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Steven Wilson - Grace for Drowning CD (album) cover

GRACE FOR DROWNING

Steven Wilson

 

Crossover Prog

4.20 | 1168 ratings

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EatThatPhonebook
Prog Reviewer
5 stars 10/10

"Grace For Drowning" is the album that will give Steven Wilson the official title of Prog Rock Giant.

Steven Wilson in my book reached his peak, before 2011, with his band Porcupine Tree with "Fear Of a Blank Planet", an absolutely flawless masterpiece of modern Progressive Rock. It was against all odds that four years later he releases, as a solo artist, an album that potentially tops FoaBP: "Grace For Drowning" may just be the best album Steven Wilson has recorded so far, and it's great that such an album comes out from this man after more than twenty years of being an active musician. It feels that all of his efforts have really built up to this release. All the typical characteristics of Wilson's music, his sense of romance, his aggressive moments, his wonderful sense of melody, are all here stronger than ever before, making this album not only an extremely personal one but also THE Steven Wilson album.

Anyone who has listened to Porcupine Tree will find something in "Grace For Drowning" familiar; there is still a great chunk of romance and emotion and soothing moments (resembling the ones the band usually delivers), which are far more present than the aggressive ones. However, there is a great sound change overall: Steven Wilson picks up Jazz Rock and golden age Progressive Rock as well as little sparks of Ambient and Folk, mixes them all together to form something that, although has noticeable roots, is something that ends up being utterly original, a beautiful balance between old and new, that only the cynical person can say is too familiar sounding, or that it belongs to the wrong era. But there is a very strong 2011 feel in "Grace For Drowning", not only in the amazing production, but also in the various contemporary touches like Electronic beats here and there and even some Vocoder. Steven Wilson has always loved to mix different sounds together and to be eclectic, but here, he has more variety than ever: there is a great amount of sax playing, tons of flutes, and amazing synergy vocals effect that steals the show every time it comes in. Not to forget the amazing keyboards, which include some beautiful mellotron playing. The musicians playing on this album are all of immense talent, from old veterans like Tony Levin on bass and Jordan Rudess on keyboards, to new, great musicians like all the various drummers playing, all of them giving terrific performances and playing with plenty of soul. Steven Wilson then, aside from being a great musician, is also an extremely gifted songwriter, his songs so powerful and moving that it is hard to do anything else but to sit down and listen to him. Together with all these things, "Grace For Drowning" finds its musical side.

The atmospheres this album delivers are too a nice variety: the more aggressive ones, mostly instrumental, are extremely dark, eerie, but always extremely gripping and fascinating. Then, of course, there are the soothing moments, for the most part sung, sometimes mildly melancholic, but full of hopefulness and bright light, others feel depressed and helpless, but just as enchanting and magical. This was evidently a downer period for Steven Wilson: just recently, he lost his beloved father, to accentuate his state of perpetual gloominess. While listening to "Grace for Drowning", you feel his emotions so clearly, it is one of those albums that is truly a beautiful but sad example of the human condition put into music. These are the sufferings of a regular person, who deals with death and abandonment just like anybody, but nobody ever before has put them quite like this.

This 83 minute piece of music is divided into two discs, the first one entitled "Deform To Form A Star": after a wonderful, piano based intro, ("Grace For Drowning"), "Sectarian" is a punch in the face: the simple guitar riff, the intriguing synergy vocals effect on keyboards, the sax playing, the pondering structure, this instrumental song is basically perfect, violent, but also very mysterious and obviously highly Progressive. The melancholic "Deform To Form A Star" is one of the most beautiful songs Steven Wilson has ever written: the feel here is more than ever a perfect mix between a somewhat typical SW song and an old Progressive Rock one, but the melodies are absolutely enchanting, original, and just gorgeous: when you think it doesn't get better than that, "No Part Of Me" feels extremely sad and helpless to pain. The Electronic beats really make this a gem of Modern Prog, as well as the outstanding climax that brings this song to a chaotic, distorted ending. "Postcard" is another nice little gem, a much more melodic and memorable piano driven song, and after the interlude, "Remainder of The Black Dog" comes in much less emotional but still with a quite impressive burst of energy, the most lively we've seen so far: the enthralling leading piano gives a solid base to all the Prog storm that will hit the listener hard. One of the coolest songs here, ending the first disc.

"Like Dust I've Cleared From My Eye" is the second part of the album, starting with the brief but fascinating intro "Belle De Jour". "Index" is possibly the best song of the entire album, extremely dark in its mood and in the music thanks to the clever electronics: however, it ends with the one of most gorgeous ways to end a song ever. "Track One" is maybe the song that least succeeds, since it follows up a song like "Index"; it has however really interesting moments and a great melody, and it's just curious how actually this song was the single for the album. Then, comes the definite monster: "Raider II", a twenty plus minute extravaganza of Progressive, Jazz Fusion, Porcupine Tree-ish moments and others you will hear nowhere else: the atmosphere swings make this a wild but always gripping roller coaster ride that doesn't even come close to anything else a Prog Rock musician has done this year. "Like Dust I've Cleared From My Eye" is the closing, bright lighted track, this one resembling much of Steven Wilson's typical sound, but the ending Ambient minutes are once again a new side for the musician.

An album that will give Steven Wilson the official title of Prog Rock giant, an album that will be remembered as the magnum opus of the musician and, just maybe, it will get to the point where it can be considered a milestone of 3rd millennium music. I'm definitely liking this latter idea.

EatThatPhonebook | 5/5 |

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