Picture: the main men of two of modern prog-metal’s overlords, Porcupine Tree and Opeth, drinking wine, eating chocolate, and making music together. A fanciful vision, perhaps; but that’s exactly how Storm Corrosion came to life. When old friends and long-time collaborators Steven Wilson and Mikael Åkerfeldt finally sat down to make a record together, this magnificently retro album was the result.
Opener Drag Ropes is just shy of the 10-minute mark but not a second is wasted, with both men assuming vocal duties over a shady shimmer of strings, sporadically tinkled piano and unorthodox guitars.
There’s an eerie gloom about the music that harks back to the drug-fuelled experimental avant-gardism of the 70s. You have to immerse yourself completely before any understanding of what this collective mind is trying to relay can be achieved. That no drugs were used in its creation makes these arrangements all the more curious.
One thing is clear immediately: Storm Corrosion is not a metal album. But the signs have been there. Swedish outfit Opeth are pioneers in the death metal scene, yet their sound progressed to the point where 2011’s Heritage surprised even hardcore fans with its clean vocals.
That album, along with Wilson’s gentle second solo album, Grace for Drowning – equally baffling to Porcupine Tree fans used to crunching riffs – were written during the same period that Storm Corrosion came together. All three collections carry the same sombre manifesto, declaring poignant moments of near silence and gentle crescendos that often ebb away before reaching any discernable climax. Restraint is the most tangible aspect to these records.
With the title track also being the name of this album and the band, it’s something of a distillation of the essence of this project. With placid flute, it floats along unapologetically without any pressure to add drama. If it seems too subtle for some listeners, soon enough they’ll be stirred from slumber by the track’s jarring, discordant ending. It’s a song of so many disparate pieces – pieces that initially don’t seem to fit. Given time, however, the music speaks another language.
Bonkers and beautiful, Storm Corrosion leaves one wondering what this duo will come up with next. But such is its unexpected design that predictions should be dashed, as what comes next will be far from anything you could dream.
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