Mikael Åkerfeldt‘s Opeth have become decidedly more prog/less ‘metal’ and Steven Wilson‘s latest opus (solo, rather than with Porcupine Tree) was gentle in places yet morose and anguished at times. Those being the last two points of reference for these musicians, many expected this to be the bastard child of the aforementioned, but thankfully it has its own identity and thus leaves little room for ponderous comparisons to be drawn with their other output.
Storm Corrosion stands on its own two (four?) feet as a unique musical outing and is testament to the continued innovation and creativity of its auteurs.
Opening with the deceptively bleak “Drag Ropes”, the tranquil tones that greet you belie the genuinely eerie, almost malevolent mood that soon floods through the headphones. It is a fine achievement that much of this album is devoid of drums, distorted guitar or any ‘harsh’ vocals yet manages to sound as stark and evil as any of your church-burning, corpse-painted black metal hordes do when cranked up to eleven.
The brooding soundtrack feel develops on the title track and occasionally here, and later on, there are sections that seem repetitive – almost as if an idea is being over-stretched. After a few spins though it becomes apparent they are just teasing out the uneasy and deliberately ponderous moments until they reach a perfect peak – and then allowing a little warmth to seep through.
On the paradoxically titled “Happy” we are treated to more shimmering vocal harmonies and rich, pinched guitar work, but the sense of despair is never far away. It’s like Simon and Garfunkel jamming with early Pink Floyd, produced by Brian Eno. Well, not exactly, but damn them if they haven’t produced something so wonderful it defies decent simile.
The six tracks on offer are brimming over with ideas and the musicianship is as stellar as you would expect with this pedigree, yet it really does prove to be more than just the sum of its incredibly talented parts. This is not an album that will grab you on first listen, although it will no doubt impress (and in places cause an eyebrow to raise in puzzled bewilderment). However, repeated listens will immerse you further and further into the murky world of Storm Corrosion until you find yourself hooked.
As keen as I am to chuck a great big bag of superlatives at this, I really cannot do it justice in a mere few paragraphs. At times achingly beautiful and at others dark and seedy to the point of being uncomfortable, this is a truly special piece of work and one that I hope sees the “Blackwater Park” alumni sufficiently proud of the results that they choose to collaborate again.