know to have fun. Fill up my blood, my veins, my lungs..."

Idiot Prayer has more of the sermon, sounding just as dark and menacing as the previous songs, intense bass riffs and shattering drums included. A complete instrumental, if you don't count the speaking. "I'm having the most perfect hallucination...please help me..."

Every Home Is Wired allows some time to slow down and reflect, speaking to how the entire world is connected by wires and electronics, and how it is making all humans decompose morally and mentally, "starting the neural rust". Now, this was back in 1996, so it gets better and better with age, with the internet growing and growing by day.

I must admit, Intermediate Jesus is one of the more forgettable songs on this album. Is it still a decent jam session? Definitely. But this song never really stood out in my mind, and I could never really remember how it went.

Light Mass Prayers, another ambient piece, but much longer than Pagan, it gives us time to cool down before we reach the epic conclusion that is Dark Matter.

Dark Matter, a song clocking it at around 8 minutes, with some of the most brutal lyrics on the album, takes us out with an epic solo an some recollection and deep thought:

"This has become a full time career/To die young would take only 21 years/Gun down a school or blow up a car/The media circus will make you a star"

This is another one of my favorites from this album, and I suggest anyone try listening to this song first (this or Waiting Phase One) if they really want to see PT's early Prog era.

Sad, haunting, but oh so true, this album is a very dark concept album. But the solos, the atmosphere portrayed, Steven Wilson's INCREDIBLE singing voice, and some of the best jam sessions I have heard since Hendrix, its safe to say this will always be one of my favorite albums of all time. Some may call it "depressing" or "a bummer album" because of all the lyrics I pointed out, but really, if you want to ignore the lyrics and just enjoy it for the instrumentals and whatnot (I have a friend who always does this), it can still be loved for that as well. It is still very upbeat and in your face in many places, dark lyrics or not. For me, albums don't have to be bright and cheery balls of sunshine to be good. A good album should make me think. It should make me feel something. And to this day, Signify makes me feel the things that the character portrayed in it is feeling. Whether it is Steven Wilson, the singer and writer of Porcupine Tree's music, or just a character he created, it doesn't matter much to me. While its true they evolved a LOT throughout the years, this was most likely my favorite..."phase" by them (ba dum tss).

So, if you feel like taking a trip into semi-psychedlic, jazzy, and even metal-like prog rock music, hitch a ride on Signify and see where it takes you.

I hate giving ratings, really. I want to do it based on how many songs are on the album out of how many songs I enjoy, but I imagine that would be unfair in places. So, I suppose, I'll just give this what I feel it deserves: a 10/10. Original, I know, but keep in mind, I hardly hold any albums to such regard as Signify, even other PT albums, so that is why. If you took your time to read all of this, I thank you.
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Old 07-08-2014, 06:43 PM   #2 (permalink)
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I love this album, and I enjoyed reading your review! You should review Fear of a Blank Planet, as its my favorite album!
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Old 07-08-2014, 11:02 PM   #3 (permalink)
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I need to get this. I absolutely love them.
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