Sound — 10
This album did take awhile to grow on me, but one thing was clear from the beginning: there was pretty much fantastic musicianship the entire time. The sound is definitely prog and very much layered. One thing that I found particularly interesting is the fact that so much is going on at one time in the music. I found this very interesting. There is a lot more than just your conventional one or two guitars, a bass, and a drummer. There seems that there is always a mellotron and/or keyboard going on pretty much all the time which adds a nice ambient effect throughout. As Wilson sings on track 6, "the scratching of a mellotron always seems to make it right." Also, it seems as if sometimes there are even three guitar parts, which adds a nice intricate effect. To even further add to the layering, Wilson many times has multiple vocal parts going on at one time. On tracks 1, 3, and 5, Opeth's Mickael Akerfeldt adds additional backing vocals as well. There is so much going on at a time! It really has taught me a lot as a guitarist the importance of harmonies and depth that can really be unlocked. I would encourage all musicians to listen to this album to get a feel for the depth that can be present in music.
Lyrics — 10
The album is based on a screenplay written by Steven Wilson and Mike Bennion, and is essentially a ghost story. Given its narrative, most fans have dubbed this a concept album. Wilson has expressed the intention to eventually have this film script made into a movie. All songs were written by Wilson except "Halo" and "Glass Arm Shattering" (Wilson/Barbieri/Edwin/Harrison) and "Start of Something Beautiful" (Wilson/Harrison). Although the album is basically a ghost story, many parts of the story are unclear at best. There hasn't been any revelations given by the band either. This may be because Wilson wants to put this to film, and doesn't want to spoil any parts of the story. Wilson has above average singing skills and has influenced many artists of similar genre. He has even managed to influence bands that aren't so similar in genre, such as deathmetal band Opeth. He never screams, never really yells, and comes up with brilliant vocal harmonies that always add to the music.
Overall Impression — 10
This album really compares with all their other releases in the sense that all of PT's work is very layered, and this recording is no different. If one is a fan of Radiohead, I can't imagine that person not liking PT. Although PT is definitely prog, it differs from other prog bands in two significant ways. lack of shredding, sweep picking, hand tapping, showing off, etc. although PT is all made up of excellent musicians, none of them are virtuosos. This differentiates them quite clearly from other prog bands such as Dream Theater and Liquid Tension Experiment. General avoidance of odd-time signatures: although PT does use these timings, they are definitely not in every song and can sometimes be few and far between. This would also differentiate them from other prog bands such as Dream Theater, Tool, Meshuggah, and Zero Hour. As far as the most impressive track on the album, that award would probably have to go to the longest track on the record, "Arriving Somewhere, But Not Here." This clocks in at a very progressive 12 minutes, and is just beautiful. Again, I love the layered, progressive recording. It makes for a very interesting listen. If lost or stolen, I would definitely buy it again and you should buy it too!