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Steven Wilson - Grace For Drowning CD (album) cover


Steven Wilson


Crossover Prog

4.21 | 1649 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
3 stars Simply Solid Modern Prog with a Pinch of Black

So ProgArchives has announced this work as its Collaborator Album of the Year 2011. As a casual Steven Wilson / Porcupine Tree fan, I didn't pick this up until the end of year rush to expose myself to the major albums of the genre. To be certain, I was pleasantly surprised on first listen. I ranked the album up with my favorite Wilson works, though still would not have marked this as a masterpiece by any means. Over time, however, I find myself gravitating to specific tracks and having a difficult time plodding through some sections.

The album open magnificently. The semi-choral opener "Grace for Drowning" is concise, beautiful, haunting, an ideal introduction to Wilson's world. Then comes my favorite song on the whole album, "Sectarian." This is a well constructed, intense, a prog feast mixing soaring mellotron and intense guitars, nasty sax that reminds of Ihsahn's AFTER. What really impressed me was the emotional bite that this piece has, which is something that Wilson sometimes lack. His skill as a producer sometimes doesn't serve him well, and I find much of his work over polished.

After that, it's very mixed quality for the duration. "Deform to Form a Star" is typical Wilson mellow ballad but a strong example. Wilson's wildly distorted guitar solo at 5:00 may be the most remarkable I've heard from him, the most evocative clip of a song with probably hundreds of individual takes and layers. "No Part of Me" starts with drum programming and then evolves into an almost 80's sounding over-orchestrated, over-emoted bore fest for the first 3:20. Then we get a more interesting instrumental, somewhat middle-eastern sounding bridge that doesn't really connect to the first half that much for me.

This is really the story of the album. Typical Steven Wilson interspersed with occasional experiments that end up being the only parts of the album I return for. "Postcard" is mopey navel gazing just when the album needed to rock. "Raider Prelude" is spooky and goth, bringing us back to an almost black metal ethic that I think would have served Wilson to stick with. Being depressed doesn't do that much for me. Instead, I prefer when he draws more on horror, that's something that quickens the pulse. "Remainder the Black Dog" attempts to turn this vibe into a fuller vocal song. Instead it's an overlong psych-prog jam with one fun intense section midway through.

Disc 2's opener "Belle De Jour" is another well composed, pretty interlude that serves its function well. "Index" is more solid but typical melancholy. Pleasant spacy textures that really don't go anywhere. "Track One" is based on a dry guitar vocal in 3 that does move a bit better and brings back the heavy black. (Yeah!!!) After a mid-song fade, there is a bluesy guitar solo clearly nodding to Mikael Akerfeldt's style. Probably my second favorite tune on the album. Then comes the monster, the 23 minute "Raider II." To be brief, this song hits both the strong and weak points of the album. Some eerie mood, some overlong meandering, occasionally proggy goodness. The album ends with "Like Dust I have Cleared from my Eye," which is clearly intended as a denoument. Aside from the autoharp, which had been an interesting texture previously but becomes grating here, the song is mellow and pleasant but quite forgettable.

It is very common for me to upgrade my opinion of a prog album when I put it under specific scrutiny for a review. Here, the opposite has happened. There are glimpses of real menace, danger, raw emotion. But for the most part this is just good old well polished depressive Steve Wilson. I listen to this album frequently as background music at work, and it does a very good job for that. Album of the year??? Not for me.

If you like Steven Wilson, you'll like this album. If you're "meh" about his other work, you'll be similarly neutral. I will say there are no lemon tracks or sections on this album. 3.5 stars rounded toward center.

Negoba | 3/5 |


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