Storm Corrosion is the long awaited artistic collaboration (as opposed to artist/producer engagement) between Mikael Akerfeldt of progressive metal giants Opeth and Steven Wilson, perhaps the progressive music talent de nos jours. It is- finally – “here” and, if you’re wondering why it has taken us lazy sods at Blabbath Towers an absolute age to getting around to reviewing this well, let’s just say we have been letting this record get under our skins a little. Well, a lot actually. So, my proggy and rocky friends, is it worth the wait? Well, I rather think that depends on what it is you have been waiting for.
There is little doubt in my mind that this is not the record that many were expecting; in fact, I think many will be, if not shocked, then certainly surprised at the artistic endeavour that has been delivered here. We might have had some signs of the direction that these two spectacular talents may have taken- Opeth’s last record, the enigmatic and cultured Heritage whilst Wilson’s latest solo offering was racked with angst and melancholy- but I don’t think that we were really, genuinely, expecting this. Storm Corrosion is, resolutely, not a hybrid of the two and, to these ears, it’s something that we should be thankful for. Storm Corrosion is a record that exists in its own universe and stands alone, ready for appreciation and our delectation. It sounds strange and alien yet, in parallel, wonderfully warm and familiar.
The sparse and creeping dread that underpins opening track Drag Ropes is a case in point: it’s a song (song? wrong word- exposition? better word) that you expect will go off in one direction only to confound you by going somewhere entirely different. It’s like nothing that you have heard before and yet, it’s like everything that you’ve heard before. The title track is one of those that I will stick my neck out and say is something of a minor miracle. It begins like the soundtrack to a European arthouse movie before picking up a beautiful melody that Wilson positively whispers at you; it’s almost like they are afraid of the fragility of the song- it’s a track so precious you think it will shatter mid track but it holds steady and firm and gets under your skin, as if it were a part of you. The rest of the album follows a similar, though not repetitive or complacent, narrative arc. Ideas are introduced like minor characters in a play before being exited to the shadows; this is a record that is unafraid of experiment, completely comfortable with letting music breathe and grow and utterly resolute in the creation of its own art.
Storm Corrosion is a quiet record- it creeps up on you and renders its charms softly in your ear rather than screaming “look at me!” in your face and, frankly, it’s a welcome relief from the xeroxed masses that routinely puff up their mediocrity as if it were the greatest thing in Western Christendom. There is a lot going on in these six, complex and often densely constructed tracks- and, as you might anticipate, this is not an easy record to love instantly. It has quirks, idiosyncratic depths and nuances that only begin to reveal themselves upon repeated listens. If that sounds incredibly pompous and joyless then it’s the fault of my prose rather than the music on offer here which is by turns evocative, emotional, brooding, haunting and melancholic. Overall, I don’t think that this is quite the unequivocal masterpiece that everyone will tell you it is but it might be an equivocated masterpiece: I think time and familiarity might prove this. As things stand, then, this is a record that is, as the saying goes, the sum of its parts. But what parts, ladies and gentlemen, what parts.