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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

4.30 | 1868 ratings

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LearsFool
3 stars I love this album, and yet in 2016 it tumbles in my head, a portent, a plagiarist's opus, a guilty pleasure. For it I've invented the term "popcorn prog", a distillation of a lot of what makes its genre great into a satisfying if unhealthy sonic snack. It's well done, it's wonderful, it's not a true masterpiece. I turned it over in my mind whether to round up or down from 3.5, in light of my unceasing enjoyment, but I decided to be harsh.

After three years and 85 reviews so far, you have a basic idea of what I'm going to say about the instrumentals, but the puzzle goes further than that. The sound is of course indebted to Crimson and Genesis to an amount far above its own GDP, but it's also the endgame of a lot of the sonics of Porcupine Tree and Swilson's early solo career - notably "The Holy Drinker" and "The Watchmaker" mixed together '70's Crim, "Deadwing", and Storm Corrosion. There is a truth that states that this album could only have been made circa 2013, but that's mainly because its creator was revving deeper and deeper into a rut that started five years prior, picking apart earlier successes for spare parts. Many listeners were able to tell with what would otherwise be psychic foresight exactly when and what instruments would come in and what they would play, a sign of cliche. It's cliche done far better than any other retro prog, though, with the driving, dour, epic instrumentals grabbing you by the ears and never letting go. There's virtuosity and at least some soul there, and in the moment most listeners, such as I, can't possibly complain. Plus, while "Luminol" bear hugs you, and "Drive Home" and the title track melt your heart, the aforementioned "Holy Drinker" really stands out as by turns enjoyable and spine-tingling, the SC elements put to fantastic use. Even this recycling still, perhaps for the last time, works.

The real saving grace, however, are the lyrics. Lyrics generally aren't Wilson's strong suit, but they turn out excellently here. Fancy words uniquely anchor beautiful stories of mysterious musicians, jetsam of the mind, and ghosts and demons. It goes a long way to making this record so good.

But of course, while I love this piece of prog pabulum, time has really shown it to ring a little hollow, one last hurrah on the road to "Hand. Cannot. Erase."'s mediocrity, paved with tropes, staleness, and perfectionism gone wrong. In hindsight, "The Raven That Refused To Sing" sticks out as a warning and an important part of a downward trend for Wilson's career, if still a fun listen.

LearsFool | 3/5 |

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