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


Steven Wilson


Crossover Prog

4.28 | 2048 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
5 stars I have been coming back to this album again and again with writing a review in mind. And now that it's October 31st in my time zone, I thought there was no better day to write about an album of six ghost stories.

First, let me say that I have three Porcupine Tree albums and of those, two have a few songs each that I really enjoy from time to time. However, unlike some people, I still don't have Steven Wilson and Porcupine Tree in my blood and flowing through my veins. I like the music but I don't love it.

When "The Raven that Refused to Sing and other stories" first began racking up the high ratings on PA, I was not immediately inspired to purchase a Steven Wilson album. It was the song "The Raven that Refused to Sing" and its video that hooked me. I watched the video several times and finally bought the album.

A funny thing is that when this album first started getting reviewed on PA, I read so many positive reviews. Yet after "Hand. Cannot. Erase." came out, many reviewers were expressing tired disappointment with "Raven"'s retro prog sound. Was everyone suddenly not a fan of this album or were there just different reviewers? Though the album has a very strong classic prog side, it is not all a 70's rehashing. It's been difficult for me to pinpoint exactly what or who the album sounds like what but I feel some of the bass lines could be Geddy Lee's work minus the repetition (Geddy never played the same wild bass lines over and over for long) and some of the slashing guitar chords sound like "Signals / Grace Under Pressure" era Rush. The flute would first make you think of Jethro Tull but the style is different, especially in "Luminol". There's sax which could sound a bit Pink Floydian but in "The Holy Drinker" the darker heavy parts with sax actually remind me of "God Bluff" by Van der Graaf Generator.

Though the music does hearken back to 70's prog in style and composition, there's a lot of Steven Wilson's heavier and darker side involved, and some of the prettier parts could just as well suit any modern prog band. If there's one big difference here it's that the music does not sound like anything I have on a Porcupine Tree CD. Personally, I find this music here more engaging and enjoyable.

The concept of six paranormal tales intrigued me the most, though. I love songs with stories and especially where I feel the music helps to tell the story. For the most part, the music here does work well with the themes of the songs. My two favourites are "The Holy Drinker", a song about an evangelist preacher who is a heavy drinker and loses a drinking contest to the Devil and "The Raven that Refused to Sing", a song about an old man on the verge of death who believes the spirit of his long ago deceased sister is embodied in a raven. The former is darker and haunting with some very heavy parts and the later has this sweet haunting sorrow about it, replete with a mournful string section. The video too is so wonderfully made and I have recently shown it to two advanced learners of English who are in junior high, after which I asked them questions about the images and characters in the video. "The Watchmaker" also has a darker and heavier sound, so that appeals to me as well. The other three tracks are also very good in my opinion but get fewer replays on my music player.

If there's one place I feel the album's concept weakens it's on the opening track "Luminol". This track is by and large an instrumental showcase with lots of great bass, flute, guitar, and keyboards, not to mention the drumming. The song, however, feels inserted in the middle and doesn't sound like it fits in with the opening and closing instrumental parts. The beginning of the song, that rollicking, mostly instrumental part with a few sung lines does indeed make for an exciting introduction to the album.

For a description of the song themes you can refer to the Wikipdia article, but I will say that each one is not only a kind of ghost or manifestation of evil story but also a look at the human mind and human relationships. The music is composed and played wonderfully. I would actually give this album four and a half stars but I personally feel rounding down to four stars is not worthy of this fine album. Not a personal favourite but definitely an album that still finds its songs showing up on my playlists when I am not listening to the complete album.

Happy haunting!

FragileKings | 5/5 |


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