Porcupine Tree: Closure/ Continuation review – reunited prog-rockers remain emotionally detached

Porcupine Tree formed as a whimsical joke in 1987, but by the time of their sold-out Royal Albert Hall concert in October 2010, they had scored Top 30 albums on both sides of the Atlantic and become standard bearers for prog-rock when the genre seemed beyond critical rehabilitation.

Still, this wasn’t enough to stop frontman Steven Wilson from putting the group on ice after that momentous show and turning his energies towards an increasingly acclaimed solo career and work as an in-demand studio boffin. And that, it seemed, was that. But unbeknown to anyone else, Wilson and drummer Gavin Harrison had quietly begun occasionally jamming together on music that would later evolve into the group’s 11th album a couple of years after their hiatus began, with keyboard player Richard Barbieri contributing further ideas later in the process. This new material was finessed and finished during lockdown.

Related: Reunited prog-rockers Porcupine Tree on surviving their rift: ‘You can’t help but feel bitter’

Now surfacing, that album is progressive to the very soles of its nine-minute songs, and characterised by a level of instrumental proficiency that is, occasionally, emotionally detached. But much of Closure/Continuation impresses, an inquisitive and unpredictable set that finds space for electronic experimentalism (Walk the Plank), thrilling monolithic bombast (Herd Culling), math-metal riffage (Rats Return) and marvellous marriages of rhythmic complexity and unabashed anthemics (Harridan).

Despite the budding sophistication of his solo work, the Wilson of Porcupine Tree remains a better musician than lyricist, but there’s a sense of chiaroscuro at play within the sensitive chord changes of Of the New Day that assures us he is no mere technical genius, and that a heart beats beneath Closure/Continuation’s flash and flair.