Continuing in the growing commercial vein of their previous releases, Porcupine Tree's In Absentia may be the most accessible release to ever spew forth from the group. Rolling electronic percussion blends with simple and solid live drumming to provide an understated backbeat as perennial Tree leader Steven Wilson pastes his complicated pop over the proceedings. Wilson's ability to bury his layered vocals in mountains of spacy electric guitar without drowning out his fragile lyrics is still a valued feature of the music, and the rare moments of clarity that his vocals display are breathtaking in their power. A reliance on a somewhat gothic heavy metal sound makes for some bizarre moments, especially when held up against his gentler material. The best example of this is the chugging "Wedding Nails," which recalls Dream Theater in its grandiose scope without utilizing the same sort of technical wizardry. But Wilson manages to bridge the gap between the various genres he utilizes, creating an environment where his haunting melodies could take a drastic turn at any minute. Porcupine Tree also continue their Radiohead fascination, although the influence is much less direct than on their last few efforts. Instead, it comes through at odd intervals, like the moments of sparse instrumentation on the otherwise lush "Heartattack in a Lay By." Sonically gorgeous and deceivingly complex, In Absentia has the most immediate appeal of anything Wilson has released under this moniker up to this point. By keeping the songs at manageable lengths and avoiding the avant-garde electronica flourishes of the band's early days, Porcupine Tree has grown into a fully realized pop group without cutting any of the elements that also make them an important force in the neo-prog movement.
AllMusic Review by Bradley Torreano