Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Steven Wilson - The Raven That Refused to Sing (And Other Stories) (2013)
For this album (one of my most ones anticipated of the year), I'll be doing a track-by-track review/narration as I listen to it for the first time. 

Luminol: What an epic jam this song is. The band play with such amazing cohesiveness and skill that you will be enthralled with it for all of the song's 12 minutes. From the phenomenal drum work by the legendary Marco Minnemann to Nick Beggs' infectious bass to Theo Travis' jazzy sax playing, this song brilliantly demonstrates the band's technical prowess and ability to write captivating, energetic music. 9.5/10

Drive Home: Starting out with Mr. Wilson's trademark melancholy vocals along with gentle piano and guitar work, the song morphs into an epic masterpiece as the gorgeous chorus and mellotron come in. A little later, a light guitar solo transitions into a synthesized harpsichord bit and a soaring, emotional solo by Guthrie Govan. 9.5/10

The Holy Drinker:  A jazzy, King Crimson-esque intro brings to mind Remainder the Black Dog from Grace for Drowning. Lots of dissonant sax and keyboards to establish the atmosphere before the track gains focus and it begins to sound like something off Opeth's Heritage. Great little sax solo followed by some phenomenal keyboard, flute, and bass interplay. Oh and the drumming is absolutely incredible in this song. Then there's a beautiful, but very dark quiet part with Wilson's dreary vocals/lyrics channeling creating a very haunting atmosphere. Then the track gets even darker with heavy keyboards, pounding drumming, some aggressive guitar work and an abrupt end. This song is the perfect balance between technicality and musical storytelling; it definitely feels like less of a jam then Luminol but it's still hows a great deal of musical proficiency. 10/10

The Pin Drop: I've never heard Wilson sound like Thom Yorke before haha. But it's a very good, atmospheric track with a post-rock-ish, kind of playful quality about it and more intense saxophone playing. This track showcases Wilson's ability to write compelling, poppy music with a prog coating, and fits brilliantly in terms of diversifying the album. 9.5/10

The Watchmaker: A soft, acoustic intro and Wilson's narration of The Watchmaker's story sets the tone of the song as it morphs into a sublime prog-folk section complete with keyboards, flute, and mellotron. Then another King Crimson-esque, jazzy section launches with phenomenal work by all band members. The track proceeds to quiet down as Adam Holzman plays beautifully on the piano, and Wilson returns to continue the narration. Then there's an extensive section of double-tracked vocal harmonies before it gets very proggy again with the band's talent once again shining, especially Beggs. Afterwards, it gets heavy and dark again as in The Holy Drinker and comes to an end. Overall, this track is on the same caliber both music-wise and quality-wise as The Holy Drinker. It's an epic, dark, and beautiful journey that clearly demonstrates why Wilson is one of the most respected names in the prog world. 10/10

The Raven That Refused to Sing: A dark, ambient intro leads into a minimalistic, highly Radiohead-esque composition somewhat reminiscent of You and Whose Army. Wilson's vocals and the strings soar magnificently followed somewhat later by a section with post-rockish guitar a la Sigur Ros. This track is just incredibly uplifting and one of, if not the most, beautiful thing Wilson's done yet. 10/10

Overall, this is a phenomenal and astounding album that will pose quite a challenge to other albums looking to get onto my Best of 2013 list. If I had to compare it to Wilson's previous two records, I'd say it's more focused and certainly more in the vein of a concept album than those ones. I can't say for sure which of his solo albums I like best, but as of now The Raven is just slightly ahead of Grace for Drowning and both are comfortably ahead of Insurgentes (though that's an amazing album as well). The Raven is probably his most accessible album to date though traditional prog-fans and long-time Wilson fans will undoubtedly be quite pleased with it. I am certainly pleased, even thrilled with it, and I'm eagerly anticipating Wilson's future musical output.

Overall rating: 10/10

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