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Steven Wilson - The Raven That Refused to Sing (and Other Stories) CD (album) cover

THE RAVEN THAT REFUSED TO SING (AND OTHER STORIES)

Steven Wilson

 

Crossover Prog

4.28 | 2144 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

stewe
3 stars With the upcoming album knocking at the door, I decided to summarize my thoughts about Steven Wilson's latest effort. Raven Refused to Sing (and Other Stories) definitely represents a new approach, especially to composition. Gone is Wilson's brief effort of becoming multi-instrumentalist with many guests on each track, as seen on Grace of Drowning. He moves to a role of a lead singer and a conductor of a stable band. Indeed, Wilson gathered great instrumentalists, while he directs them to receive a clear result - old-school prog-rock album with virtuoso performance.

When I heard this for the first time, I immediately recalled Wilson's critics of Roine Stolt and The Flower Kings for being "regressive". It was some 10 years ago. It is a bit ironic now, because I can see that Wilson has become what he criticized in the past.

On Raven, one of his main influences is Gabriel/Hackett-era Genesis, probably a result of collaboration with Steve Hackett and his band (resulting apparently also in involvement of bassist Nick Beggs). "The Watchmaker" is a clear "homage" to Genesis. I would bet that when Wilson composed beginning with 12-string quitar, he had "Can-Utility and Coastliners" in his mind. The same goes for the second half is based around a piano rip-off from "Anyway" (The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway).

"Luminol" is a presentation of Yes influences. Opening bass-line evokes Chris Squire's part in "Roundabout". In the middle part, in its mellotron finale, you can hear Wakeman's heights of "Siberian Khatru" or "Heart of Sunrise". In this song, there is also a strong influence by early King Crimson, especially saxophone parts. Beginning of "The Pin Drop" reminds me of the song "Aliens" from Squackett project. Otherwise, it is quite straightforward piece with nice build-up, probably my favourite on the album.

"The Holy Drinker" echoes modern-day Opeth. Distorted organ, dissonance, grandiose yelling. Akerfeldt's influence is also evident throughout the album. "Drive Home" wouldn't be out of place on Blackfield (except for a wicked guitar solo at the end). In the title track, Wilson focuses again on long build-up and repetition of one melody, trying to create emotional climax.

Wilson clearly pushes for the result - schematization, pathos, lengthy and extended (sometimes self-indulgent) solos and vintage atmosphere. That's why there are so many comparisons. I miss the spontaneity, flow, depth and personal connection as I usually felt on earlier Porcupine Tree albums like Lightbulb Sun or the latest The Incident.

However, I totally understand why a (relative) newcomer into prog-rock or into Wilson's music can find this album fantastic. It is also appealing to those who seek tons of mellotrons, Hammond organs, flutes, saxes, odd rhythms and virtuosity as key indicators of "good prog". Moreover Wilson is still characteristically melancholic and delivers rich atmosphere. It is the most technically proficient album Wilson has produced to date. A good ride, with instrumental and sonic perfectionism.

Unfortunately, when I listen to this I also have a feeling that progressive music is in a state of exhaustion. So many patterns how to create satisfactory "prog". As I also follow Steven Wilson's music career quite closely, here I often feel kind of cheated, overwhelmed by cold calculation. Some uninspired vocal lines and singing. Derivative and predictable. Rather pragmatic than genuine, focused on ego. This direction might be the beginning of decline of Wilson's unique artistry, which he developed especially with Porcupine Tree. Hope that new album will prove me wrong.

stewe | 3/5 |

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