Sound: Released in Porcupine Tree's "In Absentia" era, their "Futile" EP is, for the most part, a collection of songs that didn't fit on the album. As a result, the sound is quite varied, with both technical metal riffs and mellow passages. Since there are multiple versions of the EP, I will focus on the studio songs that don't appear on "In Absentia" or any of their other albums.
First on the list is "Orchidia". As one of the more metal songs on the album, and an instrumental, the main focus of this song is riffs. There's not much else to say about this track: a wah-wah guitar solo comes in half way through the song before fading out into some children laughing.
Next is "Futile", the title track. As the other metal song on the EP, it features unusual time signature changes, and loud choruses separated by acoustic verses - Opeth's influence on Steven Wilson is very evident here. Despite it's very progressive nature it's extremely catchy, memorable and arguably the best song on the album.
Unlike its name suggests, "Drown With Me" is probably one of the more upbeat songs on the album. With some beautiful harmonies, this is definitely another highlight.
As the longest song on the EP, "Choloroform" is another mellow track, with a nice bass line, ethereal soundscapes and complimentary percussion. The solo towards the end is a wonderful climax, making this song my personal favourite on the EP.
One other song I'll look at that isn't strictly speaking on the EP, is "Meantime". Considered too cheerful, the song was released on its own via the band's website. Some rhythmic acoustic melodies make the song quite different from anything else the band has done.
Various versions of the EP also include an Opeth song from their "Damnation" album, which Wilson worked on; a few edits and radio sessions from "In Absentia"; and a live version of "Hatesong". I'll leave these songs to be reviewed on their respective original releases. // 10
Lyrics: The lyrics on here are probably some of Porcupine Tree's stronger lyrics. The lyrics are all a good representation of the music apart from "Drown With Me" which I believe covers the idea of drowning someone without suggesting anything is wrong - quite deceptive. The vocals are all delivered in a typical Wilson-esque tone, melancholic and overdriven vocals both present. // 10
Overall Impression: I truly believe this is one of Porcupine Tree's strongest releases, the only issue (if it is one) being the lack of cohesion between some of the tracks. Unlike other PT albums, there's less need to bother listening to the songs in track order for maximum effect. It'd be hard to lose an EP that isn't a physical copy and is backed up on my MP3 player. // 10