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

Over a 30-year career, Nick DeRiso has also explored music for USA Today, All About Jazz, Ultimate Classic Rock and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the nation by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Contact him at nderiso@somethingelsereviews.com.