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Steven Wilson - Grace for Drowning CD (album) cover

GRACE FOR DROWNING

Steven Wilson

 

Crossover Prog

4.20 | 1155 ratings

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m2thek
Prog Reviewer
5 stars While I've never been a naysayer of Porcupine Tree, I've never been one of their biggest proponents either. After never being in love with any of the PT that I've casually heard over the years, you could say that I was planning on letting Steven Wilson's newest album slide by without a second thought. However, with the ridiculous amount of praise that Grace for Drowning saw in the back end of 2011, there was no way I could ignore it and I'm sure glad that I didn't.

Grace for Drowning is a special album. Lots of styles, surprises around every corner, great flow, huge ranges in dynamics, and tons of emotion are just some of the things you'll find in the near hour and a half that Wilson has crafted. The full album is actually made up of two volumes titled Deform to Form a Star and Like Dust I Have Cleared from My Eye, respectively. Both volumes stand apart from each other with their own believable beginnings and endings, and contain enough strong material that they can be listened to separately. The only connection between the two volumes is track 'Raider Prelude' (a song on the first CD that is an excerpt to a song on the second CD) though I question why it was included at all if so much effort was made to differentiate the volumes.

Deform to Form a Star contains seven songs, all of which are under 10 minutes. They range from loud, dynamic full-on prog songs to shorter, softer and more traditional songs. The changes in styles between songs are huge, but always work and make musical sense. Changes within the songs can be drastic too, and I still find myself being genuinely surprised by the twists and turns that the compositions take. Throughout the seven songs I find myself thinking 'wow that was really awesome' and 'wow that was really beautiful' almost equally. The balance between interesting compositional and instrumental choices and emotion put into the music itself is striking, and is the strongest thing about the first volume.

Like Dust I Have Cleared from My Eye, on the other hand, only has five songs, and the focus is not on the entirety like the first volume, but on the 23 minute 'Raider II.' In my opinion, the song would be more aptly titled 'Raider (Lizard II)' and if we do a small bit of digging, we see that Wilson was working on King Crimson's Lizard around the same time he was writing Grace for Drowning. The influence shows in its use of loud horn sections, softer flute sections, and even the fact that there's a short coda after a gigantic climactic ending. However, with the inspiration showing through, not at one point does the song feel like a rehashing of the 40 year old piece. Like the rest of the album, it is totally dynamic and full of surprises, and is by far the standout track. That's not to take anything away from the rest of the volume, as the other 4 songs are just as good as anything on the first volume, especially the album's closer 'Like Dust I Have Cleared From My Eye' which beautifully ties up the volume and the whole album.

I really have nothing bad to say about Grace for Drowning. The vocals remind me the most of Porcupine Tree (which I have never really enjoyed), but I find Wilson's mellow delivery very fitting with the music. The lyrics can be overly melancholic, but when Wilson finds the right words, they really hit home, like the longing for a lost loved one on 'Postcard.' There are a large number of guests which include Jordan Rudess on a number of tracks, Steve Hackett on 'Remainder the Black Dog' and Tony Levin on a couple tracks, but none of the performances are so distinctive that you'd recognize them without looking at the credits.

I normally don't take the packaging into consideration, but even the booklet that comes with the CD is wonderfully done. The credits are on handwritten sheets and the personalization by Wilson makes it feel truly special. The photographs of Wilson around the area that the cover was taken are beautiful, and the short dedication to his father is maybe the most important thing about the whole album.

Whether you're a Steven Wilson fan, a Porcupine Tree fan, or a fan of progressive rock in general, you need to hear Grace for Drowning. Just like the classic albums that he has been remixing the past few years, his own album feels like its pushing boundaries, and it is not one to be missed.

m2thek | 5/5 |

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