What happens when two progressive music stalwarts join together to create music? Often “supergroups” make reflections of the members’ respective bands; however, Steven Wilson (Porcupine Tree, No-Man, Blackfield, Steven Wilson, &c) and Mikael Akerfeldt (Opeth, Bloodbath) chose to move down a different path on their project. Storm Corrosion is an idea that existed in their minds since they first worked together on Opeth’s Blackwater Park (2001).
The album, a loose concept on witch trials, is atmospheric and incorporates various different soundscapes and never broadens into metal. It is well produced and mixed and is often driven by vocals. At really no point in any of the six songs can it be said that either of the musician’s primary bands are represented here. This is an expansive project that borders solely on the progressive and nearly steps past rock music entirely.
The songs feel as if they have been placed in reverse order, allowing the first song “Drag Ropes” to explain the climax of the drama that unfolded before the listener begins hearing the story. As the album’s single, its music video explains the story in which a young man, disgusted with religious zealotry, flees from his community into the woods wherein he meets a young witch. After returning to his community, the truth is found and the witch is caught and killed by hanging. The music of the song is aptly melancholy and at times choral. The song builds, growing in energy, through its run before ending as it began and fading into “Storm Corrosion.
“Storm Corrosion” is one of the most experimental songs off the album; it has no percussion, is atmospherically melancholic without ever truly being dark, and is predominated by Wilson’s soft voice. Approximately six and a half minutes into the song, its gentle melody falls apart and the sound of a train coming down the track grates forebodingly. Once it passes, the music returns changed and curious though still focused on melancholy.
“Hag” opens in a very curious way with an almost call and response guitar and piano section that serves to demonstrate the rhythm of the voice. To me, it is the closest song to an Opeth soft interlude of say Ghost Reveries; however, with its pulsing bass line reminiscent of a heartbeat and dancing melodies stands very much apart from this sound. The sound of Wilson’s voice in conjunction with the guitar provides a richness of texture, and by incorporating metal elements into the song, containing some of the darkest moments on the entire album.
“Happy” is anything but so and returns the melancholic vibe of the earlier points of the album, relying off soft acoustic guitar with mellotron to create its feel. Of all the songs, this is the coldest of feeling to me as the soundscape just seems oddly like a chilled wind. “Lock Howl” bounds from the barren landscape of “Happy” with the most energetic bit on the entire album. Three and a half minutes into the song it breaks into a nearly tribal beat, evoking a ritual scene in its sound, before just ending.
“Ljudet Innan” opens with Akerfeldt singing falsetto, which whilst interesting, is something I’m not certain is a great choice and feels like a hiccup in the direction of the album. Like “Storm Corrosion” earlier, it is highly experimental, seemingly existing in a self contained universe of its own sound. My favorite part in the song is when the guitar solo comes in about five minutes into its run time, and it ends beautifully with the guitar outro playing concert with drumming of Gavin Harrison.
Overall, this album is the work of two progressive music fanboys (Akerfeldt runs a radio show on P4 Sweden that focuses on the most obscure of the progressive). While it shares similarities to Opeth and Porcupine Tree in that the musicians are the same, it is truly different from either of those bands. This is near Genesis level art rock that does not feel old or retro. Rather, they did a great job of crafting and exploring new soundscapes, focusing on the similarity of mood for their respective bands: melancholy. That said, this album is not very accessible and can be off putting at times, especially in how little energy is in the music. At times, it feels, if one is not in the mood perhaps, that the music meanders through a gray space. This is an album for the progressive music fan created by progressive music fans. It is a solid release especially when listened to 2011’s release from Opeth “Heritage” and Steven Wilson “Grace for Drowning.”