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Steven Wilson - Grace for Drowning CD (album) cover


Steven Wilson


Crossover Prog

4.20 | 1882 ratings

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5 stars 4.75 Stars. Graceful walking into the twilight zone

GfD is the second of SW's solo albums and the first one that clearly spells out what his new musical direction is. The alternative and metal aspects of PT are stripped away and replaced with King Crimson inspired 70s Prog and a greater reliance on atmosphere. Don't be fooled into thinking this as a rip-off in KC album, Wilson uses a lot of modern ambient/drone techniques (drawing from his Bass Communion side project) to add another level of depth into this double album.

GfD can therefore be seen on two levels. There is the obvious nods to 70s Prog in terms of instruments used and the production. However there is a very strong atmospheric undercurrent that surrounds this entire album. There is lots of minor details and texture which subtly enhances the listening experience and deepens your attachment into this eerie world he is painting. There are busts of energy to be found here and there but overall this is a much more laid back experience compared to recent PT albums and The Raven.

The title track is a gentle and simple into (with lots of lalala vocals) which is designed to set the right mood, on its own it's forgettable. "Sectarian" is an instrumental which reminds me a lot of Anglagard in terms of song writing and structure . It is relatively unstable in its design and is prone to outbursts in energy. Overall it relies on the chaotic jazz-rock that KC loved, but subtle sound effects are put in to add some richness into the song.

"Deform to form a Star" is a beautiful balled which ranks among the most instantly enjoyable things he has done. While not complicated or very Proggy it fits the mood of the album perfectly and is able to maintain the mellochromatic mood while still being uplifting in the chorus. It's one of my most played tracks on this album.

"No part of me" is one of my favourite songs here and is split in two half's. The first is a very modern (think Radiohead) and drawn out instrumental that manages to be very catchy and depressing at the same time. Wilson then sings probably the most depressing lyrics on the album which come across boarder-line suicidal. In the second half the mood changes and the song goes into a furious jazzy attack which is incredibly effective. It's like the first half of the song tugs at your heart strings and the other rips and tears into your soul. Probably the best song on GfD.

Postcard goes back to the poppy sound of "Deform" however it does linger a bit too close to general mainstream and would not be out of place in a Coldplay album. It's nice though and there is a good bridge between this song and the next.

"Raider Prelude" changes the mood dramatically and surrounds you with bleak darkness. Its a piano and choral vocal based song but its structure is designed to max out the dread and despair until its almost at breaking point. "Remainder the black dog" starts on a quiet note with distorted vocals and gradually building energy to capitalise on the last song. There is then a rush of intense jazz-rock/metal which is a bit too short lived for my liking. The rest of the song is more free-flow jazz-rock which fluctuates in energy, but perhaps goes on for too long. Still a good song.

Disc 2 starts with "Belle de Jour" which is another mood setter like the title track, however this song is significantly stronger. Quite a few moods are explored in this short classical guitar driven track, but they are all eternal and well connected.

"Index" is a very tense song to the point of being suffocating. Unlike "No part of me" it does not lead into anything very fierce but it is designed to unsettle. The lyrics on this song are very remember able. "Track one" has 3 parts, another tense but simple intro with vocals, a longish and very dark build-up in noise which harkens back to SW's last solo album and finally a gentle instrumental to finish. Its a odd little song but despite being so incredibly moody I like it!

Now we get to the 23 min "Raider ||" which will make or break this album, because everything has been hinting towards this one song. The intro is incredibly slow and drawn out. Just occasional grand piano notes and long periods of silence. Wilson finally starts singing is a almost whispering voice and more sound effects are added in to build the tension.

Finally things get going with a intense instrumental and a brief reprise of "Sectarian". This is followed by angry vocals from Wilson (and some Death growls!) and then a long flute solo (I am a sucker for flute solos). There are more quiet and load sections with the quiet parts sounding similar to PT (i.e. not 70s derived) and the load parts are inspired by angry KC/Van Der Graff.

Around the 12 min mark things settle down and we go into Bass Communion territory for a while. After the 15 min mark there is a very slow build-up which reaches a brutal climax at the 20 min mark and we are swamped in hell fire noise (the most intense part of the album by far). The last few min are haunting background sounds. Its a great track for sure but it does take a bit of time to fully appreciate.

The closer is " Like Dust I Have Cleared From My Eye" which is another gentle song similar to that of "Deform". Its very laidback and acts as a peaceful closer so that the intensity of the last track is not your final memory of the album. The last 3 min is pure drone music and could fit perfectly in any BC album. This last section is very airy and is very effective at sending me to sleep (in a good way).

GfD is not a perfect album, it is easy enough to nit-pick it for being too slow and bash it for being too closely linked to KC. However SW had a clear structure for this album and combined with his excellent skills in atmosphere and texture it is incredibly easy to forget these problems and just enjoy the album. The whole album is much stronger than the sum of its parts (which by themselves are generally strong) so I have no issues giving this 5 stars. One of Wilson's best albums. Its also proof that you can borrow lots of ideas from other artists and still come up with something very unique.

LakeGlade12 | 5/5 |


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