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Steven Wilson - The Raven That Refused To Sing (And Other Stories) CD (album) cover


Steven Wilson


Crossover Prog

4.30 | 1875 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
5 stars Although following up a record as masterful as 2011's Grace For Drowning is no easy feat, the multi-talented Steven Wilson has managed to craft yet another stunning masterpiece with The Raven That Refused To Sing (And Other Stories). Released in early 2013, Wilson's third solo observation follows a progressive rock template similar to that of Grace For Drowning, but it sounds like a decidedly more band-oriented effort. Wilson has recruited an all-star lineup to complete his vision on The Raven That Refused To Sing (And Other Stories), featuring Guthrie Goven on guitar, Nick Beggs on bass, Marco Minnemann on drums, Adam Holzman on keyboards, and Theo Travis on saxophone and flute. It gives Raven a vastly different feel from its guest-dominated predecessor, and while the album should not sound foreign to anybody well-versed in progressive rock, it sports a fresh sound distinct from Wilson's other offerings.

The Raven That Refused To Sing (And Other Stories) is largely an exploration of classic progressive rock, perhaps in a more symphonic vein than anything Wilson has ever done - the lengthy, fusion jams in Grace For Drowning are replaced by more concise instrumental portions, and a few alternative touches in the vein of Porcupine Tree sneak their way into the mix, particularly in the goosebump-inducing title track and the surreal "Drive Home". That isn't to say that Raven is without killer fusion sections - the firey solos in "Luminol" and the the strangely funky opening to "The Holy Drinker" immediately discredit that notion - but the focus this time around is more on tight band dynamics, rather than long fusion jams reminiscent of seventies' King Crimson.

Whether or not that's a good thing ultimately depends on the listener; personally, I find both Grace For Drowning and Raven to be stunning masterpieces for different reasons. Tracks like the fusion-influenced "Luminol" and the wonderfully symphonic "The Watchmaker" stand as some of the finest songs in Wilson's vast catalogue, and the rest of the album is equally impressive. A fine example of a record with "all killer, no filler", Raven remains strongly engaging throughout its full duration thanks to an abundance of captivating hooks and flawless execution. Though Wilson has worked with plenty of great musicians over the years, the ensemble here is possibly his finest to date. Similarly to Frank Zappa's definitive lineups, the group chemistry here is remarkable - Nick Beggs and Marco Minnemann make for one of the most dynamic rhythm sections in modern prog, and the strong lead instrumentalists (particularly Guthrie Goven's tremendous fretwork) make for an album that is as pleasing aesthetically as it is compositionally.

As expected from anything Steven Wilson touches, the production is held to strict audiophile standards and is given a balanced, powerful mix. Industry veteran Alan Parsons was also brought along to engineer the album, and whilst Wilson would've been capable of doing a tremendous job without assistance, it's cool to hear him collaborating with a talented artist that was undoubtedly influential in his formative years.

One could certainly criticize The Raven That Refused To Sing (And Other Stories) for being too faithful to the sound of classic seventies' progressive rock, but I think that Wilson's ability to stay within the confines of the genre while still maintaining a strong sense of style and originality is one of the album's finest assets. In my opinion at least, Raven is a deeply emotional masterpiece from start to finish that will likely be a contender for album of the year 2013 for many listeners. Although the future of Porcupine Tree remains uncertain, this album is proof that Steven Wilson won't be falling off the radar anytime soon!

J-Man | 5/5 |


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