Three is a Magic Number – Part One

Last week I reviewed Marilyn Manson’s latest release The Pale Emperor and since then I have had Manson’s whole discography on repeat, unable to listen to any other artists. Manson’s best work to date has undoubtedly been the trio of albums Antichrist Superstar, Mechanical Animals and Holy Wood, which together form his “Triptych”. Listening back to these influential albums made me think about other examples of album trilogies that are exemplary in their own right – so in this two part series I want to explore some of the greatest trios from the oceans of rock.

David Bowie

The man who inspired the shift towards a glam-rock image for Marilyn Manson’s second album in the Triptych, Mechanical Animals, also has a trilogy of his own. Known as the ‘Berlin Trilogy’, the three albums in this collection were all recorded in Berlin and fully embrace Bowie’s avant-garde style that was threatening to break through for years.

The trilogy begins with Low, which has contributions from Brian Eno (most notably the Warszawa theme), and begins with his traditional blend of pop and rock before expanding out into experimental space rock and instrumental sections. Its successor, “Heroes”, continued on with the sound developed on Low and features contributions from both Eno and Robert Fripp (of King Crimson fame). However “Heroes” is generally positive in tone, a stark contrast to the negative space woven throughout its predecessor. The final album Lodger once again evolves in style and is much tighter in composition, whilst still maintaining a sense of experimentation, with exotic sounds similar to those found on parts of “Heroes”.

As a whole the Berlin Trilogy forms an eclectic mix of music, with numerous themes and concepts running through the albums. Despite this the trilogy manages to keep a sense of cohesion, partly due to Brian Eno’s contributions, but mainly because of its avant-garde, experimental nature and a leaning towards a krautrock sound that became more subtle with each album.

Steven Wilson/Mikael Akerfeldt

Wilson (Porcupine Tree) and Akerfeldt (Opeth) have been long-time collaborators, which began when Wilson produced Opeth’s Blackwater Park in 2001. Nearly a decade later the pair began a project together, entitled Storm Corrosion, which successfully explored extremely avant-garde music, utilising sparse arrangements and moody atmospheres. Their six track self-titled effort (with a 47-min running length) acted as a conclusion to a trilogy which began with Opeth and Steven Wilson both releasing albums with a fortnight of each other eight months earlier.

Those records were Heritage and Grace for Drowning respectively, which were both inspired by 70s progressive rock. Heritage was ambitious and recreated classic prog sounds, whilst Grace for Drowning incorporated jazz and orchestral arrangements, along with a few drone and electronic moments into the progressive rock format. Although I believe each of the three records have weaker tracks, together they form a formidable trio and are one of the greatest success stories of modern progressive music, along with Jordan Rudess’ beard.

Look out for the second and final installment next Monday.

Thank you for reading. Join the RockAtlantic mailing list by clicking on follow and as always press like if you enjoyed this blog and let me know your thoughts in the comment section below.

– James


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