It’s not what most anticipated, although who could with any confidence have predicted the results of the collaborative endeavours of Porcupine Tree’s Steven Wilson and Opeth’s Mikael Akerfeldt?
Wilson’s solo Grace For Drowning and Opeth’s Heritage reaffirmed last year that both like to defy expectation. Perhaps the move away from ‘heavy’ to ‘exploratory’ in both those works sets this up as the third of a trilogy.
It’s not heavy (in that sense), and it’s barely rock. You wanted Chickenfoot? You’ve got Talk Talk. It’s intriguing. Stripped down (yet with choirs and orchestras), beautiful (but sinister), ambient (yet somehow in your face), it’s extraordinary and otherworldly. As Akerfeldt has said, it can “pass by like elevator muzak” if you let it, but if you zoom in, there’s a ton of full-on weirdness occurring.
Drag Ropes is gentle yet ominous; the 10-minute title track moves from pastoral to white noise and back. Hag is like a 60s French movie theme reimagined by Pink Floyd. Elsewhere, there are duelling acoustic guitars, drones and handclaps.
Whether it’s prog depends on your definition: only the aforementioned Spirit Of Eden enigmas, David Sylvian and latter-day Scott Walker, have dreamed such soundscapes before.
This is challenging, unsettling and totally fascinating.