Friday, June 22, 2012

Storm Corrosion - Storm Corrosion

Storm Corrosion
Storm Corrosion
Roadrunner Records

Having worked on several projects together throughout the years, it was only inevitable that Opeth vocalist/guitarist Mikael Åkerfeldt and Porcupine Tree/No-Man/Blackfield front man Steven Wilson would eventually collaborate on something outside of their respective bands. And sure enough, in March 2010, the pair officially announced their intensions to make an album under the name of Storm Corrosion. Two years on (And a year after its official completion, which allowed both Opeth and Wilson to promote their respective album releases in 2011), and Storm Corrosion have finally released their highly anticipated self-titled debut full-length effort.
Leading up to the release of the album, both Åkerfeldt and Wilson made quite clear that Storm Corrosion was not going to sound like a progressive metal act, but was in fact going to be something entirely different from anything the pair had produced throughout their musical careers. The idea sounded intriguing, and given the pair’s most recent efforts (Wilson’s ‘Grace For Drowning’ and Opeth’s ‘Heritage’), the sound and direction that Storm Corrosion could go in on their debut was really anybody’s guess. In a lot of ways, the best way to describe Storm Corrosion’s overall sound and direction is a mix of both Opeth and Wilson’s most recent releases, but with a greater experimental and avant-garde edge in terms of instrumentation and song writing.
Initially, I can’t say that the album really did much for me. And that’s probably not all that surprising given that while I thoroughly enjoyed Wilson’s last album, I was bitterly disappointed with Opeth’s last release. But despite my initial impression, I persevered with the album, and only after allowing the time and space to really let the music to sink in, it finally started to grow on me.
The opening track ‘Drag Ropes’ is by far the most immediate track on the album, with its cinematic mix of strings and sparse piano, and Åkerfeldt’s soft vocals adding a real melody to proceedings. A couple of minutes into the track, and the atmosphere changes into something far darker and twisted, with the manipulated keyboard sounds and the dual vocalists intertwined arrangements adding a very bizarre vibe to the song. Guitars are used sparingly here, but enough to stand out as something special, while the mix of vocal harmonies, the strings, piano and the guitars for the second half of the track evokes a dark and sinister feel, which is nothing short of absolute song writing genius. Unfortunately, the track really is a one of a kind.
The title track ‘Storm Corrosion’ is another album highlight with Åkerfeldt’s gentle acoustic guitar work and Wilson’s quiet vocals veering more toward folk territory at the start of the song. Åkerfeldt’s sparse solo midway through is a wonderful addition, while the subtle strings and minimalist percussion only enhance the folk edge. Of course, elements of the avant-garde aren’t entirely forsaken, with a section around the three quarter mark really shaking the song up. But while the bizarre sound effects interlude is a little jarring upon first listen, it does make sense once you get used to it.
‘Hag’ initially starts out as a continuation of the former track, but eventually evolves into something a little darker, before erupting with a distorted drum solo (Courtesy of Porcupine Tree drummer Gavin Harrison) and a sinister mix of piano, keyboards and guitars (Which brings to mind Opeth’s ‘The Grand Conjuration’ from 2005’s ‘Ghost Reveries’). Although not up to the standard of the former tracks, ‘Hag’ is at the very least an interesting track that works more than it fails.
‘Happy’ on the other hand is a track that doesn’t quite work. Åkerfeldt’s guitar work is good, and the sonic manipulations of sound towards the tail end of the track are effective, but essentially the pair is tacked onto a song that’s too meandering and short of fully developed ideas and direction. In essence, this is one of the album’s filler efforts.
Unlike the former track, the instrumental piece ‘Lock Howl’ is a definite stand out track, with the band indulging more in progressive sounds here than on any other track on the album. The use of acoustic guitars throughout allows a clarity that wouldn’t otherwise exist with electrics, while the fade in/fade out of strings, odd keyboard effects, hand claps and piano add to the mesmerising magnificence of the cinematic-like piece.
Finishing up the album is ‘Ljudet Innan’ (Which is Swedish for ‘Sound Before’), which opens up with a strangely soulful and blues like performance from Åkerfeldt on vocals (In other words – In a way you’ve never heard him sing before!), before trailing out with a lengthy and soothing mix of dreamy keyboards, gentle guitar notes and Wilson’s near whispered vocals.
Overall, Storm Corrosion has produced an album that will definitely divide fans. Those who enjoyed the more recent efforts from the pair will definitely find plenty to sink their teeth into. It’s experimental, challenging and avant-garde, but an album well worth taking the time to fully comprehend and appreciate. But those expecting something more progressive or metallic (Or even along the lines of the first single ‘Drag Ropes’) will be sorely disappointed with this collaborative effort.

For more information on Storm Corrosion, check out - http://stormcorrosion.com/

© Justin Donnelly