If there is one thing in the music world that always proves interesting, it is when two or more artists from different bands collaborate. Usually in the form of a side project, the albums produced showcase the trademarks of all involved while giving a unique sound to the band.
In the case of Blackfield, the pairing of two fantastic songwriters — Steven Wilson and Aviv Geffen — equates to relatively short in length but captivating pop/rock albums. Blackfield II, while overall not as good as its predecessor Blackfield, is still a fine collection of catchy and beautiful songs that will stay with you forever.
Blackfield is a partnership between Wilson (the genius behind the progressive rock band Porcupine Tree) and Geffen, an Israeli rock superstar. Geffen invited Porcupine Tree to play in his hometown in 2000 and soon he and Wilson became both friends and collaborators. They released their self-titled debut in 2004, and it was essentially a perfect album.
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 solely him), he and Geffen hired some musicians to bring their art to life.
On this album, Daniel Salomon is their pianist, Seffy Efrat 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 the range of Wilson’s 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 listeners can already tell that they’re in store for another fantastic output by the band.
“Miss U” 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.”
Other great songs on the album include “The Killer,” 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.
Blackfield II concludes with its best song, “End of the World,” which shows off the pair of singers 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 band’s career (which, hopefully, will last a long time).
Unlike the original album, 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 effortless, forced and too familiar.
“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.
With this release, fans can conclude two things: Blackfield will continue to release quality albums with their now-established sound, but they will
never surpass their once-in-a-career debut. Regardless, this band deserves some attention and acclaim, and Blackfield II belongs in everyone’s music collection.