Blackfield – Blackfield II

Blackfield
Blackfield II

If there is one thing in the music world that always proves interesting, it is when two or more artists from other bands collaborate. Usually in the form of a side project, the albums produced showcase the trademarks of all involved while creating a sound unique to the band. In the case of Blackfield, the pairing of these particularly fantastic songwriters equates to relatively short but captivating pop/rock albums. Blackfield II, while overall not as good as its predecessor, is still a fine collection of catchy and beautiful songs that will stay with you forever.

Blackfield is a partnership between Steven Wilson (the genius behind the progressive rock band Porcupine Tree) and Israeli Rock superstar Aviv Geffen. Geffen invited Porcupine Tree to play in his home town in 2000 and soon he and Wilson became both friends and collaborators. They released their self-titled album in 2004, and it was essentially a perfect album (no filler, every song was great,etc). On their sophomore effort, the two creative forces aimed at a sadder, more somber and more reflective album that almost matches the greatness of their debut, but falls a bit short. Although Wilson has proven himself capable of playing everything on his recordings (the earliest Porcupine Tree material was him solely), he and Geffen hired some musicians to bring their art to life. On this album, Daniel Salomon is their pianist, Seffy Efrati plays the bass and Tomer Z is the drummer. The result is a very tight band performing seemingly simple, yet thematically complex tunes.

The album starts out with “Once”, which showcases Wilson’s nice use of falsetto vocals. It’s a perfect album opener, as the dynamics get much heavier in a short amount of time. The chorus is pure Blackfield, and the listener can already tell that they’re hearing another fantastic output by the band. “Miss You” is a great song not because of its verse melody (which is nothing special), but because of its haunting chorus, which proclaims “Tomorrow you’ll be gone and I’ll miss you.” “The Killer” is a soft, simple song with a not so pleasant subject (which is not a bad thing). “My Gift of Silence” is an amazingly catchy track. It’s a great example of Wilson’s skill of creating beauty out of simplicity, and it’s one of the best short songs he has ever produced. The album concludes with its best song, “End of the World”, which makes great use of the pair harmonizing. It’s a nostalgic piece that serves as a phenomenal closing to the album. The majority of the album will be considered a series of classic pieces in the bands career (which, hopefully, will last a long time).

Unlike the original LP, Blackfield II does have some flaws. The main problem is that several of the songs, while good in their own right, simply aren’t as original and inventive as they could be. “Christenings” sounds too familiar, forced and effortless. “Where is My Love?” hurts the album because it’s not really a new song. The original LP was released in a two-disc form, with this track as a bonus demo. True, it was reworked for the album, but it is redundant to anyone who owns the special edition of the original album. There are several other moments on the album that give the sense that Wilson and Geffen are running out of ideas or borrowing from other people. This is definitely the minority of the album, and the songs are still very good, so it only barely hurts the album.

When two artists surprise their individual fans by working together and releasing a near perfect album as a debut, it’s almost impossible to meet expectations for the follow-up. Such is the case with Blackfield II. On its own, it’s a great album with no bad songs (some are just more original and unique than others). With this release, fans can conclude two things: Blackfield will continue to release great albums with their now established sound, but they will never surpass their incredible debut. Regardless, this band deserves some attention and acclaim, and Blackfield II belongs in everyone’s music collection.