Steven Wilson and Aviv Geffen are fantastic songwriters in their own rite, and as Blackfield and Blackfield II proved, their collaboration leads to pure musical magic. Full of magnificent melodies, heartfelt emotions, and lavish, unique productions, their records are phenomenally catchy and affective. Their third LP, Welcome To My DNA, is another wonderful collection of songs that deserves its place the Blackfield catalog.
The duo first met in 2000 when Israeli protest singer Geffen invited Wilson and his band, the highly revered Porcupine Tree, to play a show in Israel. Geffen had been a fan of PT for many years (he would eventually appear on their 2002 masterpiece, In Absentia), and the two formed a blossoming partnership. Usually the songwriting duties are split almost equally, but because Wilson is so busy with his sophomore solo album and other projects, Welcome To My DNA is largely Geffen’s baby. Still, Wilson’s voice is all over the record, and regardless of who wrote what, the signature Blackfield chemistry is still at work.
The album opens with the wonderfully arranged “Glass House.” Inspired by a dream Geffen had that, like most of the album, involved his fears and loneliness, its melodies, harmonies, and subtle orchestral production immediately incites a warm recognition in listeners. Wilson’s “Waving” is the clear choice to be the album’s first single, as it’s instantly catchy and accessible, and his trademark dynamical shifts (where songs start off poppy and then rock out) is present. “Far Away” is a sentimental treasure, and perhaps one of the best ballads Wilson has ever sung. The most surprising track on Welcome To My DNA is “Blood”; its first half rocks like a progressive metal version of an Irish/Celtic jig (actually, it’s similar to many of Porcupine Tree’s instrumentals, like “Wedding Nails”). Eventually, it evolves into a chilling harmonious chant. “Oxygen” carries the kind of infectious melody that writes itself in a matter of seconds yet it stays around forever.
Rather than conclude with an astonishing powerhouse like Blackfield II’s “End Of The World,” Welcome To My DNA ends with the beautifully poignant “DNA.” With the opening lines “DNA. Welcome to my DNA,” the track gives the album a significant sense of conceptuality which their previous two albums lacked (although this is obviously intentional). It builds brilliantly with its orchestration, and although it may take a few listens to fully appreciate, it’s easily one of their most exquisite songs.
While Welcome To My DNA is full of great moments, it also contains some of Blackfield’s weakest material. While these two artists always wore their emotions on their sleeves, the profane bluntness of “Go To Hell,” with Geffen chanting “f—k you all” repeatedly, is a turnoff. Artistically, one would think Geffen and Wilson would, as they always have, choose to transform a simple sentiment into a deep piece. But really, it’s a bit basic and immature. Still, I suppose, one must respect Geffen’s bravery in not mincing his words. Elsewhere, a few tracks, like “On The Plane,” are good, but not great, and since the majority of Welcome To My DNA is fantastic, these selections stand out as slightly subpar.
Few songwriters these days can write even one song that’s as good as anything on Welcome To My DNA, and the fact that Wilson and Geffen seem to do it so effortlessly and prolifically is a testament to their high caliber. While it may not be as perfect as Blackfield or as addictive as Blackfield II, Welcome To My DNA is probably their most diverse, experimental, and textured release. As another stellar collection of emotionally charged melodies complemented with gorgeous production, it’s another superb achievement for the duo, and it’ll likely stand as one of the best albums of the year.