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Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Steven Wilson - The Raven That Refused To Sing (And Other Stories)

Steven Wilson, the man behind Porcupine Tree, the remasters of the Prog gems of the golden-era of the 1970s, and as a solo artist, has come a long way from his first two albums (Insurgentes and Grace for Drowning) and on pet projects including the eerie and haunting beauty with Opeth’s Mikael Akerfeldt on Storm Corrosion, Blackfield with Aviv Geffen, and No-Man with Tim Bowness to name a few. This time the Prince of Progressive Rock is back in action this year with his follow up to Grace for Drowning with The Raven That Refused to Sing (And Other Stories).

With help from engineer Alan Parsons, who’s known for his work on Pink Floyd 1973 magnum opus, Dark Side of the Moon, The Beatles Abbey Road, and his band, The Alan Parsons Project, is his way out of retirement to come back and work with Wilson himself and track by track, it is an absolute stunning beauty of storytelling and journeys that you will embark on from the moment you put it on from start to finish.  Starting the album off is the 12-minute epic, Luminol, which was performed on the live box set, Get All You Deserve, is an eruptive rollercoaster ride that starts the album off with a powerful big bang.

Featuring thunderous bass and drum work done by Nick Beggs and Marco Minnemann along with a funky Rhodes-like work by Adam Holzman that reminisces Herbie Hancock and Jan Hammer in the 1970s for the first five minutes of the composition before it becomes a moody atmosphere that has a mellowing touch as Holzman does this Monk-like concerto on the piano while Steven layers the ground with his guitar and the usage of Robert Fripp’s MKII Mellotron with some wonderful harmonizing vocalization. Most of the time, it sounds like something that was left off the sessions for King Crimson’s Lizard album.

Drive Home, is a calm and relaxing orchestral piece. Lush, Bliss, and Delicate, it has these elements of Folk, Jazz, and the lukewarm crisp sounds of the acoustic guitar, Wilson’s mellowing voice sets the tone for the song as he and Adam sings the line, “You need to clear away all the jetsam in your brain/And face the truth/Well love can make amends/While the darkness always ends, you’re still alone/So drive home.” What the line really means is, all the past and present that you’ve encountered, you have to face it and you’re still an outsider, so the best thing to do is to drive home to forget about what happened in your childhood and focus on the future.

Theo Travis and Guthrie Govan play the melody between the Sax and Guitar before Govan does this wonderful jazzy guitar solo as Theo helps him out to make it sound very dreamy and soothing.  So, everything becomes a darker and terrifying nightmare in which is where you drink with the devil himself as The Holy Drinker. The title sounds like a Hammer Horror film, but the 10-minute epic is the real kicker. Starting off with Adam’s Fender Rhodes into haunting territories along with some guitar lines that Guthrie does and goes into touches of the Jazz Fusion of The Mahavishnu Orchestra and Manfred Mann’s Chapter Three, it is an out of this world experience with thunderous results.

And then, the last 3-minutes of the song, becomes a nightmarish ambient atmosphere before it goes into this homage of the shrieking roaring sound of the Moog and guitar in the styles of early Van Der Graaf Generator. The Pin Drop in which it deals with the loss of a love one through the eye of the husband’s only companion, his wife, has a lot of tension and goes through these emotional and dynamic structures while the Acid Folk turned nightmarish surroundings of The Watchmaker, goes through various movements.

At the first three minutes, it starts off with an acoustic guitar classical fingerpicking beauty along with flute and mellotron setting on what is coming about into a touch of Premiata Forneria Marconi’s Storia Di Un Minuto and Agitation Free’s Haunted Island that will have your jaws dropped on what the band will do next. And then, in comes the closing title track. Beautiful piano chords, experimenting atmosphere, impressive vocals from Wilson, string quartets and the guitars setting the story that has this Edgar Allen Poe background, there are touches of the OK Computer-era of Radiohead in the story-complex that has an uplifting transcendent to it.

The Raven That Refused to Sing is truly a crowning achievement and Steven Wilson is not even quitting, he’s a storyteller and there’s more for where it came from. And who knows which stories he will have up his sleeves in the near future.

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