Monday, June 13, 2011

Blackfield - Welcome To My DNA

Blackfield
Welcome To My DNA
Blackfield/Kscope/Snapper Music

If there’s one album I couldn’t wait to get my hands on this year, it would have to be Blackfield’s long awaited third studio release ‘Welcome To My DNA’. Having already recorded two absolute masterpieces (2004’s self-titled effort, and 2007’s ‘Blackfield II’), I was really looking forward to seeing what the combined talents of Porcupine Tree/No-Man mastermind Steven Wilson and Israeli pop artist Aviv Geffen would produce on a brand new full-length release. And after living with the album for some time, I can finally say that while ‘Welcome To My DNA’ is another fine piece of work from the band, it doesn’t exceed the best the pair have produced on their former efforts.
On the surface, ‘Welcome To My DNA’ doesn’t stray too far from the sound and direction that’s become Blackfield’s musical template. There’s still that distinct Porcupine Tree influence throughout the album (Which obviously stems from Wilson’s vocals and song writing), and the pair’s penchant for writing short, melodic pop/rock numbers are still very much what Blackfield deliver a third time around. But underneath the fa├žade, ‘Welcome To My DNA’ does boast some new elements and influences. And in truth, some of those new twists to the formula work in the album’s favour, while others not quite as well as I had wished.
The most significant and differing factor on ‘Welcome To My DNA’ is Geffen’s involvement in the making of the album. Whereas, previously the song writing was split down the middle, this time around Geffen has taken on almost all of the song writing (Wilson was apparently busy working on his second solo release, and therefore handed the writing responsibilities over to Geffen), giving the album a different feel and vibe to what you would otherwise expect. The other notable change is the overall melancholy and bitter anger that dominates most of the album. While melancholy themes have always been a part of Blackfield’s sound, ‘Welcome To My DNA’ is definitely the pair’s most downbeat feeling work to date.
The opening track ‘Glass House’ is a stunning opening track that brings to mind shades of Porcupine Tree’s ‘Even Less’ (From 1999’s ‘Stupid Dream’) with its strong and memorable melodies, slower and gentle tempo and Wilson’s slide guitar work. But aside from the obvious, it’s the lush orchestral touches that really stand out – taking the song to a whole new level of greatness.
‘Go To Hell’ is a strange follow-up, and one of the few tracks on the album that misses the mark a little. While the song is catchy enough, and Geffen’s vocal efforts stand out as his strongest yet, the song’s simplistic and repetitive lyrical content (‘Fuck you all / Fuck you / I don’t care / Go to hell’) comes across as a little too straightforward, giving the song an overall feeling like it was a good song writing idea that was utilized without being completely explored.
‘Rising Of The Tide’ is classic Blackfield, with Wilson and Geffen sharing lead vocals to what is a song full of heartbreak and fragile beauty, while the semi-acoustic/orchestral ‘Waving’ (The album’s first single/promotional video clip, and the only song on the album to be written by Wilson) is an infectious tune that highlights Wilson’s masterful use of dynamics in both the musical and vocal aspects of his song writing.
Around the middle of the album, Blackfield produce some absolute stunners with the sombre and touching ‘Far Away’, the dramatic and rather biting ‘Dissolving With The Night’ and the middle eastern and more progressive based ‘Blood’ representing some of the album’s stronger and more memorable efforts.
Despite Geffen’s best efforts to project a sadness of those missed, the lyrics within ‘On The Plane’ don’t entirely work, and once again gives another track that allows the album to slip a little in the high quality expected of the duo. But despite this, Geffen well and truly redeems himself with the pop gem that is ‘Oxygen’, the subtle progressive beauty of ‘Zigota’ (Which is a reworking of the same track that appeared on Geffen’s 2002 album ‘Memento Mori’) and the tranquil acoustic closer ‘DNA’.
On its own, ‘Welcome To My DNA’ is a great album, and comes highly recommended. But personally, I can’t help but feel that Blackfield’s latest release doesn’t quite reach the heights of their former releases. Geffen has undoubtedly really stepped up in terms of his vocals and song writing on this new album, but is letdown in part with the lack of input from Wilson in some areas.
Overall, ‘Welcome To My DNA’, while not Blackfield’s most consistent work to date, is still very much a must have for fans.

For more information on Blackfield, check out - http://www.blackfield.org/

© Justin Donnelly