by Nathan Carson

Porcupine Tree

Sat Aug 2

B Complex

Even with the precedents set by Radiohead and Tool, it is a bold time for a self-proclaimed progressive rock band to tackle the mainstream. For over a decade, English album rockers Porcupine Tree have supported themselves by making music on indie labels for a cult audience and critical accolades. But now, thanks in part to band leader Steven Wilson's astonishing production of the last three records for Swedish death metal masters Opeth, Porcupine Tree is on the verge of major success of their own.

Steven Wilson is an omnivorous music lover with a good sense of humor and an accent that would make any member of Spinal Tap proud. The name Porcupine Tree, and the first material, circulated in the late '80s as a faux '70s prog band, complete with ridiculous moniker and built-in mythology. "I wanted to avoid the perception that it was just me kind of being the geek in the bedroom. I didn't realize I was going to make a second record, let alone a seventh one," says Wilson.

In Absentia is both major label debut and the most accessible album in Wilson's catalog. "It's very eclectic. It's almost too eclectic sometimes. It goes from metal to pop to ambient to trip-hop. Although I love records like that myself, it's made it possibly even harder to get through to people." But the growing legions of music fans who are discovering the neo-prog of Cave In, and modern retro-polishers Soundtrack of Our Lives, will find epic melodies, a variety of psychedelic rock approaches, and great songs.

Too few bands capture darkness and light as well as Porcupine Tree. And too few people can broaden their tastes to accept positive influence from such a wide spectrum. I lamented to Wilson that not enough people can listen to Morbid Angel and The Carpenters. "There aren't many people like that y'know," he laughed. "It's true. I just don't get it. For me, they're both fantastic."