After two very disappointing albums from Blackfield (with Aviv Geffen at the helm), Steven Wilson rededicated himself to the project for the duo’s fifth album. The good news? It’s not as bad as the last two albums. The bad news? It’s not as great as the first two albums. The quality of the songs varies a lot throughout the album, with some songs that are quite good and a few that are flat out terrible.
The album starts with an orchestrated prelude song in “A Drop in the Ocean” which is nice but doesn’t really get you fired up for the rest. That’s basically the case with the whole album: lots of orchestration and a very mellow, somewhat flat vibe. “Family Man” is the first single and while it’s a good song, it falls short of the dynamic singles of past albums like “Blackfield” or “Once” or “Christenings.”
“How Was Your Ride?” is one of my favorite tracks. It’s quite lush and yes mellow but the chorus is very strong. From there, Aviv Geffen takes the mic for the next track, “We’ll Never Be Apart” which isn’t a bad track but I’ve never cared much for his voice. His tone is iffy and it has a vibrato that I hadn’t noticed before. I think Wilson should have sang this one.
“Sorrys” is another Aviv track and once again his voice drives me nuts. The song itself is rather dull and does nothing for me. It’s a track that I see myself skipping frequently. “Life is an Ocean” has Wilson splitting vocals with Geffen and it’s at this point that I am wonder why Wilson sounds strange on this album. Does he have a cold? Is he just trying to sound more like Geffen? Who would do that? The overall vibe of the album becomes very apparent by now that it’s an album about life and the ocean.
“Lately” finally gives the album some life. The song has a driving rhythm, a nice guitar solo and a good chorus. Not sure why it needs a guest vocal from a female vocalist but it’s brief though confusing. Definitely one of the better tracks, but I hate the sudden fade. “October” sounds like a Broadway show tune, well kinda. If anyone is curious how Wilson would sound on a big show number, this is it. Is that Jordan Rudess on the piano?
Aviv chokes out the melody to “The Jackal” on the verse before it awkwardly moves into a nice chorus. This song needed more work. Just not a good song overall. “Salt Water” sounds like ELO to me. It’s a nice little instrumental that I like better than “A Drop in the Ocean.” Since the pattern is a good song followed by Aviv Geffen doing what he does, “Undercover Heart” is similar to “The Jackal” with sketchy verses and a good chorus. That female singer is back assisting Geffen at finding notes successfully.
This leads us to a shitty pop song, “Lonely Soul.” This song is complete crap. That female vocalist (yes I need to find her name) couples with Geffen saying “I’m a lonely soul” over and over and over again. I just cannot survive that song. The last track is easily the best track on the album. “From 44 to 48” is an addictive melody and stuffy Steven giving a good vocal performance. I love the chord progressions and guitar riffs. It’s another mellow track and yes sounds a bit like ELO. That’s fine though. This is a GREAT song.
Overall, “Blackfield V” is the definition of a mixed bag. It definitely underscores the fact that Steven Wilson is a lot more talented and easier on the ears than Aviv Geffen. The album has a few great moments, a few embarrassing ones and others that just don’t really register at all. Blackfield are back and better than they have been but not as great as they used to be.
1. A Drop in the Ocean
2. Family Man
3. How Was Your Ride?
4. We’ll Never Be Apart
6. Life is an Ocean
9. The Jackal
10. Salt Water
11. Undercover Heart
12. Lonely Soul
13. From 44 to 48