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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

4.31 | 1117 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

coasterzombie
3 stars After reading the overwhelmingly positive reviews for Raven, I knew it would be a disservice to avoid for too long. My local record store had the CD in stock, and although the 2-disc version is probably the better value, I bought it on the spot. Immediately apparent is Steven Wilson's attention to detail and penchant for quality; the album is lovingly packaged in a heavy-duty jewel case with slip sleeve, pressed on beautifully silkscreened Optimal Media, and includes all the lyrics and accompanying artwork. You can tell Wilson is very proud of The Raven That Refused To Sing (And Other Stories), though the contents don't quite live up to the lavish packaging. Wilson has assembled an amply capable cast to bring Raven to fruition, and his backing band (which also toured Grace For Drowning) screams "session musicians" from the outset. The opening faux-aggression of "Luminol" briskly traverses multiple stylistic and tempo changes, all easily handled by the players as they seemingly go through the motions. Wilson's voice does the track no favors, while the heavy-handed Mellotron sounds likewise out of place. Luckily, the album improves as it goes, and in some cases enormously so.

I'd previously heard a couple of Porcupine Tree albums but this is my first experience with Steven Wilson's solo material. My initial impression of the album after hearing only "Luminol" was corporate rock of the worst sort - professionally played and recorded - but lacking muscle and genuine emotion; it actually reminded me of (gulp) Collective Soul or something. "Drive Home" is miles better...perhaps a bit too Floydian at times but overall a vast improvement. "The Holy Drinker" revisits the heavy tone of the album's opener, and to its detriment. The modern synths and heavily processed guitars just don't suit the album's retro aesthetic, and even the beloved Mellotron sticks out like a sore thumb. Heavy Prog/Tech/Prog Metal fans will probably eat this up but I'll take a pass. The brief "Pin Drop" leaves me indifferent as an anemic waltz builds to an anthemic climax and repeats. I can go no further without acknowledging the jaw-dropping contribution of Marco Minnemann: This guy is an absolute freak of mammoth proportions, flailing and walloping the drumset with inhuman precision, in many cases saving the goings-on and offering something constantly interesting to hear regardless of the accompaniment.

"The Watchmaker" is the best song yet, and you get the sense by this point that the album is crafted to grow as it elapses. I've heard Raven about 25 times now and appreciate the emotional crescendo it offers, I just wish it didn't take so long to get to the good stuff. "The Watchmaker" is not only a compositional and lyrical achievement, but a technical one as well; the production is very, very good...almost to a fault. Though I acknowledge and deeply respect Alan Parson's contributions to rock history, I almost feel like his mastery of studio wizardry and sonic clarity achieve the opposite of the intended effect; Raven sounds a little too polished for its own good, and the slick production does not necessarily suit the genre of music to which it pays homage. That can all be overlooked however as the album draws to a close: "The Raven That Refused To Sing" is easily the best song on its namesake, and by quite a comfortable margin. The song is so good that all the previous tracks pale in comparison, and sound kind of weak next to "Raven." The track is a moving, humanistic experience - beautiful and touching, concise yet sprawling, and nearly perfect. Obviously all serious progressive rock fans will want to acquire the album this year as it is shaping up to be the best of 2013...for me personally it is a very good effort plagued by some questionable choices early in the album sequence.

coasterzombie | 3/5 |

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