Porcupine Tree were an English progressive rock band formed by musician Steven Wilson in 1987. The band began essentially as a solo project for Wilson, who created all of the band’s music. By late 1993, however, he wanted to work in a band environment, bringing on frequent collaborators Richard Barbieri as keyboardist, Colin Edwin as bassist, and Chris Maitland as drummer to form the first permanent lineup. With Wilson as lead vocalist and guitarist, this remained the lineup until February 2002, when Maitland left the band and Gavin Harrison was recruited to replace him.
Porcupine Tree’s early sound evoked a style of psychedelic rock comparable to that of Pink Floyd. Upon signing with Kscope record label in the late 1990s, the band approached a more mainstream alternative rock sound. By the early 2000s, the band had signed to a major record label and shifted their sound again, this time in a more progressive metal direction. After the tour in support of their tenth studio album, The Incident, released in 2009 and their biggest commercial success to date, the band became inactive as Wilson committed himself to his solo work and other members began working on their own separate projects. In 2018, after years of indetermination, Wilson ruled out a possible reformation.
During a career spanning more than 20 years, Porcupine Tree earned critical acclaim from critics and fellow musicians, developed a cult following, and became an influence for new artists. However, their work mostly stayed away from mainstream music, being described by publications such as Classic Rock and PopMatters as “the most important band you’d never heard of”.
|3.||“Lips of Ashes”||4:39|
|4.||“The Sound of Muzak”||4:59|
|6.||“Wedding Nails” (instrumental)||Richard Barbieri, Wilson||6:33|
|9.||“The Creator Has a Mastertape”||5:21|
|10.||“Heartattack in a Layby”||4:15|
|11.||“Strip the Soul”||Colin Edwin, Wilson||7:21|
|12.||“Collapse the Light Into Earth”||5:54|
|1.||“Drown with Me”||Wilson||5:21|
|2.||“Chloroform”||Chris Maitland, Wilson||7:14|
|3.||“Strip the Soul” (Video edit)||Edwin, Wilson||3:35|
In February 2002, Porcupine Tree’s first and only line-up change occurred when drummer Chris Maitland was dismissed after eight years with the band. The band welcomed drummer and longtime acquaintance Gavin Harrison as his replacement. In March 2002, a box set of the band’s early work was released, Stars Die: The Delerium Years 1991–1997, and the band commenced recording their first major label album, drawing from a pool of 30 new songs written by Wilson in the previous two years. Recording sessions took place at Avatar Studios in New York and London, with veteran audio engineer Paul Northfield and string arranger Dave Gregory also playing major roles in the making of the record. The album was mixed in Los Angeles in May with Tim Palmer.
The resulting album, In Absentia, was released by Lava Records in September 2002. The band also released a 5.1 surround-sound version of the album, mixed by Grammy Award-winning producer Elliot Scheiner. The surround-sound version of the album won the award for best 5.1 mix at the 2004 Surround Sound Music awards in Los Angeles.
To promote the album, the band undertook four tours of Europe and North America, including one with acclaimed Swedish metal band Opeth. On tour, the new line-up of the band was further augmented by additional touring vocalist/guitarist John Wesley. During these tours, the visual element of the band’s performance was taken to new heights with the involvement of filmmaker and photographer Lasse Hoile, who had created the cover art for In Absentia and now went on to create a dark and surreal visual to Porcupine Tree’s music. The long promotional campaign for In Absentia ended on 30 November 2003, as the band played a homecoming show to a sold-out London Astoria.