Sound — 8
Porcupine Tree was formed in 1987 by Steven Wilson, and the first album was released just a few short years later in 1991. Porcupine Tree was classified very early in their career as progressive rock, and comparisons were made to Pink Floyd, in particular. Both of these labels were denied by Steven Wilson who stated that he didn't think of Porcupine Tree as a progressive band, and also that he felt like Porcupine Tree stood on its own merit instead of as a comparison to another band. Since that time Steven Wilson has gone on to release a total of 10 studio albums, with the last being "The Incident", which was released in 2009. Since that time Porcupine Tree has done some touring and Steven Wilson has also worked on solo material as well as collaborations with other artists. This live album was recorded during 2010 in London and Chicago. The album consists of 2 discs with a total runtime of 2 hours and 8 minutes, with 21 total tracks. There is also a DVD containing the entire Chicago performance. Steven Wilson is a personal friend of prog rock pioneer, Robert Fripp, and you can tell from his uncompromising and experimental approach to songwriting that he also takes inspiration from Robert Fripp in that area. The songs at times change genre in mid song, and even when they don't the genre of the song is often unidentifiable, making it easier to just call it progressive. Since the release of the album "In Absentia" in 2002, Porcupine Tree's sound has more elements of metal and alternative rock in it than it has previously. This can be largely attributed to Steven Wilson's slight change in musical taste after discovering extreme metal and regaining his faith in metal as a relevant musical genre. For those of you who are unfamiliar with Porcupine Tree, they remind me of a little bit of Tool, Pink Floyd, NIN, early King Crimson, Talking Heads and Alice In Chains. That is really the closest I could come to describing their sound it is very diverse and eclectic, sometimes within a single song. The musicianship on the album is amazing and they manage it without sounding mechanical. There is a lot of play with dynamics in Porcupine Tree's sound, along with the changes in genre and style you will also hear many changes with quiet and loud dynamics. The included DVD is where the real experience of this album comes from, however, which includes portions of the visual experience that was put together to go along with this live material.
Lyrics — 7
Steven Wilson's vocals are very solidly adequate, but not outstanding. This has been the case since the formation of Porcupine Tree. The band stands on the strength of the songwriting and the instrumental performances while the lyrics tell the story to go along with it. Steven Wilson's vocals, however, are just as solid in these live recordings as they are on his studio albums. As a fan of Steven Wilson after discovering Porcupine Tree in 2006, shortly after the release of the album "Deadwing", I've come to appreciate what Steven Wilson brings to the table as a vocalist. While I normally prefer vocalists whose voices are full of character either from being exceptional or just being weird, Steven Wilson's voice is like an work horse instrument that gets the job done and helps in being a vehicle to express ideas and move his songs forward. "The Incident" was a concept album that was really one long song broken into parts, with the whole concept based around traumatic events, beginnings and endings, and how things can change forever. Steven Wilson has always tended to write from a melancholy point of view, (paraphrased from his own words as a way to exorcise negative emotions from his psyche). The songs on "Octane Twisted" are no different, with the first disc being exclusively the entirety of "The Incident" performed live and the second disc being assorted other live tracks from the concerts in Chicago and London. There are stories told in these songs that show the depth of Steven Wilson's songwriting.
Overall Impression — 9
As far as what is my favorite track, Porcupine Tree isn't really that type of band. They definitely do have that in common with old school progressive rock the album is an experience as a whole that is more than its individual parts. I do personally enjoy the track "Time Flies" quite a bit, as well as "Drawing The Line". I wouldn't be able to name a least favorite track as I feel like everything on this live album has its place. I would definitely recommend this album to anyone who considers themselves even a casual fan of progressive rock. Besides being some of the best modern progressive rock available, it is also some of the most accessible for those not already familiar with the genre. I highly recommend this album, especially for the included DVD which is a mind trip in and of itself.