Porcupine Tree – Octane Twisted (2012)

Porcupine Tree’s album-length 2009 song cycle The Incident is given a full concert reading here, and what Octane Twisted lacks in studio dynamics, it more than makes up for with visceral power.

Named after a movement of the album’s 14-segment title track, this new three-disc live document — issued today via Kscope — was primarily recorded at Chicago’s Riviera Theatre in 2010. Along the way, Steven Wilson and Co. reassert themselves not just as one of the standard bearers for neo-prog but also as a tightly focused fulcrum for some of the genre’s most song-oriented work.

Wait, song oriented? Didn’t I just say “The Incident” was presented in 14 separate movements? Well, an in-concert document like Octane Twisted, perhaps inevitably, breaks the originally intended flow. Songs don’t overlap with the Grammy-winning ease of the studio recording; heck, Wilson even (gasp!) talks a little. Surprisingly enough, the leftover pieces are quite effective as stand-alone songs. In fact, they often reveal new complexities when unmoored from their familiar counterparts.

[SOMETHING ELSE! INTERVIEW: Steven Wilson dropped by to talk about classic 1970s sounds, prog's rebirth and his amazing album 'The Raven.']

There’s a deeper emotional pull within “Drawing the Line,” a more obvious connection when the main riff from “Occam’s Razor” returns on “Degree Zero of Liberty,” a more ferocious growl pushing “Octane Twisted,” a darker undertow surrounding “Circle of Manias.”

If “The Incident” once stood as perhaps Porcupine Tree’s compositional masterwork, the piece now sounds less like a narrative and more like a series of profound and engaging thoughts. In some ways, for me, it all connects more directly.

The second disc in the Octane Twisted set — recorded in Chicago, and during the band’s landmark show at Royal Albert Hall, London — takes a spin through Porcupine Tree’s catalog.

Highlights include “Hatesong,” from 2000′s Lightbulb Sun, a cool mashup of “Russia on Ice” from that same project and a portion of “Anesthetize,” from 2007′s Fear of a Blank Planet, “Stars Die” from 1995′s The Sky Moves Sideways, and “Arriving Somewhere But Not Here” from 2005′s Deadwing. Also included: “Even Less” from 1999′s Stupid Dream, “Bonnie the Cat,” originally from the bonus disc for The Incident, and “Dislocated Day,” also from The Sky Moves Sideways.

There’s also a special edition of Octane Twisted featuring a bonus DVD of the Chicago performance.

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Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso has also explored music for publications like USA Today, Gannett News Service, All About Jazz and Popdose for nearly 30 years. Honored as newspaper columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section that was named Top 10 in the nation by the AP in 2006. Contact him at nderiso@somethingelsereviews.com.