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GRACE FOR DROWNING

Steven Wilson

Crossover Prog


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5 stars With Grace For Drowning, Steven Wilson achieves musical apex.

Grace For Drowning seems a long time coming for Mr. Wilson. The range of influences in this album are incredible, and manage to create an amazing listening experience. Dark, experimental, jazzy, lonely, and erratic are some ways to describe Grace For Drowning... but the only way to really "describe" the album has to be done through careful listening. GFD gets only better and better with each listen. The production value, as always, is extremely good. Lasse Hoile's (SW's art collaborator) photography melds very well with Wilson's music, as it usually does.

Without a doubt certainly one of Steven Wilson's greatest works. If you're a fan of experimental, dark, progressive, or jazz music, please do yourself a favor and purchase this LP. You will not regret it. Bravo, Mr. Wilson, you have once again surpassed all expectations!

Highlights: Postcard, Deform To Form a Star, Raider II, Index

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Send comments to The Monodrone (BETA) | Report this review (#532560)
Posted Sunday, September 25, 2011 | Review Permalink
2 stars Before beginning with this, I must say that I have been proghead for about of 20 years, I am lover of the symphonic progressive scene . This disc has been some months in delay and the only thing that I can say, is that this album is is everything less prog rock , is boring, at moments noisy, I give a star him not but, a complete deception. I have seen lately many albums in progarchives and that is catalogued as 5 stars, when listening to them, they are pasables pains or mediocre, I ask myself if they will have something to see with the record companys and the shipment of free samples so the critical describe so high? Grace for Drowning 2/10

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Send comments to glar78 (BETA) | Report this review (#534737)
Posted Tuesday, September 27, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars I must begin by saying that I was NOT a fan of "Insurgentes" at all. I despised that album completely, it literally put me to sleep each time I tried to listen to it. Therefore I had very low expectations for this album although I had read that it would feature a different group of musicians and a different overall approach.

I've been a Porcupine Tree fan for many years, but I am not one of the flock of sheep who feel that every single scrap which falls from Steven Wilson's plate is studio gold. With this album he has exceeded my expectations - so much that, if this had been a Porcupine Tree release I would've been just as pleased. I'll go as far as to say this album is more truly "prog" than anything Porcupine Tree has done going back to the pre-In Absentia days....

The two monster tracks (in my opinion) are "Remainder The Black Dog" and "Raider II", although I do not regard any songs from this album to be throwaways. The album generally has a much more jazzy feel to it than one might expect, with some moments of electronica here and there.

I can't recommend this album enough - especially to those who, like me, did not care for "Insurgentes". Give this one a try and I doubt you'll be disappointed.

4.5 stars rounded up to 5

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Send comments to Disconnect (BETA) | Report this review (#534953)
Posted Tuesday, September 27, 2011 | Review Permalink
Conor Fynes
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars 'Grace For Drowning' - Steven Wilson (10/10)

Porcupine Tree frontman Steven Wilson has been one of the most celebrated figures in progressive rock of the past ten or twenty years. With his flagship band, his influence and impact goes without saying, but he has also made out with a number of side-projects and bands, largely in order for the man to explore different parts of his musical vision. Expanding his creativity onto a full- fledged solo career in 2008 with the 'debut' effort 'Insurgentes', Wilson met some fairly mixed criticism for this new work, with many stating their confusion for the challenging directions he was taking his music in. 'Grace For Drowning' is now the second full length album that Wilson has written, and it upholds this legacy of relative weirdness instituted by the first. Although fans of Porcupine Tree may have their doubts before listening, I have now digested the new album to the point where I can safely say that this is the greatest thing that Steven Wilson has ever done.

Much of the reason I think many didn't warm up to 'Insurgentes' was the fact that it was very un- Porcupine Tree-like; there were a handful of songs meant to lure the Porcupine fans in, but the album was meant to be a cross-section of everything Wilson was interested in expressing. That included noise music, drone, minimalism, improvisations, and virtually everything else the man has dabbled in lately. 'Grace For Drowning' continues this trend of multi-faceted music making, but it is much less a sequel than a reinvention of what he is trying to do with his solo music. This is a double album, with each 'half' comprised of forty minutes of music, and has enough guest musicians on it to man a military regiment. Wilson himself has even stated that this is the 'most important' thing he has ever done before. Like many likely did and even still do, I had the feeling that this hype generating was over little more than the fact that Mr. Wilson was releasing an album, and had little to do with the quality of the music itself. This man has never failed to impress me before though, and even after a single listen, I was pretty sure that this was the greatest Wilson record ever made; a bold statement coming from someone who considers Porcupine Tree to be one of his favourite bands. To explain this point, I will attempt to describe the music itself.

As I could have predicted for this project, here is a wide variety of different sounds at work here, but the ingenious thing here is how wonderfully that the elements have all been combined in order to create something coherent. The two halves of this double album contrast each other, but feel like different sides of the same coin. The second disc 'Like Dust I Have Cleared From My Eye' is a darker, more experimental evil twin of the first; 'Deform To Form A Star'. Both of these companion pieces open with an atmospheric instrumental introduction. The title track 'Grace For Drowning' opens the first disc, with Dream Theater keyboardist Jordan Rudess soulfully playing the piano while Wilson overdubs himself with harmonized vocalizations. By 'Sectarian', it is clear that this is not Porcupine Tree music; there are jazzy saxophone solos, King Crimson-esque dissonance, and eerie choir-like synths to create this truly progressive sound for fusion.

The first disc then focuses on some more conventional tracks, being the sort of sounds that Porcupine Tree fans are likely more used to hearing Wilson make. 'No Part Of Me' and 'Postcard' are both beautiful melody-oriented tracks, with the latter being arguably the greatest 'pop' song he has ever done; an acoustic number wrapped in melancholy, heartache, and all of the things you would think Wilson had abandoned completely only a few tracks earlier. Then, to close out the first part of this project, 'Remainder The Black Dog' transports the listener back to the weird instrumental anxiety that we first heard on 'Sectarian'. Of special note is that classic Genesis guitarist Steve Hackett plays acoustic guitar here, although his appearance here is sadly too small to be worth much more than a name-drop.

As I have said before, the second disc here is a little darker, taking us deeper into the rabbit hole and deeper into Wilson's mind. 'Belle De Jour' is a simple and eerie intro; a fitting overture for the disturbing material to come. It is a short piece of music that could do well to score a scene in a film, but it is quickly dwarfed by the nightmare that comes. 'Index' is one of my favourite tracks from this album, as well as undoubtedly the darkest thing this man has ever done. Putting his love and mastery of the studio to good work; he samples electronics and creates this very dark trip-hop soundscape , with a string section and disturbing lyrics to match. Think 'My Ashes' from Porcupine Tree's 'Fear Of A Blank Planet', if that song suffered from PTSD and could not afford trauma therapy. By this point in the second disc, the second half of Wilson's opus has proven itself to go places that the first was a little too timid for.

'Track One' is a track that- along with 'Remainder The Black Dog'- was chosen as a 'single' to support the album. While I would have imagined that 'Postcard' would have been the best way to once again lure unsuspecting listeners in, 'Track One' does do a good job of showing how the variety of styles on 'Grace For Drowning' contrast each other. The first moments of this song develop as a pretty straightforward, if not quirky acoustic song, much in the vein of some latter-era Beatles tunes. Without too much morning then, all sense breaks down and the listener is left with this looming mass of what I might describe as being symphonic noise; a sound as dirty and chaotic as any, yet meticulously orchestrated, and even musical.

After that relatively short piece comes what may be the most anticipated moment on the entire record. The 'long' song, the 'epic', the 'fusion freakout'; whatever you want to call it, 'Raider II' has been peaking listeners' interest even long before the album was even released. For what I was predicting would be the total antithesis of Porcupine Tree, I was not surprised that this is by far, the most challenging thing on the record. It begins with minimalism at heart; a very dark soundscape where the eerie atmosphere is created by the lack of sound, the silence in between the long, gloomy notes. 'Raider II' builds into something quite looming, and it seems that this is where Wilson found it most suitable to throw all of his ideas into one pot. Here, we have a flute solo a la Jethro Tull, and even a short-lived segment where it sounds like Wilson has either conjured Satan into his studio session, or is using... death growls? Admittedly, not all of these ideas are as brilliant as Wilson likely imagined them to be, but it's easy to overlook that when it's realized how risky Wilson is being by throwing out all of these ideas into his music. As was promised by press releases, 'Raider II' ultimately breaks into this frantic jazz fusion longform, where I am hearing a cross between the latest King Crimson project, The Mars Volta, and even Van Der Graaf Generator. Here, we are treated to some wonderful saxophone solo work, courtesy of Theo Travis. This is undoubtedly one of the most ambitious things Wilson has ever done, although I hate to say that for me, this is the lowest point of the album. That is not to say that 'Raider II' is not brilliant- because it is- but it does feel that some of the twenty-three minutes here could have been shortened and cut out, whereas I consider the rest of the album largely to be about as close to perfection as its going to get.

After such an exciting and intense journey with 'Raider II', we come to the end of our journey on 'Grace For Drowning' with 'Like Dust I Have Cleared From My Eye', yet another contrast that shows the album fade out with another song that could have closed any Porcupine Tree album beautifully since 'Signify'. It reminds me quite a bit of 'Glass Arm Shattering' from Porcupine's 'Deadwing' record in the way it is slow, brooding, full of feeling and hypnotic in the way it leads the listener out of the dream and back into reality. Of particular note here are Wilson's vocals, particularly when the harmonizes with himself to create this overdubbed choral effect. As the album's first run through ended for me, I sat motionless in utter admiration for a few minutes before I put it on again; even though there are quite a few songs here that are instantly enjoyable and accessible, 'Grace For Drowning' is one of the most challenging and deep records Steven Wilson has ever taken part in. As for which of these discs is better, it's really hard to decide. I could certainly say that 'Sectarian', 'Index', parts of 'Remainder The Black Dog', and parts of 'Raider II' would make up my most loved material on this album, but as a whole, it leaves an absolutely beautiful feeling in me. The first disc is certainly a little more immediate, and maybe sent a few more chills down my spine, but I cannot underrate the second volume of this work either. Although there has been some incredible music coming out lately, an album has not come out since 2009 that pulled me in and never let go. Although many albums that we consider 'classics' are now decades old, Wilson's 'Grace For Drowning' is one record that I am almost certain will be looked back at as one of the crowning prog rock albums of this decade.

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Send comments to Conor Fynes (BETA) | Report this review (#539652)
Posted Saturday, October 01, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars Grace For Drowning is the second solo album from Steven Wilson. Following 2008's Insurgentes, Wilson has been working with Robert Fripp on remixing some of 70's King Crimson albums. It seems to have really rubbed off on Wilson, as Grace For Drowning is a sprawling, adventurous affair that owes as much to the early, spacey Porcupine Tree material as it does to In the Court of the Crimson King, In the Wake of Poseidon, and Islands era King Crimson. Grace For Drowning take you on one emotional roller coaster ride after another, as it features soaring melodies, stunning soundscapes, chilling tonal colors, and monumental atmosphere. Highlights are many, but some of the standout tracks here include the ominous Mellotron driven "Sectarian", the sumptuous instrumentation and breezy melodies on "Deform to Form a Star", the charming, Blackfield influenced pop of "No Part of Me", and the monstrously haunting "Remainder the Black Dog", complete with jagged guitar lines, jazzy saxophone, mysterious piano, and Mellotron. And that's just on the first CD... Over on the second disc, you have the ambient, and somewhat creepy "Index", the spacey "Track One", the 23-minute epic "Raider II", and the moody pop of "Like Dust I Have Cleared From My Eye". And of course, as usual with Steven Wilson releases, sound quality is wonderful.

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Send comments to lostfloyd (BETA) | Report this review (#539870)
Posted Sunday, October 02, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars Let me start by saying this is my first review although I've been aware of the archives for quite a while. So, hoping I can make myself coherent, on with the review!

Porcupine Tree is my favorite band of all time along with Opeth and King Crimson. I'm not one of those who thinks anything SW touches turns to gold, although it certainly seems he can turn anything into silver at the least. I don't like Blackfield all that much, the first album was good, second not so and haven't heard the third. Bass Communion and No-man I need to give a lot more time and I have a feeling they have potential to grow on me. And then there's SW's "solo" stuff. I guess calling it solo is like an alias for "Steven Wilson" as BC, IEM and early PT are certainly solo projects too if not more so.

I really liked Insurgentes unlike many people. And the film accompanying it was great too. Then came The Incident which is as far as I'm concerned PT's 2nd weakest studio album (one can barely call OTSOL a studio album but whatever) even though it wasn't a bad album. I ordered the deluxe edition of Grace for Drowning and I was not disappointed. I love the idea of double albums and both albums are very strong. I won't break them down song by song as I dislike thinking of albums as a collection of singles and would rather think of them as musical journeys. Some things to note however is the excellent playing on this record. This is without a shadow of doubt my favorite album where Jordan Rudess appears. His playing feels so much more energetic and alive than on DT albums (not a big fan of DT as you might have guessed). The jazzy drumming are also really awesome, they feel much more relaxed than Gavin Harrison's drumming. Don't get me wrong, Gavin Harrison is my favorite drummer but getting a jazz drummer was a real nice idea for this album. And of course the overall jazz and Crimson influence is very prominent on GFD and it works incredibly well. The guitar work is awesome, I especially like it on Remainder the Black Dog and of course the 23 min epic Raider II. Theo Travis has some awe inspiring solos here. And the choir and orchestra! Everything works perfectly. The production is slick and some might say over produced. Well it's SW after all and I for one like both clean and low quality production (when used right) alike. And the clean production works just flawlessly in Steven's work.

Even if this was only a 4 star album I'd give it 5 just because of the whole presentation of the deluxe edition (which is obviously the version I'm reviewing). A 120 page artbook with some beautiful photography to accompany the music, perfecting the listening experience for those willing to really appreciate to the fullest and immerse themselves in the music as it was designed to be experienced. The book itself is of very high quality material (and smells good too!). I haven't listened to the bonus CD or the Blu-ray. I don't have a surround system which I plan to get when I have the money.

I don't hesitate for a moment when I say this is Mr. Wilson's magnum opus, his masterpiece of masterpieces. I absolutely love PT and many of their albums are masterpieces to me but here Steven just outdid himself.

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Send comments to CosmicCat (BETA) | Report this review (#540588)
Posted Sunday, October 02, 2011 | Review Permalink
3 stars A Failed Masterpiece. Steven Wilson's latest work, prior to listening, was apparently set to be considered one of the most prominent of recent years. A double album from a real genius of modern music, long compositions (4 tracks in the 8min range, one "epic" of 23min). A wide array of famed musicians in cooperation. And after first listen, a terrific, majestic production, that really set the level at highest tip, even in SW's already excellent terms. But, then, the music? This is my major problem here. Apart for few exceptions - the stellar "Deform to form a star" - really an outstanding track by all aspects; the Blackfield-ish "Postcard", with lush arrangements; the firts HALF of closing number "Like dust..."(the 2nd half has almost no sound) - the rest let me with no taste in my mouth to recall, and a lot to feel remorse about. It seems that SW declared its intentions for the album in the track "Index", where a maniac collector describes himself. In the album, SW seems to make a displays of lush, sumptuous, daunting "sounds" collected during his career, both as composer and according to its personal tastes. Assembled together in short sections, but disjointed and deconstructed. Probably meant to be reverberating by juxtaposition, or in order to try to create a new musical form. This is more visible in the long tracks "Sectarian", "Remainder the black dog" and the supposed "epic" "Raider II". There are nice and initially haunting parts (mostly menacing tunes...) performed by means of nice "progressive" instruments, followed by loops, heavy monotone riffs, madness eruptions that give on your nerves, silences, echoes of distant guitars...I've got lured at the start of each of those tracks, then disheartened while the song was making its way. Other tracks are really less interesting. "Belle du Jour" has a nice atmosphere and gently subdued melancholic melody of a musicbox, but one you can hear so many in late 60s-firts 70s movies (Morricone)...another item collected to show, likely. "Raider prelude" is pure filler, "Index" and "Track one" have the coldness of a drone sound machine, with burst of heavy monotone riffs in the second part of the song. In the end, I'm left with the feeling that this could have been much better, if SW had choosen a slightly different direction (using more melodic connections between the parts). Obviously, he was in search of another exploration mission. But the result is not paying off. The previous "Insurgentes" did a lot more, with less. Really looking forward to the next, hopefully different work from Steven!

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Send comments to ingmin68 (BETA) | Report this review (#541291)
Posted Tuesday, October 04, 2011 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars It almost seems silly calling this Steven Wilson's second solo album when he has solo projects like BASS COMMUNION and I.E.M.. Of course each project is different from the other, including this one under his own name. Steven has been quoted as saying that when he made "Insurgents" he was listening to a lot of 80's music such as JOY DIVISION and THE CURE and he felt that that style came out on the finished product. On "Grace For Drowning" Steven has been no doubt influenced by his re-mixing of such KING CRIMSON classics such as "Lizard" and "Islands" and that Jazzy flavour has come through here. In fact when he tours his band will feature a lot of Jazz musicians. I have my ticket for the Toronto show tucked away. I read an interview with Steven where he said he's kind of bored with making heavier music through guitars.There's very little of that on here, instead he gets that heavy flavour through horns, woodwinds, orchestration, keys etc. He talked about how ART ZOYD, UNIVERS ZERO and early KING CRIMSON achieved heaviness in this manner as well. This is a dark album, and it is a Rock album, but it's played for the most part by Jazz musicians.

"Grace For Drowning" is mellow with sparse piano and vocal melodies. A short intro track. "Sectarian" features strummed guitar which gives way to drums and electric guitar. It kicks in rather heavily after a minute.The heaviness is incredible a minute later as mellotron comes and goes.The mellotron certainly gives this tune and others a seventies vibe. A calm after 3 minutes then the keyboards echo as drums continue. It kicks back in heavily after 6 minutes as the mellotron again comes and goes. A calm with horns ends it. "Deform To Form A Star" opens with laid back piano as the vocals arrive for the first time on the album. A relaxed sound here. It's fuller with mellotron and vocals 2 1/2 minutes in. An instrumental break with guitar leads after 3 minutes.Vocals are back before 4 minutes. Again it's fuller on the chorus as themes are repeated. "No Part Of Me" has these intricate and fast paced sounds.Vocals after 1 1/2 minutes. Some heavy guitar before 3 1/2 minutes then the drums get louder. It settles after 5 1/2 minutes to end it. "Postcard" opens with piano as reserved vocals join in. It gets fuller at times then settles back each time. I like the line "All that matters disappeared when I lost you". "Raider Prelude" is a short ominous piece with mellotron-like sounds. "Remainder The Black Dog" ends disc one and this one has Steve Hackett playing some guitar.The dark mood continues as processed, reserved vocals come in. Drums follow then the guitar makes some noise followed by dissonant sax. It kicks in around 4 1/2 minutes but not for long. It kicks in again after 6 minutes then settles again. It's quite psychedelic after 8 minutes with drums, flute and sax standing out.

Disc two begins with "Belle De Jour" a mellow but beautiful instrumental. "Index" was inspired by the John Fowles book called "The Collector".This is dark with drums and reserved vocals. It kicks in before 1 1/2 minutes then settles back as contrasts continue.Some strings too as samples end it.

"Track One" opens with reserved vocals and gentle guitar. It becomes fuller reminding me of THE BEATLES. It turns heavy before 1 1/2 minutes then settles late. "Raider II" is a 23 1/2 minute monster. It's minimalistic early on as almost spoken words come in. It kicks in hard before 3 minutes with mellotron.Vocals follow. Creepy lyrics here. Love the flute before 4 1/2 minutes. It kicks in again then we get an uptempo section after 8 minutes where they rip it up.The contrasts continue. I really like the dissonant sax after 19 minutes as they kick ass. It's insane before 20 1/2 minutes. It ends in a haunting manner. "Like Dust I Have Cleared from My Eye" ends the album with reserved vocals and guitar but it does get fuller with organ and drums. A calm 4 1/2 minutes in then it becomes spacey.

I don't think i've seen a modern album praised as much as this one has been. It's almost universal and yet it's taken me a long time to appreciate. I put it away for a couple of weeks after this review and here I am back in early November to bump it up to 5 stars. My first listen after those two weeks was the most emotional one I had with it. My appreciation continues to grow as I continue to not want to put it away. Brilliant is the word for this recording and it could go down as one of the all time greats along with those legendary seventies classics. We'll see. I still prefer "Insurgents" though.

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Send comments to Mellotron Storm (BETA) | Report this review (#543485)
Posted Wednesday, October 05, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars Hi, I progarchive.com many years ago, but this is my first review.

"Grace for Drowning" is a marvel of disk where you analyze, rich textures, accurate sound and instrumental jazz, rock, orchestral, choruses, and lyrical sounscapes Steve Wilson, all beautiful.

It begins by introducing you to their most introvert with sensations of peace and spirituality are very white in his first subject and the third, the same name as the first CD: "Deform to Form a Star", with its hint of sorrow and much gratitude, that evoke certain her missing father. In the second and displays the krimson spectrum's sound that pretend and that elevates bright peaks later. Then start step by step to get into intricate facets, the beginning of "No Part Of Me" reminds me of schedules explored by Massive Attack on their fourth album, which indicates this high-stakes pursuit of textures and experimentation that seeks to drive, great. The fifth issue is more PT Incident or rather Blackfield (would be perfect on his latest album), a great and uplifting orchestral arrangements and choir, but is an issue that could have followed the sequence of the disc a little more risky. Then comes a "Raider Prelude" that you turn off the light and throws you into the basement and its darker side, preparing for the grand finale of CD1, "Remainder the Black Dog" that awful subject, has them all, ambient passages, jazzy , psychedelic rock, insanity, uuuuffff !!!!!!!! leads. The second disc starts with beautiful acoustic arrangements of strings, "Belle De Jour" beautiful. Then return trip-prog as I've decided to call it by its influence already mentioned, "Track One" is like a trip down the middle of the street in the rain, hurt and looking for a reason to go on, tremendous. "Index" comes and rescues you just to say that "you're hell, stay, you have before your eyes, face it", powerful and in its most dramatic part reminds some theme of "Insurgents", and finally almost spiritual. With "Raider II" I'm out of words, anything that would say little, every time I hear new nuances meeting to an otherworldly you out there at 4 'just before the entrance of the flute always kind of T . Travis, the issue is bombastic ending with relaxation while intriguing. "Like I Have Cleared Dust From My Eye" I landed, put back on the good experiences manifest in life, nature, family, friends, and enjoy the day to day that is often clouded by a dust which makes real vision of things, is a state of grace that is hard to find, and exposed to extreme situations talves appears clearly. Earned five-star masterpiece. Thanks!!! Closing Transmission.

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Send comments to Transmission (BETA) | Report this review (#545102)
Posted Friday, October 07, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars Wow, is all I can say! After a hiatus following the release of the Incident and the Blackfield tour, Steven has graced us with his most auspicious and challenging work to date. I must say that I am in awe with every listen. The warm sounds of this album washes over me like a tide of fresh water, ebbing over my head, trying to pull me under. This is music!

The album, like all SW albums, has a concept, although this one is not as straightforward as others. The album title refers to the peace one feels after a long struggle to keep from going under. What else in life is like this? Well SW explores those areas on each gem, building up to a crescendo that slowly spirals back to earth like a drifting leaf.

The songs alternate between calm and chaos, not only between each other but also within some. Take the title track: a calm choral vocal and piano followed by Sectarian, which is chaotic in comparison using many different instruments. And thus it goes for the rest of this musical journey, til we land at Raider II, a tumultuous nightmare of a tune clocking in at over 20mins. This one sports it all: dark lyrics, menacing moog, creepy chorals, jazz riffs, explosive guitars, harmonious flutes, bombastic bass, and some really strange time signatures that alternate like the wind. Oh yeah,and also some quiet, achingly beautiful parts. This dark tune is followed again by the rather soothing, Like Dust I Have Cleared from My Eye with its ambient outro to close the album.

This is a fine prog-rock masterpiece, only added to by the media that accompanies it. I got the Deluxe edition, with a 120 page book of photos and lyrics that follow along with this odyssey. Also, the Blu-ray is not to be missed, and is quite honestly the best way to experience this journey. It offers 5.1 surround sound mix of the entire album plus short films, photo galleries, lyrics, bonus tracks, and demos. I cannot think of anyone else out there who has done something this auspicious and fully delivered. I cannot recommend this work of art enough!

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Send comments to pagan97 (BETA) | Report this review (#547891)
Posted Monday, October 10, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars Grace For Drowning is a wonderful album, very complex and rich. Some people complained about its wide variety of styles, calling it a mixed bag, while i actually think this variety is something to appreciate. Even though the album is dark all in all, there are some ups and downs to the mood, and I love that. I love the variety of instruments used on this record, and the guest musicians are just fantastic. Well, what would you expect from the likes of Steve Hackett, Nick Beggs and Theo Travis ? - Not to mention the fact that they're working with Steven Wilson, another genius in the same league. Even the artwork by Lasse Hoile is brilliant, and I think GFD was the most challenging project for Lasse so far. And of course, he did a wonderful job, as usual. This album is a future classic, and it's certainly a grower that deserves some serious treatment. I spent days listening to the first disc before going for the 2nd one, and now I'm still absorbing both before going for the bonus material on the 3rd disc. Long story short, I'm in love with this album, every minute of it!

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Send comments to Prognotized (BETA) | Report this review (#548776)
Posted Wednesday, October 12, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars Steven Wilson's second released-under-his-own-name solo record Grace for Drowning comes with beautiful packaging in the usual style of Carl Glover and Lasse Hoile. While the dark, surreal aesthetics might not be everyone's cup of tea, they certainly link the album to 2009's Insurgentes.

On first impression the album appears less structured and more eclectic than usual, even for Wilson, but beautiful and very appealing on an instinctive, emotional level. In terms of style, Grace for Drowning fuses the jazz-influences of early progressive rock (someone's been remixing King Crimson for years) with neo-romantic choir arrangements, delicate art rock and Wilsons fascination with industrial sounds and noise that so strongly influenced The Incident and Insurgentes. Partly, the instrumental passages are reminiscent of representatives of classical minimal music, e.g.Arvo P'rt and Philip Glass.

After a few listenings, the album becomes more comprehensive and appears more clearly structured. Wilson's talent for long, slow arcs of suspense seems to clash with his love of stark contrast and a huge dynamic range, but Grace for Drowning combines the three exceptionally well. The result surprises in its artistic unity and combines apparently contradictory genres with the majestic melodies and beautiful soundscapes that make it sound essentially like Steven Wilson. Grace for Drowning derives its coherence from a complex sound design, stylised textures and the editing of vocals and guitars typical of Wilson's work.

In terms of lyrics, the album moves from the intuitive writing of Insurgentes (and IMO rightly so) towards a more concise and palpable imagery.

The record demands persistence and a little work from the listener and may not be easily accessible to each and every Wilson fan, but it is worth the while. I personally thought it made the most sense when juxtaposed to Opeth's Heritage.

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Send comments to Stripes (BETA) | Report this review (#549293)
Posted Thursday, October 13, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars It's very rare to find an album, let alone musician whose music is a timeless piece of art and creativity. With the second solo release from Steven Wilson, I am nothing less than impressed with his ability to create and layer sounds that I would never expect, or have ever heard before on an album. He has a unique skill to be able to put emotions in to each chord, and each note that comprises a song and album as a whole. This album can be listened to countless times over and what makes it most special and separates it from most music today is that it can be listened to as a whole without having to skip a song, or just play your favorites. Greatness does not even begin to describe how well put together and what pure genius this album is. Buy it. Enjoy it. Share it with everyone you know!!!

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Send comments to mbarcomb (BETA) | Report this review (#552441)
Posted Tuesday, October 18, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars Mr. Wilson revisits his golden era of Prog rock- the 60's wherein everything evolved from the Mother Jazz. Without being retro or paying homage to his influences, he has amalgamated his love for Symphonic Rock, (newly discovered) Jazz Fusion and his signature style of dark and heavy soundscapes from Porcupine Tree and alikes into one magnum opus. In comparison with his last solo record- he has obviously put a great deal of effort into this creation (almost 2 years). Each track is more abstract and deserves atleast a dozen of plays to let the music grow on audience's limited conscience as it exists in 2011- thereby making this album his most ambitious project to date.

Definition of 'Progressive Rock' has been evolving ever since it's germination in the 60's. What Steven Wilson has always believed in and instinctively disposed to- is to retain the essence of prog rock in terms of a sonic journey spanning over soundscapes, textures, modalities and melancholic melodies. While each track carries with it a distinct aura its feeling is nothing close to the actual feel of the whole jigsaw- the album. Do yourself a favor by playing the album over crossfades within each track and contemplate on the experience as compared to your beloved (individual) tracks.

If you are aware of Mr. Wilson's different exhibits in terms of the projects that he is a part of- you could almost feel that this creation is a perfect mix of all of his creative juices into one- while simultaneously retaining his identity- evolution and crossing boundaries of a particular music genre. Ambient, Drone, Pop/Art-rock, Symphonic Rock, Progressive Rock, Psychedelic and Punk Rock are some of the genres that this musical genius has knitted together into an 80 minute journey. If this is not what prog means to us in 21st century- then I don't know what could.

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Send comments to thesocalledfriend (BETA) | Report this review (#552686)
Posted Wednesday, October 19, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars 4/5

I have been a follower of The Mighty Wilson Machine for only a couple of years, but one thing I have learned is that when a new project is announced, the fan-driven hype gears up into overdrive. Grace for Drowning was no different -- maybe even more extreme, fed by the occasional release of teasers -- a song here, a snippet there, videos. Steven drops hints in interviews: It's BIG. It takes a different musical direction. No Porcupine Tree guys on it, but musicians that some of us had to go look up. He thinks it's the best thing he's done.

It is very easy (believe me on this) to get sucked in, but is it all too much? Is it even real? The guy's seriously talented, probably an actual genius, but let's face it: Welcome to My DNA was a bit of a damp squib. So when the Big Blue Deluxe package finally arrived, anticipation and trepidation faced off across the hardcover book...well anyway, does Grace for Drowning live up to its huge hype or has fanboyism (once again, the cynics might say) trumped common sense?

After listening for a few weeks I am happy to report that Grace for Drowning has not only cleared the hype hurdle but soared into the stratosphere. This is a fine, fine album: Steven Wilson has managed to distill almost two decades of experience into a release of remarkable assurance and sophistication, a musical statement of sweeping grandeur and vision -- it really could be the best thing he has ever done.

GfD is big, a double album on two separate CDs of about 40 minutes each, Wilson's sly tribute to the good old days when 40 minutes was about as much music as one vinyl record would hold. Each CD has a similar structure songwise, but they evoke somewhat different moods. Disc 1 (Deform to Form a Star) feels wistful, even nostalgic; Disc 2 (Like Dust I Have Cleared from My Eye) is dark and disquieting. The standard Wilson lyric themes are all on display: love leaving, love lost, ambiguity and, well...sociopathy....At any rate, the album for all its length and moods presents a beautifully coherent, unified experience that seems nowhere near 83 minutes long.

Wilson made it clear that 70s jazz-fusion prog rock and especially the Lizard-era King Crimson material form the majority of the influences that flavor the album, but in truth it covers a huge amount of musical territory. This is not by any means King Crimson Redux, or Porcupine Tree with saxophone -- Wilson has an enormous talent for absorbing ideas and turning them into something fresh and authentic, and he has outdone himself this time. Point of fact, he has outdone himself in just about every aspect of songwriting, arranging, performance, and production.

There is so much musical goodness that singling out highlights is just an exercise in personal taste, but here goes. Disc 1 has the one-two punch of the mighty "Sectarian", a jagged, brooding instrumental that almost physically assaults with monstrous bass and mellotron, followed by (in a brilliantly-conceived juxtaposition) the achingly beautiful "Deform to Form a Star". Wilson's gift for the gorgeous melody is almost cliche, but with "Deform..." he demonstrates a heretofore unsuspected mastery of the form. I generally tend to favour Wilson's harder material over the ballads, but this...! This is extraordinary songwriting.

From Disc 2 comes the unnerving "Index": Wilson's clear, delicate tenor delivers a detached discourse on obsession, over a tense, bass-laden track thick with foreboding. One can impose several layers of meaning on this song -- what, exactly, does this person collect? Do we merely have the standard Wilson fascination with sociopaths or is there a statement in there about being on the receiving end of a fiercely dedicated fandom?

And then there is "Raider II": a massive, 23-minute monster of a piece, the dark and brutal soul of the entire album, an epic showcase of sheer genius by all involved. It winds its way from a slow musical build and a rather horrific lyric, and builds into a huge jazzy improvisational centerpiece, before ending...and ending....

There is very little to complain about on this album. "Postcard" feels a bit out of place and purposeless (it has been released as the "single", which seems self-defeating for an album that is so not standard radio fare); and "Raider II" has more endings than are strictly necessary. But these are minor failings, easily forgiven.

Grace for Drowning is jammed with nuance, rich with sound and atmosphere, saturated with impeccable artistry from every single musician involved. I am astonished, with each listen, at the level of maturity and assurance that permeates every single note. There are huge, brutal moments, stretches that are almost physically terrifying, and moments of heartbreaking delicacy. It is compelling listening -- it certainly takes time to get the hang of it, but don't be surprised if you find it has taken up residence in your subconscious--this is not epiphany brilliance but stealth brilliance. Well done, Mr. Wilson, well done indeed!

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Send comments to ergaster (BETA) | Report this review (#553857)
Posted Thursday, October 20, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars I am a relative recent fan of Steven Wilson .I got into Porcupine Tree about 3 odd years ago and therefore am more familier with his PT catalogue, this is my first experience of his solo work and I must say I'm completely blown by it.

I will not give detials on songs as most of the reviews have covered the songs pretty well. I will give an over all feel of the album from the perspective of a PT fan listening to Steven's solo work for the first time.

Though not as mainstream as the PT albums in respect to the riffs or the vocal consistency there are elements in this album that reminds one of PT (the slower ballads). That said, this album is far greater in breadth and depth and though a casual listener may not be able to appreciate this album much any investment of multiple listens will give the listener pleasure as great if not greater than the more popular PT releases. The intricacies and depth of some of the songs is mind boggling. Small twists and build ups with classic melody and instrumental passages at times slow that work towards atmosphere creation with keys, Synths (not being a musician I may be a bit off track here) guitar and background vocals and at other times jazz/70's influenced passages.

As indicated in other reviews the first CD is more mainstream, the second is darker and far more experimental with the exceptionally brilliant 23 minute 'Raiders II', a slow snail paced start to a fantastic instrumental build up with flute (or flute sounding instrument) and quite a few twists and turns. If you are willing to put the effort and give time to this song it will more than repay you with many listens with ever changing favourite parts for you. I disagree with some posts stating this song is too long and would have been better if shortened. To me this could be amongst the real great 20 minuters ever.

All in all this album needs a few listens to grow on you as any good progressive album should. Steven Wilson has not disappointed and has made a gem, the production of the album is fantastic a forgone conclusion given that Steven is at the helm. Opeth's 'Heritage' is also a great record to come out at this time and comparissons between the two is bound to happen considering the close association of Steven with Opeth. I personally feel that this album is more fulfilling than 'Heritage' as it is keeps the listener guessing all the time and flows better.

Overall wonderfull stuff, very rare to get mainstream musicians bringing albums of this quality on personal releases. I feel this will be a classic in the days to come. A fantastic effort by Mr. Wilson.

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Send comments to Raj Tiwari (BETA) | Report this review (#555439)
Posted Sunday, October 23, 2011 | Review Permalink
Any Colour You Like
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars This year has been a haven for Steven Wilson followers. The man is quite simply a machine when it comes to writing, producing and performing music. Before we even consider his latest mammoth solo release, Grace for Drowning, you have to remember that he's also released a Blackfield album this year; mixed the latest Opeth album, protected earth form the demons of the underworld, rescued cats from trees and attempted to solve the riddle of world peace. There's no stopping the man. Unfortunately, this kind of over saturation, has in the past clouded my perception of his new music, some of which was beginning to sound dangerously too much like a stylised version of himself.

So what does Steven Wilson do? He reinvents himself by creating a double-album, that takes all the influences and styles developed in his past, and fuses them with newer and exciting edges. The first thing that strikes you about Grace For Drowning is the scope. It's essentially two albums in one, including the 22-minute behemoth, curiously named Raider II. There's much more of a jazz influence in this release, this is especially noticeable throughout the extended (and sometimes eerie) ambient movements. Like the latest Opeth release, there's a tangible King Crimson vibe to a lot of these sections. Extended mellow refrains feed off the more chaotic and chromatic up-tempo sections, blurring the line between structure and discordance. There's everything from delicate piano runs, to noise influenced electronics, complete with delicious time signature changes. Indeed, it's been a long time since any of Steven Wilson's compositions have seemed so organic and powerful.

Grace For Drowning doesn't feel as forced or clinical as perhaps Porcupine Tree's 2009 album, The Incident was, or even Wilson's début Insurgentes. However, while the album is altogether more experimental than anything Wilson's done in the previous ten years, there's still enough structured song writing that will not completely eschew the listener. Indeed, there's such a masterful balance in this album, that one often forgets that's all this music was created by the same man, on the same album. Lyrically, Grace For Drowning hits most of the right buttons. It's still fairly dark, but it's a little more ambiguous and challenging than I remember Wilson being. I applaud that. However, I firmly believe that the brilliance of this album lies in the fact that it isn't afraid to be a little dark, a little subversive and ambitious. One listen of 'Remainder The Black Dog' should be proof enough that Wilson's put his heart and soul into the album. Combining his vision with the talents of guest musicians like Steve Hackett, Theo Travis, Tony Levin, Jordan Rudess and Nic France; it's no wonder that the album remains as eclectic as the final product proves (of course there were others I haven't mentioned here as well - the guest list is rather extensive).

Grace For Drowning is exactly what Wilson's discography needed. It's a grand statement of intent, that immediately indicates aspects of his future musical direction, whilst acknowledging his past, and the past of the music that inspired him. There's literally so much to absorb with this release, that multiple listens are mandatory. While it doesn't completely deconstruct the rule-book, it definitely gives it a playful twist. I'm still somewhat taken aback by this release. Sure, it's possibly a bit long and requires some patience. But it's far more rewarding than one may initially expect. Bravo.

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Send comments to Any Colour You Like (BETA) | Report this review (#555879)
Posted Sunday, October 23, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars Grace for drowning is an outstanding record. This isn't an album for everyone, although there are songs which i'm convinced everyone would like if they just give it a try. These are not catchy three minute pop songs, although there are some songs which are relatively short. The overall thought of this album was to make a record that needs some sittings like the track Raider II ( 23 minutes long ) needs soms sittings before you can criticize it. That's why there are two cd's in Grace for drowning that are seperate but at the same time depend on each other, therefore this is not an album that's about the lyrics, it's all about the music. You can hear a little bit of everything like jazz, rock and electronic tunes with much texture and layers in it.

Keeping that in mind, lets not forget about the astounding artwork the cd, blu-ray and especially the deluxe book gives you! Steven did an amazing job putting this together with Lasse Hoile, artist of mix media, photographer, graphic artist, film-maker/director, and cinematographer. As a graphic designer myself, it's rewarding to buy something which I can hold and look at.

Grace for drowning is an inspiring album - both the art and music it contains, and it is unique in it's own way. The album of 2011!

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Send comments to Avdmee (BETA) | Report this review (#556626)
Posted Tuesday, October 25, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars Steven Wilson's much anticipated second solo release "Grace for Drowning" will not disappoint his loyal and growing audience and will no doubt seduce many new listeners with its artistry, creativity, musicianship and, as with all Mr Wilson's work, exceptional production quality. It is quite simply, a masterpiece, and as such, hard to capture in any meaningful way in a 200 word review. That said, a few words - first, what it is not - GFD is not a Porcupine Tree album - certainly there are echoes of PT heard here, some common musical roots,but GFD is exquisitely personal in a way that is unique, I think, to this release...hinted at in his first solo release "Insurgentes" but expanded here. And in that intensity, it is a record that demands and commands your attention, with a sheer breadth and depth of emotion, intensity and style that is frankly hard to describe but well worth the experience. The musical and emotional range explored on GFD runs the gamut from the quiet melancholic acoustic guitar and voice to ambient electronica to full bore heavy progressive metal a la King Crimson to jazz-infused jams that echo Zappa and even Captain Beefheart, to sweeping, majestic orchestral and choral passages. I find this is not an album to put on shuffle, or listen to in the car on the way to work - no, for me this is a "curl-up-with-headphones-shut-the-door-turn-out-the-lights-and-listen-to-me" album Ticking in at over 80 minutes, this is no small commitment, but one well worth the investment. I've been a prog fan for years, and cut my musical teeth on Yes, King Crimson, VDGG, Rush, Genesis, Pink Floyd, and of course Porcupine Tree. I've come to expect excellence from all Mr. Wilson's work, whether PT, Blackfield, Bass Communion, or any of his other projects,he gives his best whole-heartedly,surrounds himself with like minded musicians of incredible skill and integrity (and they abound on this album, too!) but he has outdone himself with GFD. Each time I listen to GFD I get new impressions and new favorites, but the initial stand out tracks for me are - on disc one: Deform to Form a Star, No Part of Me, Remainder the Black Dog (stuck in my head right now...); and on disc two:Belle du Jour, Track One and Raider II (amazing!) So, gentle reader, I urge you to curl up, plug in your headphones and take this trip, a full immersion into Grace for Drowning is a journey I suspect you will be drawn back many times.

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Send comments to collectingdarkmatter (BETA) | Report this review (#557978)
Posted Thursday, October 27, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars Grace for Drowning eclipses Steven Wilson's first solo album both in scope and composition. It covers a broader spectrum of sounds. While Insurgentes was heavily inspired by Wilson's love for 80s new-wave music, borrowing musical traits from Talking Heads, Joy Division, and The Cure, this album harkens back to the early 70s, with songs being highly experimental, much darker, and a lot more progressive.

Having worked on a lot of early King Crimson material lately, there is no denying that some of the influence has crept into Steven Wilson's songwriting vision. This album is more daring in its approach to melody construction and flow. There are a lot of jazzy elements with extended passages for improvised instrumental bliss. Thanks to the jazz-inflicted drumming, there is plenty of dialogue between the soloists, but the Steven Wilson sound is fully intact. The compositions are characterized by dense soundscapes, but each piece is fragmented with lush, easier-to-digest instrumentation. The tension-filled "Sectarian" involves utterly dark acoustic guitars underscored by eerie percussion, tense silences, weird stop-start riffing at once bringing to mind a strange marriage between Univers Zero and Thinking Plague, but the second half is very accessible due to the sudden shift of mood highlighting the blend of the jazzy piano and Mellotron swells.

Some tracks start and end abruptly while others serve as shorter pieces that tie them together. Wilson sets melting pianos and rising synth modulations against melodic constructs. However, the tracks lack tonal centres, and there is a vast array of electric and acoustic beats with shades of texture placed into sparse arrangements. There is no hierarchy of pitches focusing on a central note. Rather, the notes function independently of each other without adhering to tonal principles. This obviously makes some of the songs a more demanding yet at the same time more rewarding listen.

At face value, some fans may write the album off as meandering, too slow, or too long, but this album seems very defined beneath the surface. Yes, it is long, but Steven Wilson chose to spread it over two 40-minute discs, rather than cramming it all onto a single CD. He hopes fans will tackle each album independently instead of trying to take all of it in at one sitting. The first disc is a little more song-oriented while the second one is darker and more experimental. That said, there are songs on each disc that are coterminous with each other. The short two-minute instrumental "Raider Prelude" on the first disc is actually just a foreshadowing of the 20-plus-minute progressive epic "Raider II" from the second CD. This monstrous composition recalls Lizard-era King Crimson in terms of ambition and breadth. Replete with Jordan Rudess' electric piano interludes and Mellotron-infested sound manipulations, it boasts cascades of guitars resolving with odd-time signatures under hypnotic, trance-like passages. All the while, Theo Travis' coiling flute and sax lines weave in and out of the dissonant composition, deconstructing it to its calm finale.

Do not listen to this album in hopes of figuring out in which tunes the stunning list of guest musicians play. Jordan Rudess' contribution to the album is very uncharacteristic for him. His Grand piano on "Deform to Form a Star" sounds nothing like he's done in Dream Theater, perhaps because the song puts the piano in the back in favour of Wilson's stunning vocals following a silvery guitar solo. Similarly, Tony Levin's bass is utilized for a strong low-end here. Unless you're a crazy fan of King Crimson's criminally underrated album The ConstruKction of Light and the dazzling The Power to Believe, you won't notice it's Pat Mastolotto playing on the Blackfield-like "No Part of Me," whose instrumental break is punctuated by Trey Gunn's heavier-than-everything Warr guitar.

The only song that will give away its guest is probably "Remainder the Black Dog" with Steve Hackett providing his unique, gorgeous fretwork. Hackett is easy to distinguish because of his tone and phrasing: he juxtaposes fusion-inflicted notes with dissonant melodies before allowing a groove-locked bass solo to shake the very grounds you stand on. It's a killer song that evokes Wilson's work on No-Man's Returning Jesus in places, but this one is more chaotic and heavier.

Also, there is the beautifully crafted, chilling dark pop of "Postcard" which sounds like Blackfield crossed with Steven Wilson's 'daily life' lyrics delivered over a haunting piano-acoustic guitar theme and the more modern-sounding "Index" where Wilson emotes spoken vocals with narcotic melodies and Mastelotto's rolling drum beat accompaniment. All throughout, the mix and production are ingenious, possibly Wilson's best.

Lyrically, the album is inspired by stories of people who have had near death experiences, particularly with drowning. It is about the state of calm one gets into after the struggling, but the title may also be a metaphor for 'drowning' in the stress and speed of modern city life, which has been the subject matter of many of Wilson's recent songs.

If I were forced to make a choice for a single album in the experimental progressive genre, I would be torn between this album and Garden Wall's Assurdo. Grace for Drowning is some of the most beautiful music I have heard this year. Beautiful in a strange way.

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Send comments to JOANCN (BETA) | Report this review (#558024)
Posted Thursday, October 27, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars Truly. Like dust I have cleared from my eye, this record will open your eyes to the true musical talent of Steven Wilson.

This is one of the greatest records of all time.

The album has a little bit of everything, jazz, rock, electronic, heavy bass lines and twists and turns that truly keep you engaged in the music. Try not to bounce in your seat during 'Sectarian' or roll with the clever bass lines in 'Remainder the Black Dog', I was loving every minute of Grace for Drowning.

A brief track by track run-down of Grace for Drowning (without spoiling too much):

VOLUME 1: DEFORM TO FORM A STAR 1. Grace for Drowning - A peaceful and calm piano/vocal opening to the album. 2. Sectarian - This instrumental track gets things going immediately and you'll be rocking out wondering what just happened, in a good way! 3. Deform To Form a Star - This is a great ballad, with some atmosphere to it. 4. No Part of Me - A very clever electronic track that takes a turn toward the heavy side at the end, amazing. 5. Postcard - A piano piece, very much Steven Wilson style. The ending is eerie. 6. Raider Prelude - Postcard flows right into this track, and I love Raider Prelude. It reminds me of a fantasy world, very beautiful track. It proves that Steven could write movie soundtracks (and I'm sure one day he will ;-), hint hint Steven!). 7. Remainder The Black Dog - One of the best tracks on the record, it encompasses just about everything that this album is about. I love the 2nd half, the bass lines are phenomenal. The title is also a great one.

VOLUME 2: LIKE DUST I HAVE CLEARED FROM MY EYE 1. Belle De Jour - A homage to Spanish Cinema, a short and entertaining instrumental. The Blu-Ray version comes with a exclusive video that really enhances this track, check it out if you can! 2. Index - Potentially my favorite on the record. I find it to be possibly the most unique track on GFD, it's got a catchy beat/vocals and w/ strings building up to an epic ending. 3. Track One - This track takes you for a ride, short and fun....you'll enjoy it. 4. Raider II - One of Steven Wilson's best songs. The track has a bit of everything similar to 'Remainder'. I love those two main notes (also found in 'Raider Prelude'), this track has a creepiness to it. Excellent vocal sections throughout, I've been singing the vocal parts for days now...."A player inside your home, I'm raiiiiiiiiiider". 5. Like Dust I Have Cleared From My Eye - The conclusion to Grace For Drowning, a very peaceful jazzy peace with an atmospheric ending. A fitting end to an extraordinary ride.

Pick this album up, experience true music, true art. Give it a few spins and enjoy the ride, then share it with your friends and your family. Music is more than just Nsync pop ballads with no flavor, it's an art and it's something that Steven Wilson has perfected. Music is beauty and this is music at it's best.

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Send comments to JPCTM (BETA) | Report this review (#560927)
Posted Tuesday, November 01, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars How can someone, anyone, make such beautiful music? I only know that this is beautiful music and that Steven Wilson can consistently deliver in this regard. Good craftsmanship can be defined as attention to detail. All of Mr. Wilson's music has a sense of perfection and mastery of detail - Grace for Drowning is no exception. Case in point: No Part of Me is just one song of many on this album that is put together musically and lyrically like a swiss watch. It looks good (Mr. Wilson has a penchant for visually stunning soundscapes) and sounds good (all the sounds fit together nicely as if they were made for each other - tick, tock) and is like a watch on the wrist that must be referenced frequently to get one's bearings (his music must be constantly looked at to get one's bearings in the surrounding musical landscape). Raider II finds Mr. Wilson at his cinematic best. The beauty of his music is that it requires patience, but not too much - never pretentious or ponderous, just nuanced perfection.

I am a relative recent fan of Steven Wilson.I got into Porcupine Tree about 3 odd years ago and therefore am more familier with his PT catalogue, this is my first experience of his solo work and I must say I'm completely blown by it.

I will not give detials on songs as most of the reviews have covered the songs pretty well. I will give an over all feel of the album from the perspective of a PT fan listening to Steven's solo work for the first time.

Though not as mainstream as the PT albums in respect to the riffs or the vocal consistency there are elements in this album that reminds one of PT (the slower ballads). That said, this album is far greater in breadth and depth and though a casual listener may not be able to appreciate this album much any investment of multiple listens will give the listener pleasure as great if not greater than the more popular PT releases. The intricacies and depth of some of the songs is mind boggling. Small twists and build ups with classic melody and instrumental passages at times slow that work towards atmosphere creation with keys, Synths (not being a musician I may be a bit off track here) guitar and background vocals and at other times jazz/70's influenced passages.

As indicated in other reviews the first CD is more mainstream, the second is darker and far more experimental with the exceptionally brilliant 23 minute 'Raiders II', a slow snail paced start to a fantastic instrumental build up with flute (or flute sounding instrument) and quite a few twists and turns. If you are willing to put the effort and give time to this song it will more than repay you with many listens with ever changing favourite parts for you. I disagree with some posts stating this song is too long and would have been better if shortened. To me this could be amongst the real great 20 minuters ever.

All in all this album needs a few listens to grow on you as any good progressive album should. Steven Wilson has not disappointed and has made a gem, the production of the album is fantastic a forgone conclusion given that Steven is at the helm. Opeth's 'Heritage' is also a great record to come out at this time and comparissons between the two is bound to happen considering the close association of Steven with Opeth. I personally feel that this album is more fulfilling than 'Heritage' as it is keeps the listener guessing all the time and flows better.

Overall wonderfull stuff, very rare to get mainstream musicians bringing albums of this quality on personal releases. I feel this will be a classic in the days to come. A fantastic effort by Mr. Wilson

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Send comments to JOANTENNIS (BETA) | Report this review (#560937)
Posted Tuesday, November 01, 2011 | Review Permalink
Isa
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars |A| One of the most diverse, brilliant, haunting, heart-felt, transcending, contemporary, daring, progressive, eclectic, creative, beautiful works of music I've ever heard.

I'll try to make this a shorter review, because otherwise it would be too long for anyone to read. A five star rating is a very significant thing from my expectations.

I supposed I should give a big THANK YOU to this website and the collaborators above me for giving this album a high enough rating to encourage me to check it out. I've never heard any of Steven Wilson's work before the past few days, so I honestly had no idea what to expect, except that it might sound something like Porcupine Tree. In fact I was somewhat skeptical, given the many fanboys this musician has that it was probably overrated. And I've definitely never been one of those, Porcupine Tree has always just been and "pretty good" band to me.

In this album, however, Steven Wilson demonstrates his uniqueness as a composer and his knowledge of prog and contemporary "classical" composition techniques at a level of such height that's it's almost scary to fathom that he's actually human. What I mean is the fact that this shear amount of music could have this amount of substance and be mostly his doing (depending on the contribution of the enormous list of musicians) is far more rare than it is common. Many of the heavier parts sound very much like Red, especially in Sectarian and Raider II. A lot of the softer, more reflective tracks sound similar to those in The Incident, only I would say this material is far more creative and well done. The eclecticism using contemporary classical and jazz music (especially with the incredible harmonies in the Synergy vocals, and the virtuoso saxophone and flute players) often reminds me of Maudlin of the Well. It is progressive in every sense of the word that a progressive rock fan could expect, cutting edge, artistic, or the whole "asymmetric time- signature, long songs, and virtuoso musicianship" package. Grace for Drowning has it all.

I sincerely believe that if Steven Wilson continues to produce music of this caliber for several more albums (as we can all hope for), he could potentially be considered the rock equivalent of Beethoven, as in the artist who's work first defined and then reshaped the entire landscape of artistic music. As a music educator and historian, I can say without any doubt or shame that most if not all of the material in this album exceeds the artistic level of much classical music, save perhaps the main composers of their respective eras.

God knows whether this will be considered a masterpiece for the ages revered by musicians in the future, or just another "prog" album that will fade out with the passing of several generations, or if it will end up a hidden jewel of music that slipped through the cracks of fame and is known only by a few people. My guess is it won't be the second scenario, but as with all art, time will be the judge of quality.

Every second of this album is so perfect and effective that I really can't describe it in words. The reader should just hear it for themselves, and hopefully just might be as enthralled and captivated by this work as I am.

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Send comments to Isa (BETA) | Report this review (#561538)
Posted Wednesday, November 02, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars The consensus among prog-lovers who love this honorable site is that Steven Wilson has accomplished something very rare with his second solo release, Grace For Drowning: He has exceeded the expectations of a particularly demanding audience to a degree that matches astonishment. Sometimes I'm amazed at just how picky we (a highly heterogeneous group of persons who are sooooo strongly attracted to a most heterogeneous music genre that we enjoy looking at each other's elaborations on our utterly subjective experiences with works of music that may or may not belong to that genre) are. I find that I'm not quite that picky about what I enjoy. I don't care much about the genre. But I do like to think that I'm quite picky about what I am willing to call a masterpiece of contemporary progressive rock music. For me, Grace For Drowning sets a new standard in this regard. I feel like I've received a huge gift.

What is the measure by which I make this assessment? Within the desire grid of a (I like to think) non-dogmatic prog-lover, I measure in enjoyment, surprise, recognition of the familiar in new arrangement and intensity, and the always re-occurring sense of a presentness that is sure to be there for me tomorrow as well as in 100 years. And then the near-certain feeling that it will be that way for countless others as well. And then the certainty that it doesn't make one bit of difference whether that proves true or not, since the masterpiece transcends the wavering sentiments of zombie fandom and consumerism. This album rocks! It re-awakens. By God, Steven, you've done it!

And then I get to see the guy live in Hamburg. What an amazing experience! I'm still reeling. At this moment, I'm listening to RAIDER PRELUDE ' now already into REMAINDER THE BLACK DOG. This just keeps getting better. To work with repetition like a color on a canvas, atmospheres that only occur when fabulous musicians lose and find themselves in a flow of communication that only excellent composition can enable ' what a treat! Heavy, dark, light, released ' the album is an expression of radical subjectivity ' and I'm there with it. Thank you Steven!

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Send comments to Tiresius (BETA) | Report this review (#561890)
Posted Thursday, November 03, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars Steven Wilson, best known as the creative mind behind progressive rock band Porcupine Tree, released his second solo album in 2011 (and a double CD album, to boot) and it seems to have created quite a stir.

To be honest, while it does incorporate a number of influences such as jazz, Grace for Drowning not very far removed from Porcupine Tree. That is not a bad thing though, because this album would rank among the best albums by that band.

The remarkable thing about this album is that it is in the truly rare category of double album that not only does have any filler, but almost all of them are very well crafted. The opening title track with only its gentle piano and vocal refrain evoke emotion from the listener.

Also impressive is that even at two discs in length, the album doesn't feel overly long and overstay its welcome. That's something even many single disc albums struggle to accomplish these days.

Wilson has stated that he drew influence from King Crimson while working on the remastering of their albums and an Islands/Larks Tongue era influence can be heard on tracks such as "Sectarian", "Remainder the Black Dog" and the epic "Raider II".

Of course, a Beatles influence also presides over many of the tracks as is the Pink Floyd influence present in much of Wilson's work with Porcupine Tree. Elements of electronic music are also present. Wilson manages to merge all of these into something inventive and unique yet unquestionably familiar all at the same time.

Keyboard and piano play an essential part on this album and the playing by Dream Theater member Jordan Rudess is outstanding. Theo Travis' playing on sax also makes a hefty contribution to the album and can't be ignored. Other well known players making appearances include Steve Hackett, Tony Levin, Pat Mastelotto and Trey Gunn (strengthening the Crimson connection).

It is a rare thing when an album can garner near-universal glowing praise and still live up to the hype upon hearing it for the first time, much less the dozenth time. Grace for Drowning has the magic to accomplish that. I think it will take a near miracle for another album to knock this one off the top of my best of 2011 list - though I am open to surprises!

Very highly recommended!

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Send comments to FunkyM (BETA) | Report this review (#561908)
Posted Thursday, November 03, 2011 | Review Permalink
Epignosis
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Eclectic Prog Team
4 stars "Murder your darlings," wrote Arthur Quiller-Couch. That's the advice I would have given Steven Wilson if he'd asked. Grace for Drowning (an incredibly numinous and evocative title) shows a magnificent deal of promise, and then mostly disintegrates. Transitions make or break progressive rock; it is not enough to have incredible musical passages and merely piece them together with the string of silence, ghastly noise, or an abrupt wave of the hand. For me, the album is inconsistent. I would have edited this double album into one dependable disc- the album would have consisted of "Grace for Drowning," "Sectarian," "Deform to Form a Star," "Postcard," "Belle De Jour," and "Like Dust I Have Cleared From My Eye (the first five minutes, anyway)," and not necessarily in this order. Not quite a modern studio's album worth of material, but a solid, coherent gathering of music. The rest of the album largely presents itself as a chore to endure for the sake of comprehensive listening; I have had to will myself to plod through the dirt to enjoy the jewels, as it were. The worst culprit comes in past the twenty-minute mark (which I have detailed below). I do wonder if the noise employed in his compositions is merely a crutch ("I'm not sure how to bridge these passages, so here is some thunderous white noise"). Another issue is the guitar tone: Like another multi-instrumentalist, Mike Oldfield, Wilson's electric guitar tone is horrendous. It is tinny and shrill for the lead work and blunted and lumbering for rhythm. This album is on par with The Incident- strokes of genius marred by inconsistency and unfriendly tones all packaged as a double album. There are numerous King Crimson and Van der Graaf Generator influences present, so for fans of these two bands or Porcupine Tree, I recommend the album.

"Grace For Drowning" A wordless vocal and piano passage are here- a lovely introduction vaguely reminding me of Kirk McLeod's So Piano.

"Sectarian" This is an exciting piece of music, especially with the choral bursts, even if the transitions are not quite what they could have been. The tone midway through is terrible, although it gives way abruptly to agreeable jazzier fare. The clarinet is wonderful here.

"Deform To Form A Star" Jordan Rudess does a fine job on the piano, and Wilson's vocals are what one should expect from him- enchanting. This is a highlight of the album, and would charm any Porcupine Tree lover. I must remark that the lead guitar tone is grisly and painful over the otherwise beautiful music.

"No Part Of Me" I quite enjoyed the album up to this point. This piece is at best worthy of a Twilight soundtrack. Electronic drums and other sounds compete with Wilson's vocals. The strings do well here, though they cannot mask the poor drizzle of hi-hat. But midway comes the electric guitar, clapping, and awful lead instrumentation- it just doesn't fit at all with what the author was doing earlier. The climax to the song is regrettably worse.

"Postcard" This is a beautiful acoustic song full of piano and guitar and has a lovely string interlude, despite the usually somber lyrics, with gorgeous music toward the end.

"Raider Prelude" A choir piece with piano introduces the next track- decent, but peculiarly shoved in the middle here without context.

"Remainder The Black Dog" Uncomfortable piano enters with Wilson' vocal, which is heavily saturated with effects. That piano riff grows old, and I don't feel the drums and bass work well with it. The singing sounds like it is emitted from a speaker at a racing track. Ultimately, it's just a jam- the same riff runs through it. The electric guitars that come in later are downright nasty. The guitar tones in the second half are more than unpleasant- excoriatingly disappointing.

"Belle De Jour" This forlorn acoustic guitar piece accompanied by strings is beautiful. The nylon guitar is a true highlight.

"Index" This track makes no sense on this album to me. The song is less organic, with lots of electronic sounds. The lyrics depict a pack rat (as this album seems to depict a pack rat of sounds- unable to dispense with things that don't complement the room). The panning almost gives me a headache when I listen through headphones.

"Track One" This has Wilson singing over a simple classical guitar riff. With the gradual build of noise, the music becomes unfortunately noisy and irritating. Though it enters with no relevance to what came before, the electric guitar solo over acoustic guitar is a return to pleasantness. Where this could have been brilliant, the author ruined it with a strident and empty transition.

"Raider II" Here lies the album's most colossal flaw. The bass notes of a piano lead this plodding extended piece. The verse is just unappealing, containing a cringe-inducing vocal and growling. The wild flute and saxophone don't redeem it, and the parts are conjoined in a strange way. It gets jazzier, especially with the piano flourishes- had Steven Wilson set out to create Lizard, this may have been the outcome. The electronic beats and depressing, sarcastic lyrics seem like Steven Wilson is making a mockery of himself. The open note shredding seems a tad amateurish and doesn't progress anywhere really- it's just something to do during "the metal portion of our show" just before we awkwardly transition to "the jazz portion of our show." The second half begins with some disgusting noise- a guitar's fart perhaps- leading into minimalistic psychedelic tinkering. The springy bass during the end is quite all right and works well during the climactic part. That said, the song just has precious little flow and doesn't do anything particularly different than the rest of the album demonstrated (for better or for worse). But just when the epic of the album seems to have come to a natural conclusion, there is a bass postlude and some indiscriminate jazzy electric guitar notes.

"Like Dust I Have Cleared From My Eye" Luckily, the album ends on a positive note. The harmonies are what they should be, and the countrified guitars are stellar over the autoharp, bass and organ. Well done. However, the album concludes with three minutes of unnecessary synthesizer tones that eventually fade out.

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Send comments to Epignosis (BETA) | Report this review (#562284)
Posted Friday, November 04, 2011 | Review Permalink
Slartibartfast
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Sitting here as the storm passed through, fitting time to have another listen, and write a review.

This is the deluxe expensive picture book I have in my hands, so just for the record I'll review the package from that perspective.

I figured, what the hell and and blew $100 to get the damn thing. It took too long to arrive and the day before it got here robbers kicked in our front door but didn't get away with anything. Steven Wilson's albums sometimes coincide with bad things. The Incident arrived a few days a major house flood. Grace For Drowning arrived the day after the break in while a repair man was replacing our front door. This doesn't put me in fear of the next Steven Wilson release, it's just weird.

The book is designed like a personal journal with scribblings on the cover. The inside holds the disks inside the outer cover. Four in the set of course, two on each side. The meat of the book itself is housed between two vellums with handwritten (reproduced) track listings, credits, etc. In between the vellums, a bunch of glossy pages with pictures, lyrics, and musician credits for each track.

So I have here a four disc set, one a blu-ray of audio some video and bonus material. If you just sit and let the audio at the track selection screen play, there's an ambient audio track that goes on for quite a while before it repeats. A little Angelo Badalamentish. A video sequence accompanies it, a figure in black approaching a beach house that the viewer is inside. I fired it up again a day later and the disc starts off with another video sequence from the beach without any options for playing the disc. Unfortunately I quit it and now can't get back to it.

If you just play this thing for the audio only you miss the bonus material, all you get is the surround mix and a black screen with the song title when each track plays. The real meat of the DVD portion is if you go to the songs option. By the way, it's a bit unweildly to move around, so just have fun with it.

Click on songs option and you get options of photos, demo takes, videos for some tracks. The videos are also in surround sound. So it seem to get the maximum experience from this album you really need the DVD version. It also has the first two tracks from the third/bonus music only disc in the set with a static picture for each.

The music really suits a surround sound treatment, which you'd expect with Wilson having made a few surround sound mixes and re-mixes before.

The audio bonus disc has some songs that didn't get put into the album proper, but are still quite worthy.

The shame of it all is that for most people, if you're into this kind of music, you'll never be able to share it anyone as it requires people to sit down, stay, and listen. It's also often dark and heavy. There really isn't anything here departs far from his Porcupine Tree writings. Which isn't a bad thing, I think he's making a real personal statement, developing and compiling ideas he's expressed in music before. There is a story here though. Perhaps more well defined than In Absentia, but along similar lines. A character going psychopathic and then recovering, somehow.

Anyway, if people say this is a piece of crap or a masterpiece, don't value their opinonions. If you are a general fan of Steven Wilson's work you won't be disappointed and should spring for the DVD. Of course you'll need a computer or a home theater system with a nice screen, surround sound, and blu-ray capability. Steven thumbing his nose again at the i-pod generation. In the end masterpieces are best left to the judgement of time. I give this one a solid four.

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Send comments to Slartibartfast (BETA) | Report this review (#562339)
Posted Friday, November 04, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars It has been years since listening to an album has been so gratifying. With this effort Steven Wilson reached a great balance between the ethereal sound of his earlier work with the heavier recent work of Porcupine Tree. Reminiscent of King Crimson (I hear mostly Red and Lizard), the dissonant chords, rythmic chanting, and wind instruments are placed interspersed with jazzy progressions as well as catchy melodious segments. This makes the album very varied, yet everything flows wonderfully, making this double album easy to listen in one sitting.

Production is impecable and the drumming impressive. Wilson's voice is, as always, pleasant and appropriate for his themes.

I will confess to having seen Steven Wilson last Sunday; It is hard not to associated the emotion from such a wonderful concert with the quality of the music as I wrote this review, from the clear sound to the carefully placed lighting, backdrop, and just perfectly balanced participation by all the musicians. I will close by saying that after this effort I consider Steven Wilson more than just a talented interpreter and a composer, a true artist.

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Send comments to DAVA (BETA) | Report this review (#569633)
Posted Thursday, November 17, 2011 | Review Permalink
Zitro
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars Based on the album liner notes and artwork, it appears that Porcupine Tree leader, Steven Wilson, was in a state of melancholia, if not full depression, when he wrote this album. Lyrics, themes, and songwriting tend to share one common thing: depression. The artist has poured all of his feelings in addition to bringing highly talented musicians from King Crimson and other musical backgrounds to do what each of them do best, resulting in a diverse set of sounds that work together to form a musical masterwork that is both musically challenging as it is emotionally accessible. Tracks range from a mere few minutes to a gargantuan 20+ minute epic where even the shorter ones are as memorable and rewarding as the longest songs. The sound has the spirit of progressive rock while sounding quite different from the typical (or stereotypical) sounds of the genre. Therefore, people who gets turned off by the sounds of 70s symphonic rock (Genesis, Yes, ELP) may still find a lot to enjoy here.

Opening with sad floating vocal arrangements and sparse piano in its short title track, the music becomes angular and dissonant with "Sectarian" in its acoustic intro. A thick bass enters, a massive choral burst interrupts and it takes a disturbing turn into a loud avant- garde, reminiscent of 70s King Crimson. The composition is multifaceted, displaying some calmer sections before chorals and madness return. "Deform to Form a Star" has a beautiful title that might hint recovery. Music is highly melodic and somewhat more positive, carrying gorgeous vocal choruses, simple piano, and soaring wordless vocals by the closing of the song. It is one of Steven Wilson's best ballads.

The fast-paced soft, chiming, electronic rhythms that begin in "No Part of Me" introduces a new sound to the album. When the piano and lyrics come in, it carries both a pleasant, relaxing sound yet overly depressing lyrics delivered with strong feelings from a man who grew so much as a vocalist over the years. The second half of the song is dominated with harsh guitar riffs and increasingly dissonant instrumentation, sounding like a mental breakdown put to music. One of my personal favorites: this is as perfect as music gets.

The next track "Postcard" is much lighter and more harmonic, providing relief to the listeners. Lyrically, it appears connected to the previous track, explaining what he was dealing with: losing his father. Musically, it is short in duration and light in complexity, but its sincerity allows it to fit in the album. "Raider Prelude" is short-lasting as well, with an emotionally dense, eerie atmosphere.

The last song in the first disc, "Remainder the Black Dog", is in my opinion one of the best (if not the best) long compositions associated with Steven Wilson. It says a lot that a nine- minute song is the one used to promote the album. The song is generally carried by an eerie piano motif in 15/8 with natural dynamics and exciting changes in pace throughout the composition. The harshest section spotlights Steve Hackett (Genesis) playing a purposefully unpleasant guitar solo.

After a beautiful cinematic intro focusing on acoustics, the menacing industrial/electronic sounds from "index" make another highlight in the album. It is somewhat reminiscent of Porcupine Tree's "The Incident" but works better here. The use of strings make a surprisingly effective counterpoint to the disturbing electronics and vocals. "Track One" starts with delicate vocals and acoustics. Later, gorgeous harmony vocals and mellotron get pushed aside by a suffocating feel of hopelessness until pleasant acoustics finish the song.

"Raider II" is the longest composition and of clear interest to progressive rock fans. The song takes many risks and definitively requires more patience than the rest of the album. Due to highly adventurous songwriting and long duration, it has a couple of missteps and moments that could be shortened. Nevertheless, it is a brilliant track that begins minimalistic with an ominous feel. It gets heavy with sax riffs, massive choral bursts (like Sectarian in the first CD), even death metal growls. Variations of the melody in the intro get played in different ways. The pace fastens up, alternating guitar/synthesizer arpeggios very similar to each other but in different time signatures. There is also an impressive loud section that reminds of death metal band Opeth and a jazzy solo driven by a springy bass before the guitar arpeggios return. An ambient, eerie interlude that references back to the Raider Prelude on the first disc is surrounded by silence while the last section fades in, carry important lyrics, and develops into a monster riff with frenetic soprano sax marking the climax of the album. The album ends with a ballad repeating the phrases "breath in/out now" and ending with calm, ambient music, probably displaying the protagonist's recovery from depression.

These tracks feature top musicians that are unleashed when the music requires them to go wild. This is not an album that features egocentric extended solos interrupting the flow of songs. This is an album that uses first-rate musicianship to expand the feel of the songs. While some songs require patience and repeated listens to fully comprehend them, many of the songs had such a strong initial impression that I played them again instead of proceeding to the next song. The task of creating a 2-cd album that is nearly free of filler or missteps while leaving out bonus tracks that are of high-caliber is admirable. (Home in Negative has excellent melodies, Raider Acceleration is an inventive avant-garde track, others are also worthy of note). Let's celebrate a modern classic of progressive rock and wish Steven Wilson musical inspiration.

Highlights: Deform to Form a Star, No Part of Me, Remainder the Black Dog, Index.

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Send comments to Zitro (BETA) | Report this review (#570828)
Posted Saturday, November 19, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars This is one of those albums where it seems pointless writing a review simply because it's going to be lost in a morass of other people's opinions and scribblings.

Ah, what the hell, I've started now - 'Grace for Drowning' is a superbly recorded and unusual album for 2011. However, It's not a masterpiece.

Literally every tune shows traces of Steven Wilson's influences which somewhat belittles it as you can't help thinking throughout ...'Well I never- that sounds just like Floyd' or... 'Blimey, there's some of that keyboard that Schulze used in '76 that only held a vocal note for 8 seconds' or... 'Crumbs, those off beat drums sound just like Gentle Giant'. etc etc.

More than any other artist, this is heavily Robert Fripp's 'Red' King Crimson territory . In particular 'Sectarian' which really kicks ass in a far more modern and bass driven and heavy way.

There are two very non-descript pointless tracks in the form of 'Pastcard' and 'Like Dust I Have Cleared From My Eye' which the album could have done well without, which could have made it a single cd. Annoyingly, the latter is the outro.

Looking on the bright side, there are some absolute stonkers in here... 'Remainder the Black Dog' - is simply one of the best songs I've heard this year, even if there are a parts of 'Wish You Were Here', the 'Wall' and even some Binsen Echo Units from 'Meddle' used.

'Belle de Jour' sounds just like how the film should have looked with the untouchably beautiful Catherine Deneuve in the mid 60's.

'Grace for Drowning' has a real mish-mash of styles and sound that if taken as a whole could be the entire Prog Rock archive compressed into one edible chunk, with all genres investigated, bar 'Zeuhl'.

Of particular interest is the superb 'Index' - which really hits the mark through the lyrics, as I'm sure a lot of you guys would agree? I'm one of those 'weird' collectors Steve Wilson sings about!

There's something for everybody on this album, which is recorded in a very caring and precise way, and unbelievably includes blonde mop head Nick Beggs - bass player from Kajagoogoo! I always wondered what happened to him...

Inspiring... Just when I thought prog was dead...

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Send comments to Dobermensch (BETA) | Report this review (#574509)
Posted Thursday, November 24, 2011 | Review Permalink
3 stars 5/10

It is time to review the album of the year.

I do not know what to say, I would like to join the 63% who consider this album a masterpiece, but I can not, just can not. I will have to reduce this percentage of positive reviews and be responsible for the second review of 3 stars here.

The latest effort from Steven Wilson (the mind behind groups like Porcupine Tree, No-Man, Blackfield, Bass Communion, etc.) is clearly a work that deserves all the attention ... whether for good or for evil. I was anxious to have the opportunity to enjoy this album, but when this opportunity came I realized I was deluding myself with a work that is ... is ... say ... (what is the same word, drug ?)... Oh, I know what this album is:

It is unsustainable.

Yes, Grace is Drowning is unsustainable. The album is full of promising moments and certainly very nice, but there is never something that is really good from start to finish ... there is always a point where I start to sweat. If their debut album Insurgentes was strongly focused on the new wave and alternative rock, this one is an ode to experimentation and eclectic 70's. A pity that it is a frustrated ode, to my mind.

It's really hard to go against the tide of praise and five stars is that Grace for Drowning has received, but I gotta be honest with myself: I did not like this album. Of course there are good moments here (especially the first disc), but much of this failed work is only frustration and filler here; no attempt of realization, no passage with emotion.

Just in case I'll keep this album in my collection. But in my opinion there are other infinite works best this year, and while Steven Wilson is not part of my top 10. 3 stars.

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Send comments to voliveira (BETA) | Report this review (#575538)
Posted Friday, November 25, 2011 | Review Permalink
3 stars I must be missing the point. This album although OK, just didn't excite me at all. I know it's not a Porcupine Tree album, but seeing as Steve Wilson is the main PT man, I thought this would have some of the spark that the PT albums would have. I bought the two disc version, and feel that after many repeated plays that it could have been scaled down to a one track disc. I have bought a few new albums this year but must say that Grace For Drowning isn't in my top ten. I like music that really makes me sit up and think. I want music to make me buzz, hard to describe but GFD just doesn't have the wow factor, like for example The Tangents Comm and Sean Filkins first solo effort War And Peace & Other Short Stories. Steve Wilsons production is second to none, but I will probably pick out the best parts of the double disc, to play at my leisure. For me only three stars I'm affraid.

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Send comments to Prog Panda (BETA) | Report this review (#581101)
Posted Saturday, December 03, 2011 | Review Permalink
2 stars I don't get it. I just don't understand why people love this album like they do. Its nothing like Porcupine Tree, which I am fine with. Why make a solo album if it sounds like your other band? But this just isn't that good. It is mostly a instrumental album, it probably should have stayed instrumental because the lyrics are pretty terrible. I normally don't mind terrible lyrics because I only really care about the music. But the music is just boring. I love Jazz. And this is a somewhat jazzy album. Albeit a different kind of jazz, its dark and brooding. But it is so boring. This album is not that good. I'm sorry Progarchives you are WRONG! this is not a new classic album. I predict after all the Steve Wilson fan boys have finished leaving there reviews the rating will start to drop, and return to a more normal rating. 2 stars max. I can't listen to it over and over again like I should be able to with a higher rated album.

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Send comments to kawkaw123 (BETA) | Report this review (#581191)
Posted Saturday, December 03, 2011 | Review Permalink
darkshade
COLLABORATOR
Jazz Rock/Fusion Team
3 stars I was looking forward to this album before it came out. Ive never been the biggest Porcupine Tree fan, but over the years Ive collected more than a few of their albums, and Ive enjoyed them all. I heard Remainder The Black Dog on youtube before the album came out, and it got me stoked. I picked this up on release day, along with a few other CDs. This wound up being my least favorite of the ones I bought.

The lineup on this album is great. Lots of great players, especially those from King Crimson and Dream Theater. While I find there are some absolutely fantastic moments on here, there are times when the music put me into a deep depression, which is not why I listen to music. If anything, the music should help heal any depression I may have.

I like that Steven Wilson has progressed his sound by incorporating some jazz elements, and trying to be heavy without relying on guitars for it; but some of this music is just gloomy and depressing, and not something I always want to put on.

However, I know this is a good album. Not as good as most people here have been raving about, but it's good anyway. If I'm in the mood for this music, it's easily a 4 star album. But as I find myself feeling down listening to some of the songs on here, I cannot give this album more than 3 stars. Sorry. I really wanted this to be a 5 star album for me.

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Send comments to darkshade (BETA) | Report this review (#581312)
Posted Saturday, December 03, 2011 | Review Permalink
2 stars YES....a new Steven Wilson album. I could not wait to hear this album, but even after listening to this album 6 times, I find myself bored. This album has its moments, but nothing I find special. Steven Wilson/Porcupine Tree albums always seem to take sometime for me to digest. Fear of a Blank Planet took me a year to finally like. I guess with more time, A Grace for Drowning, could do the same....hopefully. Leading up to this release, I guess, I got my expectation to high. I can't listen to this whole album in one sitting. One or two songs at a time, its ok. Though I still find it extremely stale. This is just one of those albums I am trying to like, but can't understand. In the end i just don't feel like spending the time to like this. Hopefully the next SW album finds what was missing in this album.

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Send comments to Prog_Rocks (BETA) | Report this review (#583455)
Posted Monday, December 05, 2011 | Review Permalink
3 stars I wanted to wait a while to review this Steven Wilson Album, I have now listened 3 times, the last time with headphones, I like the music quite a bit, But as I'm not a huge Steven Wilson fan, or Porcupine Tree for that matter, I didn't Particularly like their last album, though Fear of a Blank Planet was stellar.

The Jazz Vibe of the album described makes very little sense to me, exactly what Jazz are they describing, I hear nothing that makes me think "Jazz", maybe they are thinking fusion jazz, or something like Guitarist Bill Frisell conjours up, I get a vibe of Brian Eno's Mid 70's albums out of Grace for Drowning, I don't hear any Miles Davis circa 1959 or Duke Ellington 1942, Nothing remotely resembling what I consider Jazz, But classification really shouldn't matter, it is a Progressive rock album pure and simple.

After the third listen I am left thinking I am not digging this music all that much, I am wondering what the fuss is all about, I am also getting bored with the faceless vocals, I am sorry, but I think many of today's vocalists sound the same, they all have this low key pre-pubescent generic alternative rock style, "boring", and jut not exciting to me, I will take a blues shouter like Chris Farlowe any day over this style, The good thing is, Grace is mainly an instrumental album, the vocals always seem like they lack emotion, at the very least power, no balls at all. Ultimately I can give this music any better than 3 stars, It's not bad, but not classic, the atmospheres are interesting, but not after repeated lestens, bottom line, I am not a big fan.

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Send comments to darkprinceofjazz (BETA) | Report this review (#584042)
Posted Wednesday, December 07, 2011 | Review Permalink
Bonnek
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Prog Metal Team
4 stars It's been more then a month already since Wilson and his new gang of recruits totally blew us away in London's Shepherd's Bush. I was already very enthusiast about this album before the show, but hearing these songs in their full live glory was a revelation. The record doesn't always reach the level of intensity that some of the songs require but when played at a deafening loud volume it's a treat!

For "Grace of Drowning", Steven Wilson decided to let go of his ambivalent feelings with the Progressive Rock tag and openly indulges in his love for the dark fusion-prog approach of early Crimson and VDGG, especially on the album's masterpieces (or at least my personal favorites): 'Sectarian', 'Remainder The Black Dog', 'Track 1' and to a lesser extent also 'Raider II'. Those tracks have everything I want to hear in Prog: excitement, fluency, spontaneity, rock, surprise, interactive musicianship, intricate melodies, the works. Next to those mostly longer gems, there are also a couple of less proggy tracks ('No Part of Me', 'Index' ) where Wilson's love surfaces for electronics, pop, trip-hop and the occasional heavy guitar chord. Those tracks are the only ones that reminds of the goth-y style of the preceding 'Insurgentes'.

There are also a couple of short and peaceful tracks that balance out the intensity of the material I summed up so far, such as 'Grace For Drowning','Belle De Jour' and 'Raider Prelude'. Nice stuff. So far so good, and I wish this review could end here. But unfortunately the album also contains no less then 20 minutes of lame ballads that break the whole flow of this album. 'Deform To a Star' deforms indeed, be it into cheap sentimentalism, but it's not half as bad as the cheesy ballad-pop of 'Postcard', which sounds like a 13 a dozen Blackfield leftover. And the closing 'Like Dust I Have Cleared from My Eye' is Wilson's dullest album closer ever.

Those black holes excluded, this is a fine album full of sparkling stars, reconnecting with the essence of Prog but without sounding retro. It has that dynamic organic rock sound of the years before Prog became all gloss and polish; and at the same time it sounds entirely modern, using modern instruments and recording techniques. It's a unique approach and how it pays.

"Grace For Drowning" has become a very long album, consisting of material that ranges all the way from stellar to downright lame. My own 60 minute compilation of it is a classic! but in the 2CD format for which it was conceived it is merely excellent. Most importantly, this album offers the freely flowing creative that I missed in the tightly structured and riff-based output of Porcupine Tree in the 2000 decade. Wilson let the music flow again, offering a Prog counterpart for the kraut/space-rock he did in the 90's with PT and IEM. My personal preference still lies with the older work or with the dark songwriting of 'Insurgentes', but nevertheless this is quite brilliant as well. I'd give it 5 stars if it wasn't for those freakin' ballads.

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Send comments to Bonnek (BETA) | Report this review (#584129)
Posted Wednesday, December 07, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars In a year that saw releases from Opeth, Dream Theater, Unexpect, Neal Morse, and Devin Townsend, Steven Wilson can still turn heads when he announces a double album. In more proper terms, Grace for Drowning is actually a set of two individual albums, titled "Deform To Form A Star" and "Like Dust I Have Cleared From My Eye", packaged and sold together. These then mark the second and third solo albums for Mr. Wilson, and given how little he was involved in the writing of the most recent Blackfield album, his first real songwriting since the release of The Incident back in 2009.

It's a little strange to think of an artist as prolific as Steven Wilson taking a break from songwriting, but I imagine the rest, however short, was valuable, especially given the results on Grace for Drowning. I had originally considered reviewing the two albums separately, as they both stand alone as beautiful and unique musical statements, however there is also so much that happens between the two, that I could not do the project full justice with standalone reviews.

As a project, Grace for Drowning is painted with a stunning sound palette, rich with sweeping orchestrations, flutes, saxophones, pianos, subtle guitar tones and a large force of choral work on nearly every song, and in some instances, building the bulk of the song's melody. The Ambience of the album sweeps from dark and haunting lows, to triumphant and serene highs, and a presence of the classic progressive, psychedelic, and jazz eras.

The first disc, Deform to Form a Star, focuses more heavily on the choral aspects, with two songs (Grace for Drowning and Raider Prelude) featuring them almost exclusively, and, Raider Prelude aside, tends to be the lighter of the two discs. Remainder The Black Dog is the accessibility highlight, being the song that listeners are most likely to latch onto first, however Sectarian and Deform To Form A Star are my personal favorites.

The second disc, Like Dust I Have Cleared From My Eye, contains only 5 songs, one of them though, is the 23 minute "Raider II". It is similar to Remainder The Black Dog for it's over jazz influence, but it sums up the entire project much better, using a full range of the sound palette expressed in the rest of the disc. Index, one of the several songs to have a video recording, has a very dark and moody atmosphere, which is distinct, as most of the darker songs on Grace for Drowning tend more towards the direction of haunting.

What really brought home the cohesiveness of the album to me were the twin guitar solos that populate the title tracks of both discs. They're slow, melodic, and full of emotion. Steven Wilson has never regarded himself as a very talented guitarist, or a very talented vocalist, and truth be told, he does not have the massive range or technical ability as some of his peers within the progressive genre. He is however, the premier innovative songwriter, and a master of ambiance and sonic atmosphere, and all of this are on full display.

This album is a skillful summation of the proper influence of the classic era of progressive music, full of modern flourishes and masterful presentation. AOTY considerations go without saying here, as I can find no major faults, and indeed, it's been an extremely difficult album to put down since it's release

___

Dagg's rating: 4.75/5

~Read this and more at www.blackwindmetal.com

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Send comments to Daggor (BETA) | Report this review (#584835)
Posted Thursday, December 08, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars While being a big admirer of Steven Wilson's previous work with Porcupine Tree, I just cannot seem to connect with this album. After reading all the extremely positive reviews on this site for this album I really tried to like it and to find what others seem to have found with it. So I gave it at least 10 spins but I honestly could not find many memorable passages. Stand out tracks are clearly "Deform to form a Star" and "Raiders II". Otherwise the album drags on quite a bit without any real highlights. About 50% of this release bores me to death.

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Send comments to Mexx (BETA) | Report this review (#591930)
Posted Tuesday, December 20, 2011 | Review Permalink
2 stars Let me start this review by saying that I am a Progressive Metal lover, who tries to get outside his comfort zone on a fairly regular basis, and occasionally finds things he really likes in other sub-genres. This is NOT one of them. I am, obviously, a Dream Theater fan, but not so obviously a fan of Porcupine Tree. I had never listened to any of the solo albums by Steven Wilson before this album. But I watched as it hovered at or near 1st place on ProgArchives' list of top 2011 albums, and received 5 star rating after 5 star rating. Then I found out that Jordan Rudess played on the album, and found out that there was quite an impressive list of other artists guest starring on the album. I got excited - very excited after I saw some of the track lengths! Yes, I admit, I'm a sucker for epic-lengthers - I feel that sometimes even the most boring of composers is forced to be interesting when composing a lengthy piece. So I picked up the album, and sat on the edge of my seat as I listened. And as I listened I felt...nothing. I felt completely bored, and it wasn't because I wasn't paying attention. On the contrary, I was looking for something good because I had believed there would be something there! I began to question "what is it that is so special about this album that it was raved about so much?!" Now, please understand this was my first reaction, and I have found many times that with artists or albums that I have had this reaction to, I have later on heard a piece by the same artist that I did like, and gone back to their old works and found that I highly enjoyed them as well. So perhaps there is a happy ending to this story...nope, sorry, not gonna get that here. I have two very good friends who are also big Progressive Rock fans. Our local NPR station does a "DJ For an Hour" promotion in order to raise money, and my two friends and I have started a tradition of doing a Progressive Rock Hour every year on this station. In 2011, we decided to do a show of just songs from albums that were released in 2011. We did this show in early February of 2012, so we had all year to pick from what we felt were the best albums of 2011. One of my two friends suggested that we pick a song from Steven Wilson's album. "Well," I thought, "I didn't like it the first time, but there it is, hovering at the top of ProgArchives' top 100 of the year 2011, and now my friend thinks it is 'radio show worthy'...so maybe I was wrong." So I gave the album a few more listens over the course of a few months, trying desperately to find something I liked. When it came time to pick our setlist for the radio show, I told my friend that I really didn't find this album to be anything special at all, and in fact found it to be completely boring. Our other friend who was involved in the show concurred. Then it came out that even the friend who had suggested we play a song from this album didn't really like it all that much. So...I ask you who are on the internet: WHY is this album worthy of 5 star ratings from so many people? My only theories have to do with the "celebrity appearances" and fan-boyism. THIS. ALBUM. IS. BORING. I believe Progressive Rock is a genre that is by nature supposed to be interesting. This album is not. It sounds like the narcissistic, egotistical musical ramblings of an artsy fartsy college music major, not a collection of well composed musical pieces like a Progressive Rock album should be.

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Send comments to dtguitarfan (BETA) | Report this review (#594975)
Posted Friday, December 23, 2011 | Review Permalink
Starhammer
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars The 22nd Century Schizoid Man...

Whilst you might not personally agree that Grace for Drowning is the best album of 2011, it has certainly received its fair share of acclaim, and even entered the Prog Archives "all time top ten" for a brief period. But like many of these high flying releases it can be quite easy to jump on the five star bandwagon, or just as easy to award an abnormally low score if it didn't live up to stratospheric expectations. Ignoring the hype and staying objective is perhaps the hardest thing to do when reviewing an album such as this, but I will try!

Grace for Drowning is part of a miniature series of albums which includes Opeth's 'Heritage' and the 'Storm Corrosion' collaboration between Wilson and Akerfeldt due for release in 2012. These albums cast a retrospect on the early '70s prog bands which influenced both artists. Whereas 'Heritage' certainly sounds like a throwback, I feel that Grace for Drowning is the greater achievement in terms of fusing the old with the new. It certainly sounds more up to date, but don't be mislead into thinking it's just a variation on Porcupine Tree, that it isn't.

There is no doubt in my mind that Grace for Drowning ranks amongst Steven Wilson's very finest works. The quality of songwriting remains excellent throughout, whilst capturing a wide range of styles. My two personal favourites sit side-by-side on the tracklist, and demonstrate perfectly the album's musical opposition. The instrumental Sectarian has signatures both fragile and heavy, with an aura of King Crimson about it. Occasionally threatening the line between abstract and avant garde, it would not sound at all out of place on the Sin City soundtrack. In contrast, Deform to Form a Star strikes the perfect balance between progressive flourishes, with a more pop-orientated approach.

After a short run of lighter songs we are then given a hint that something wicked this way comes with the ominous Raider Prelude. The first disc then comes to a close with another brilliant composition in the form of Remainder the Black Dog.

The second disc is just as eclectic. Ranging from the lyrically twisted Index, (which reminds me of Peter Gabriel's "Intruder") to the uplifting, mesmeric closing track, Like Dust I Have Cleared From My Eye. These variations don't just exist between individual tracks as the tripolar Track One demonstrates. It kicks off with a Beatles influenced intro, before segueing into another reminder of dark times ahead, then finishes with a guitar driven finale comparable to Pat Metheny or Apostolis Anthimos.

And what has it all been building up to? The album's centrepiece, Raider II. Opening with the single most sinister piece of music I have ever heard, it then drags you kicking and screaming down an endless tunnel of jazz rock madness.

When I think of the word raider I think of danger, as well as debris and destruction, and this twenty minute monster certainly conjures up those sort of images. But it is also the album's most challenging 'moment', and it wasn't so long ago that I was considering this the deciding factor in awarding Grace for Drowning a mere four stars. Whilst my penchant for Raider II has certainly grown with time, I still maintain that it's far from flawless. For the first couple of listens the only thing that really piqued my interest was its 'gothic' hook, but even that just sounds like a recycled segment of Sectarian. After further exploration I found the abstract meanderings to be more rewarding, but still I have a problem with the instrumentation. I'm in no way adverse to the use of flute in prog, but here I think it's been seriously overdone. Ten minutes into the track I'm left asking myself, what's actually happened so far? And the resounding response is, not a lot.

For me, Raider II only really picks up again in the last five minutes by bringing back that feeling of sheer terror, whilst the extensive mid-section soloing causes a bit of a lull in the progression of the album. There can be no denying that the artistic intent is there, I'm just torn between deciding whether Raider II really is as deep as it is dark, or just as lengthy misfire.

But, outcome of this internal debate aside, Grace for Drowning does have one truly low point. That point is Postcard. A point of pointlessness. Why does it even exist?! Four and a half minutes of pure boredom. The melancholic pop thing had already been used to great effect on the previous two tracks, but why on earth do we need another? And this time without even the slightest morsel of ingenuity.

The Verdict: Perfect? Not quite. Essential? Most likely. Modern masterpiece? Only time will tell.

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Send comments to Starhammer (BETA) | Report this review (#599298)
Posted Friday, December 30, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars In 2011, Steven Wilson released Grace for Drowning, his second solo album apart from his main band, Porcupine Tree, or his various other side projects. Technically, this album is a double album, with the first album being called Deform to Form a Star, and the second album being called Like Dust I Have Cleared from My Eyes. This is my first Wilson solo album, though I do own and enjoy 3 Porcupine Tree albums. It can be easily said that Grace for Drowning is a much different album than anything composed by Porcupine Tree.

It must be noted that this album has an eclectic sound, with many different sounding songs. There a few 2 minute introduction tracks, starting each CD. These tracks are cinematic and set a good mood. The title track, Grace for Drowning, features a simple, wordless vocal melody over piano. So far, so good.

The next track is a favorite of mine, Sectarian. It starts to show how this album is different from any Porcupine Tree album. Featuring jazzy saxophone and drumming, this album recalls Lizard by King Crimson. Not surprising, considering Wilson recently remixed that album with Robert Fripp.

The title track of the first CD, Deform to Form a Star, is the first of a couple poppier tracks. It features a very catchy chorus and is a another favorite of mine.

No Part of Me shows Wilson using electronic beats and repetitiveness. Not an anomaly, electronic elements show up more later in the album. This track uses those elements well and is a fine song.

Postcard is another "pop" song. Featuring a repetitive piano riff and a fine climax with much mellotron, this is another fine song, though a little too repetitive in my mind to be fantastic.

The next song is a short, cinematic song, named Raider Prelude. I don't see how much connection it has to the Raider II on the following CD, but it holds its own.

Remainder the Black Dog is an interesting piece. Built off a piano riff that grows into a dark, jazzy number. One of the album's longer cuts, and an interesting one at that.

The next CD, Like Dust I Have Cleared from My Eyes, starts off with Belle de Jour, another short number. It sets a good mood for the remaining songs.

Index is Grace for Drowning's second electronic track. With programmed beats and a dark lyrical theme of a pack rat, it is dark and creepy. I found this track to be one of the album's worst at first. It has grown on me, though it is one of the album's weaker tracks.

Track One is a multifaceted track, despite being barely over 4 minutes in length. It starts in a poppy vein but transitions into a darker mood. A good track, this one is.

The next song is one that grabs the prog listener's eye. Raider II is a 20+ minute track, 23:21 to be exact. For me at least, such a long track makes me excited and expectant, for usually tracks of that length are the cream of their albums. This track, however, is not the finest off this album in my mind. It starts very quietly, with a vocal melody that reminds me of Cirkus from King Crimson's Lizard. It progresses into various jazzy sections, both loud and soft, with heavy mellotron, flute, saxophone, and guitar all playing major roles. All in all, this track is good, but takes a while to grow in your mind. It is a good track, but not fantastic.

The album closes with this CD's title track, Like Dust I Have Cleared from My Eyes. It is another poppy track, with a catchy chorus. It ends with a prolonged ambient section, which is a little overlong in my opinion.

All in all, this is a strong album, though not the masterpiece that some have touted it as. I've found in my exploration of Steven Wilson's main project, Porcupine Tree, that each album has its share of masterpiece material and some material, while not horrible, that is just good. I would rate this 4 stars out of 5. Go out and give this a listen!

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Send comments to MoodyRush (BETA) | Report this review (#600727)
Posted Saturday, December 31, 2011 | Review Permalink
Anthony H.
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars Steven Wilson: Grace for Drowning [2011]

Rating: 6/10

Anybody who has been paying even the slightest bit of attention to recent happenings in the world of progressive music knows that Steven Wilson's second solo album Grace for Drowning has been accruing copious amounts of awestruck praise. Certain technological problems during late 2011 prevented me from acquiring any new music during that period. As a result, I watched the overwhelmingly positive reviews pile up, with my excitement increasing along with them. When I was finally able to procure the album, I began listening with quiet concentration and bated breath; after all, hype is difficult to ignore. I realized around halfway through that I was... underwhelmed. I felt the same way when the album concluded, and the feeling unfortunately remains after multiple listening sessions.

I can assure you that my disappointment with this album is sincere. I am not trying to go against the grain, nor am I being especially critical of the album in an attempt to disprove and/or contradict the hype. I wanted to love Grace for Drowning; I wanted the praise to be true. Unfortunately, the album failed to live up my expectations. I understand why so many people are lauding it; Wilson put his heart and soul into this recording, and it comes through in the music. However, there are some glaring flaws here that cannot be ignored.

Grace for Drowning is an inconsistent piece of work. Wilson has always been an eclectic artist; he takes influence from various different styles and genres and amalgamates them into his own unique sound. This 80-minute double album is stylistically split: on one hand, we have darkly experimental Crimsonian jazz-rock; on the other, dull electronic alt-rock with unexciting musicianship and manufactured atmosphere. A few instrumental interludes tie these two styles together, but the album still sounds disjointed. The result is a long collection of music that doesn't seem to know exactly what it wants to do.

The short title track opens the album on a mellow note with pleasant soft piano and crooning. "Sectarian" is a heavy-hitting instrumental with fantastic Mellotron and dexterous drumming. This is a fantastic piece of Crimsonian progressive-rock. "Deform to Form a Star" may be one of my favorite Wilson tracks ever. His vocals are in prime form here, and his guitar soloing pines for 1970s David Gilmour. "No Part of Me" is where things begin to go south. This is a lame pseudo-electronic piece of proggified trip-hop that is only slightly saved by the intense instrumental conclusion. "Postcard" is the poppiest track here. Wilson has made plenty of melancholy alt-rock like this before, and I have never particularly cared for it. The depressive lyrics are insipid; Wilson sings them with sincerity, but they come across as whiny. Perhaps I shouldn't so harshly criticize something so personal, but I am simply being honest about my impressions. "Raider Prelude" is a useless instrumental that sounds like the soundtrack to a cheap fantasy videogame. Fortunately, this lull is abated with the excellent "Remainder the Black Dog." The King Crimson influence returns on this piece of dark jazz-rock. Some fantastic sax and flute work shows up here, as well.

The second disc opens with "Belle Du Jour", a short acoustic guitar intro. This track works well, unlike the other atmospheric pieces on the album. "Index" is another electronic track. It has a cool dark atmosphere, but it utterly fails on every other level. "Track One" feels like an underdeveloped mishmash of ideas. The excellent guitar solo isn't even enough to make this song capture my attention. The epic "Raider II" is the centerpiece of the album. Fortunately, it is also the highlight. It reminds me of King Crimson's "Lizard": a 23-minute odyssey of dark, heavy jazz-rock with multiple atmospheric passages. This track is a definite winner, constituting one of my favorite Wilson pieces. The album concludes with "Like Dust I Have Cleared From My Eye." This is an effective closer; Wilson's voice and guitar playing both sound great. However, an unnecessary ambient section is tacked on at the end, diluting the song's power.

I have given Grace for Drowning plenty of opportunities to grow on me, but it still fails to live up to the hype. It breaks my heart to give this such a lukewarm rating, because there is some awesome material to be found here. Unfortunately, I need to sift through the flotsam to find it. I mean no disrespect to Steven Wilson, and I'm glad that this album has been so well-received. However, I feel that it would have benefited from being cut in half. If this album speaks to you, if it moves you, it connects with you, than I'm happy. Don't let anything I say offend or upset you. For me, however, Grace for Drowning is very good album, but nothing more.

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Send comments to Anthony H. (BETA) | Report this review (#600823)
Posted Sunday, January 01, 2012 | Review Permalink
4 stars Influences, imitations, and similarities be damned, this album is a psycho-sonic journey with few rivals in this 21st century. The problems are the length--i.e., the time necessary to immerse oneself into this music (and total immersion is where it gains its biggest impact) is considerable--the seldom-exciting vocals, the rather banal, straightforward lyrics, and the often felt 'disagreement' or disappointment I had/have with Steven's unexpected shift in music mode or mood or his choice of which instrument he chooses to introduce next. "Odd," I found myself thinking time and time again--usually two or three times per song. This being said, I do have a feeling that this album will come out in the long run being regarded as a great if not classic album of progressive music. It's just so intense and its power lies totally in its subtleties--of which the whole thing is: one big subtlety--except when he pops out from behind a closed door in one of those dark rooms of his mind to try to scare the [&*!#] out of you. Don't get me wrong: There is great beauty here; but it's more of the kind of beauty that people appreciate through the works of Edgar Allan Poe (sans Poe's poetic command of the English language--though Steven's music may be just as expressive as Poe's poetry). As for the fan favorite, "Raider II": I've never been a fan of "Lizard"; I am no fan of "Raider II."

Five star songs: "Deform to Form a Star" and "No Part of Me."

Four star songs: "Grace for Drowning," "Sectarian," "Raider Prelude," "Remainder the Black Dog," "Belle de Jour," "Index," "Track One," and "Like Dust I Have Cleared from My Eye."

Three star songs: "Postcard" and "Raider II."

Overall rating: 3.5 stars rated up for incredible production, sound, and effort.

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Send comments to BrufordFreak (BETA) | Report this review (#605416)
Posted Saturday, January 07, 2012 | Review Permalink
Marty McFly
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Errors and Omissions Team
3 stars And so it's here, arguably the most anticipated album for 2011 (certainly the one most reviewed) and, as it is with Steven Wilson, album bringing big fan-base with it. The funny thing is that the more positive reviews were piling for this album, the less I was anticipating it.

However, it doesn't matter much, because the album was completely different than I was expecting it to be. There is still SW signature sound, something present on all albums he was present for last 10 years (possibly more), even though Sectarian quite shocked and confused me a bit, but after this, we are getting the usual mix of symphonic, or atmospheric music dominated by Wilson's signature vocals.

I was trying to make a review few times, but always failed. This time ? I'll just keep it this short. What more is there to say, fans will be pleased, haters will still hate (indeed, SW has this polarizing effect on people) and Steven will keep on doing music that slightly progresses more, but what's more important is that it is consistent (well not if you compare his first projects to his last, but a few following releases are of very similar sounds, talking about Porcupine Tree here). The problem I have with this album is its length. For these 82 minutes, there have to be fillers (and not a few of them), together with certain parts that are uninteresting to me, which are counterweighted by moments of clarity and perfection, I have to give - you know, poor man's rating.

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Send comments to Marty McFly (BETA) | Report this review (#607630)
Posted Wednesday, January 11, 2012 | Review Permalink
4 stars 4.5 stars, really!

I hated Insurgentes. The repetition, the white noise, the boring progressions repeated over and over and over and over again (I know, that's the same as repetition, but I'm trying to drive the point home here), the guitar solos that sounded like a kid still learning how to play guitar with cheap equipment. As much as I love Porcupine Tree and really wanted to like that album, no amount of plays has been able to change my view of it. So I was understandably skeptical about this album. The more I read about it, however, the more intrigued I became. I also have to admit that I was very curious to hear what a 23 minute piece of Wilson's would sound like. But I didn't go into this with high expectations, since the last couple Porcupine Tree albums were not that great (though I still much prefer The Incident to Fear Of A Blank Planet) and for my reaction to the previous solo album.

I was frankly blown away by this current solo release, though it took a good three listens to feel that. The Lizard/Islands vibe is quite strong (King Crimson early albums, in case you don't know......if you don't then you should :-) No doubt his recent re-mastering work on those albums has something to do with this. I think Theo Travis,though, has a lot to do with this as well, with his sax and flute all over this album (clarinet as well). He is really the star of this album, so if you are looking for guitar solos, you won't really find them here. With the exception of the very good one on the last track, of course.

For the most part, we do get some things we normally expect from Wilson; low key vocals, dismal lyrics, a couple songs that could have easily fit on a Porcupine Tree album. Specifically Deform To Form A Star, Postcard, Index and Like Dust I Have Cleared From My Eye. These are all beautiful songs, even if they are really nothing new, though the last in that list has some interesting ambiance in the last half that some people apparently don't appreciate, but I think is wonderful and a great way to end the album. The shorter, more atmospheric pieces like the title track and Raider Prelude are, I think, perfect linking pieces even if at first they seem inconsequential.

The main thing that I love about this album is the dynamics. The incredibly soft and quiet sections that are suddenly shattered by a loud blasting section. This is not annoying, this is how albums used to be made by prog bands, especially Crimson. The whole vibe of this album is very retro, while not actually sounding like a "typical" retro prog album. This is probably because Wilson does not use Yes, Genesis, or ELP as touchstones, but King Crimson and, to a lesser extent Van der Graaf Generator (as well as some more avant acts). Still though, songs like Index and Postcard have a very modern sound.

The best thing about this album for me though, is Raider II. A magnificent track that seems like an homage to early King Crimson, without every seeming like it's trying to copy them. I guess because this is not normal in modern prog to hear, it just seems wonderful to me. The disjointedness of it is, I think, entirely intentional and serves the piece quite well. From the heavy fuzz bass to the manic flute, this is just a work of pure genius. Remainder the Black Dog is sort of a mini version of this, with a more streamlined structure and less dynamics, leaning more towards the heavy end. But heavy on this album should again be taken as 70's Crimson heavy, and not the heavy of recent Porcupine Tree albums (that border on metal at times). I could go into great detail on every track really, but suffice to say they all have something to impart to the listener and they all touch on nostalgia without ever wallowing in it.

The performances are stellar, with the drummer really impressing me. I understand he is a jazz guy and I give him credit for mixing such a 70's aesthetic with more modern styles, all on one album. At times the resemblance to the great Mike Giles is uncanny.

The production on this album is so warm and analog sounding, yet still maintains the highest quality Wilson is known for. A brilliant mix of old and new techniques. I can't say enough good things about the sounds on this album and how they are presented.

If I had to make one complaint, it would be that Wilson's vocals seem even more mellow and subdued than usual. He has been improving them with each release over the years, and it's a little odd that on such a magnificent album he would choose to understate them so much (a solo album, no less). This, however, is a minor complaint at most, and in many places the vocal approach is perfect for the material.

This is easily, in my view, Wilson's finest work to date. I won't give an album this new 5 stars, as I just don't think that can be justified for such a new album. In a few years, if it still connects with me like it does now, after more than a dozen listens, then I'll round up to 5. For now, I'll round down to 4, but I think this is an essential modern prog album and the best thing Wilson has ever done.

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Send comments to infandous (BETA) | Report this review (#607816)
Posted Thursday, January 12, 2012 | Review Permalink
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.

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Send comments to m2thek (BETA) | Report this review (#610372)
Posted Sunday, January 15, 2012 | Review Permalink
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.

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Send comments to EatThatPhonebook (BETA) | Report this review (#617247)
Posted Monday, January 23, 2012 | Review Permalink
AtomicCrimsonRush
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Symphonic Team
5 stars Wilson's 5 star masterpiece has mesmirising musical beauty and a dark, chilling tale of desolation.

"Grace For Drowning" is a 2 CD magnum opus with an astonishing array of musicians, many of legendary status, and Steven Wilson is at his best in terms of compositions, musicality and overall concept. He is able to generate some of the most compelling music of his career, helped by special guest virtuosos and a cinematic symphony orchestra, and at the end of the album one is left with an overwhelming sense that they have heard something very special; transcending music itself it seems to creep into the system and you cannot get it out. I can never forget 'Index' for one track. This is an epiphany of Steven Wilson's career. Wilson stated in an interview that the album tried to capture the "spirit of psychedelia to create "journeys in sound" I guess you could call them. So without being retro, my album is a kind of homage to that spirit. There's everything from Morricone-esque film themes to choral music to piano ballads to a 23 minute progressive jazz-inspired piece" (gracefordrowning.com). Critics have mixed reviews, one stating that the work is an "emotional journey from sadness through anger to acceptance." On every level, this is a powerful conceptual album that will really impact a listener if they allow themselves to be drawn into this haunting tale of a man who goes off the deep end and drowns in his misery, turning him into a sociopath. Another interpretation, the one that I wish to adopt, is that the man experiences extreme loss and it drives him over the precipice where he becomes a sadistic remorseless killer; he has many names to match his multiple personas such as Black Dog, Collector, Raider, the Butcher. Or it could just be an allegory of a sociopath drowning in misery and manic depression, your move.

The videos that are available with the special edition are directed by master of the macabre Lasse Hoile who revels in twisted Gothic disturbia, such as Opeth or repellent videos for Katatonia, but the imagery on this CD package adds to the full sensory experience and seem to concur with the serial killer concept. We see images of Wilson in darkened shadows with a skull flashing on his visage; the cinema verite of the darker self. There are images of a man wandering a lonely beach, a burning bush, an owl flying in to the hands of a goat masked wraith, perhaps death personified, and a man crawling on his belly towards a creek, ropes bind the man and he metamorphosis into a dark creature, perhaps the moment when the protagonist loses his mind, then he buries a heart in the soil, which could be literal or a metaphor of the man burying his cold emotions. A striking image of dead arms lying in a forest, is followed by Wilson staring up into the sun through the trees. All the characters gathering at the amphitheatre is followed by death walking to a dead tree, and the man's face is in bandages with the words "did you arrive at the place that you came from?" appearing on it. In other videos, the most unsettling, we see Wilson seated in a catatonic state with mannequins, the collector at work, and there are images of spiders, insects, bugs, a ghoulish collection. The killer then chops the limbs off the mannequins and burns the remains, though we could take that to mean the killer is collecting real limbs and discarding the rest of the victim by immolation. Key flashed images of a girl clawing at a window, and then her hands bound, are the clincher, and most potent, a girl being dragged away screaming by an unseen assailant into the shadows. In any case, here is how I heard the music after several listens.

'Grace For Drowning' has very graceful piano by Jordan Rudess and gentle vocal intonation to start proceedings to this oeuvre. 'Sectarian' begins quietly with a steady beat, and reverb guitar phrases, and then locks into a strong rhythm helped by Nic France's percussion accents and the keyboard motifs of Steve Wilson. The atmosphere is esoteric augmented by choral vocals and sudden outbursts of key pads and loud guitar. The keyboard chimes are beautiful, played with virtuoso skill by Wilson and these are embellished by Theo Davis' exceptional soprano sax and mesmirising clarinet by Ben Castle.

'Deform To Form A Star' begins with dreamy piano by Rudess. Wilson finally begins to sing and his voice is as flowing and crystalline as usual; "I learn how to smile, horses shadows, rain on stone." It seems like a collection of happy memories and introduces the protagonist forcing smiles and remembering better times. It could almost be the disembodied thoughts of a suicide victim, "the way we recoil return to the soil." The concept will open up like a flower as the album progresses. There is more clarinet from Travis, and the bass is well executed by Tony Levin. At this point on the album a remarkable tranquil atmosphere has been created. It is unlike Porcupine Tree with its bursts of metal guitar, instead Wilson's solo material is emotionally charged and melancholy. The serenity really resonates with me and I am entranced by the spellbinding beauty of the clarinets playing off against Wilson's chiming keyboard melodies.

On 'No Part Of Me' the musicianship is incredible, featuring acoustics by Pat Mastelotto, U8 touch guitar by Markus Reuter, Warr guitar and bass by Trey Gunn, and to cap it off a stirring score by the London Session Orchestra, arranged and conducted by the legendary Dave Stewart. The lyrics are poetic beauty though hold a dark concept of the sociopath struggling to tread water; "I feel worn out, there's no point drinking, there when life slows right down, and holds you up above the waterline, so sleep will never come." There is a heavier section that follows with very low distortion, and this is augmented by a scintillating saxophone solo by Travis, perhaps one of the most powerful passages of music on the album.

'Postcard' follows, dominated by the gentle vocals of Wilson mixed to the front. The protagonist is still feeling miserable and trying to make sense of his life after losing his loved one and consequently the will to live; "I'm the one you always seem to read about, The fire inside my eyes has long gone out, There's nothing left for me to say or do, 'Cause all that matters disappeared when I lost you." The music swells to a melancholy choir by Synergy and soulful string by the London Session Orchestra. The composition is moving with mesmirising and beautiful, powerfully arranged orchestration.

The angelic choral vocals continue in the intro of 'Raider Prelude' and it is rather a haunting atmosphere, very dark with the low bass drones. 'Remainder The Black Dog' ends the first CD with a killer track and the longest at this point at 9 ½ minutes. The guitars on this are stunning and that is no surprise as the man behind them is the one and only Steve Hackett. Amazing to hear him on this album, and his presence makes a huge difference naturally. Multi instrumentalist Travis shines on woodwind playing flute, and clarinet, but he is especially exceptional here on sax. Soon the rhythm builds to a fast tempo and Hackett's brilliant guitar screams penetrate the wall of sound. There is an odd meter generated by Nick Beggs' bassline, and Nic France's drumming. This is a definitive moment on the album with stellar virtuosity and incredible emotional resonance.

CD 2 begins with 'Belle De Jour', with a nylon acoustic finger picking style from Wilson. The orchestra joins adding a lush atmosphere to the instrumental. The autoharp sounds angelic and the music reminded me of Pink Floyd. This is followed by 'Index', beginning with a low buzzsaw synth, and Wilson's estranged vocals. The story has developed now with the protagonist becoming obsessive compulsive and with dangerous intentions; "I'm a collector and I've always been misunderstood, I like the things that people always seem to overlook, I gather up and catalog it in a book I wrote, There's so much now that I forget if I don't make a note." The collector is becoming deranged in his thoughts though and taking his obsession one step further. I actually read somewhere that the song is about a serial killer who "collects" parts of his victims and keeps them as trophies and this makes sense, especially congruent with the video clip. The lyrics seem to point to this too "It isn't easy being me, it's kind of lonely work, my obligation to collecting is my only thirst." This is the thing that keeps him going but it seems he has regressed into the darkest recesses of human depravity. The 'index' of the title of course could mean that the collector is simply cataloguing his grim collection with an index of parts. It could also have the grim double meaning that one of his victims is about to have her index finger excised as part of this collection. Or have I seen too many serial killer movies? Think "Saw", "Se7en", or "Reanimator" for a start. This song can also easily be taken as a homage to collectors who hoard things others throw away, of which I am one of them, so this song was a little too close to home.

'Track One' features gorgeous acoustic and lead guitar tones like ribbons of gold adding to an atmosphere of solitude and desperate melancholy. This transition leads to the colossal jazz fusion piece.

'Raider II' is a 23 minute epic in the same vein as the 23 minutes of yesteryear that used to fill a whole side of vinyl. Wilson is clearly influenced by early King Crimson (he was working on the remaster of the album at the time). The musicians on this include Theo Travix on woodwind again, Jordan Rudess on piano and Mike Outram on guitar with Sand Snowman playing acoustic. All is accompanied by the amazing Synergy choir and of course Wilson's dexterity on instruments and vocals. The mammoth opus begins with low downbeat keyboard tones. A very sinister, ominous feel is created, as Wilson's phased vocals gently breathe out; "A fist will make you understand intention, to raise alarm is underhand, so I cut off the phone, I bind you up with tape and catch some TV." So the killer is now with his victim and awaiting the right moment to collect her parts. The song gets very creepy with King Crimson sax, as the serial killer is now at large and the police are on the hunt. Their search for the protagonist leads them to the scene of the crime and they conduct forensic investigation or autopsy and check "for fibres in the gaps between the teeth" and they are fingerprinting and dusting the whole area while the apartment is ransacked, "Check the fingerprints, go through the trash." Or is this the mind of the killer who is trying to reason out his obsessive cruel behaviour, "Maybe I just wanted some attention, Compulsion seeks its own way in rejection of the light", and he implies that he is about to end the life of his helpless victim in order to feed his insatiable fetish, "Every story needs to have an ending, we might as well give up all this pretending and clear the air." It is a terrifying notion but the album really transfixes with such lyrics and it is really open to interpretation.

Musically there is a lot going on. Mikael Akerfeldt enters the studio here and growls some incoherencies. The flute is Ian Anderson at his best, and that sax by Jaxon is Van der Graaf Generator back to form. Oh wait, I forgot this is Steve Wilson's album, got lost there for a moment in all this glorious music. Back to the story, is the whole thing in the protagonist's mind, is he fantasising, or is he really a sadistic killer? The lyrics are purposely vague and nothing is really given away as is the case with most Porcupine Tree material. The puzzle of the jigsaw can be solved piece by piece with the elaborate CD booklet, artwork, and videos of course. But I prefer to let the music do the explaining.

This chilling scenario is followed up by gorgeous flute from Theo Travis and organic swathes of keyboards envelop the rhythm of bass and drum. After a surge of electrifying musicianship, and a low groaning electrosynth noise, the track settles into an ethereal passage of eerie effects over grim silence. The choir is ghostly, reminding me of a Hammer horror movie from the 70s, and Rudess' piano is patient and unsettling. After a lengthy build up towards a disturbing conclusion, flute warbles with a very pretty melody, like a songbird breaking through the flames to escape. The stark vocals return and we barely hear; "A plague inside your home, I'm Raider, Defiling all you own, Raider". It seems that the killer is now finished his demented task and is warning us that we could be next. He is swallowed up in his own depressive delusional state and is indeed the "butcher and his prose". The music echoes the dark content with some sporadic dissonant sax blasts over an ascending staircase of guitar, keys and percussion clashes in 8 chords. The instruments compete wildly and suddenly go into an elongated frenzy to end this masterpiece. The chaotic effect defines insanity and the killers mind is collapsing; signified by a grinding effect. The soundscape is other worldly and alienating appropriately to echo the deranged mind of the protagonist. A piece of jazz guitar over a crawling bassline is followed by violining guitar swells to maintain a very creepy atmosphere at the end.

'Like Dust I Have Cleared From My Eye' is an acoustic ballad, and the lyrics continue to try and wrap this opus up with some sort of conclusion. The lyrics seem to point that the killer is awaiting capture which is inevitable; "it won't be long now, til they're reeling you in, the same situation, the same disappointment you bring, so I hope you're happy, with the impression you made." It is too late now to change anything and the man "in denial" is ultimately doomed. "You're lost to me, like dust I have cleared from my eye, your words have no meaning", implies that all is lost as far as the protagonist is concerned, but who is speaking here, the killer, the victim or other? In any case, the shimmering organ is wonderful, and it brings the album back to the beauty that it started with. There are fantastic harmonies on the repeated motif; "Breathe in now, breathe out now." Is this to remind the subject that life still goes on and we just have to keep breathing and go on despite the rejection or pain that comes? Has the whole thing been a dream or nightmare? Or is the killer now wracked in guilt by his atrocities? Perhaps all and neither, the music is the main drawcard on this album and it ends with some fine musicianship, mostly played by Wilson on this last track. The final passage of music is Pink Floyd type guitar and an ambient keyboard shimmering and then a spacey texture fading, like the protagonist's life, fading to dust.

Nothing more to say about after all this exhaustive analysing. Masterpiece sums it up.

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Send comments to AtomicCrimsonRush (BETA) | Report this review (#617445)
Posted Tuesday, January 24, 2012 | Review Permalink
3 stars I really respect Steven Wilson, his work as a producer and sound engineer remixing classic albums like Tull's Aqualung and KC's In The Court Of The Crimson King, Red and the (I hope) upcoming Larks' Tongues In Aspic with a 'fan' and even somewhat audiophile approach is something I'm very grateful he has done, specially regarding these records' status among their lovers and the amount of criticism and hatred a perceived failure when acknowledging these works causes most of the time. But as a musician, he has always failed to convince me, no matter how much I tried to give myself time to listen to his works with Porcupine Tree, solo and the side projects.

Grace For Drowning has been much praised almost as soon as it came out, and I acquired my copy of it since that time. From then on, I have been giving many chances, yet, somehow, nothing ever strikes me as something I particularly like a lot, a part here, a song there and that's about it. Sure, everything is very well written, with a lot of care taken and even the production, a thing that has always suffered in the past and carries on suffering even more in the present, is stellar, crystal clear, perfect, however, the whole falls short and I'm left wondering if I'm really engaged in active listening.

Obviously I am, since I can remember it's passages, but during the course of this double album, the only part I really 'get' is Wilson's love for his favourite bands, and this is what spoils it for me: sometimes it sounds he is simply trying to bring Lizard or any other prog record he has a fascination for into the environment he would like to work with, emulating them all the way and forgetting to be himself, whatever his ways are. Another issue, in my view, is Steve Wilson's voice: I complain about it in the same way I complain about the voices of Camel's members, it lacks punch, it lacks dynamics, it lacks intonation, sometimes, dare I say, it sounds even too polite, almost as if he didn't want to offend anybody ear canals. The lyrics don't help as well, sometimes they are too pretensious (as much as I hate to use this word) and sometimes they sound too simplistic, it is as if the middle ground was difficult to reach, this is mostly evident on "Deform To Form A Star".

I'm very much into "Dark Prog", not surprisingly the only passages (not songs, mind you) from Grace For Drowning I really like are to be found within this context, most specially on "The Sectarian", but even then, sometimes it seems to run for too long or ending with no real climax.

Grace For Drowning is a good record, but it didn't deserve the hype it received. Maybe it's because it has so many talented special guests, maybe it's because Wilson is a well-known prog lover and maybe it's because he's really talented, all of the previous is true, yet, Grace For Drowning is not, for me, a masterpiece.

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Send comments to JackFloyd (BETA) | Report this review (#628817)
Posted Wednesday, February 08, 2012 | Review Permalink
Negoba
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.

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Send comments to Negoba (BETA) | Report this review (#636988)
Posted Tuesday, February 21, 2012 | Review Permalink
5 stars I bought the cd and found it very interesting. is very listenable even though in many places I have found very anxious. steven wilson remains a very inspired singer for his solo project too. musicians who participated in this collaboration were very complete presenting various ideas that are very different points of a congiunsione each other. maliconia, joy, anxiety, peace of mind. The tracks are very different from each other thus avoiding repetition. what about ... WELL DONE STEVEN We hope that the next work with Porcupine Tree is not business as final, where they have gone a bit 'off the track (in my opinion)

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Send comments to Aenima 2112 (BETA) | Report this review (#674584)
Posted Thursday, March 22, 2012 | Review Permalink
Warthur
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Drowning in what? Drowning in the King Crimson back catalogue, it sounds like! The process of adding his skilled hand to the latest round of King Crimson remasters seems to have rubbed off on Steven Wilson, because on this double solo album he seems to reference the driving, heavy sound of their mid-1970s period - plus the gentler symphonic side they showed from the debut up to Islands - more than any of the other golden age of prog touchstones he revisits. Not that this is a retro-prog affair by any means - compositions like Index are pure, 100% 21st Century Wilson, man - but there's more of an overt updating and refreshing of classic 70s prog stylings here than on Wilson's work with Porcupine Tree. Overall, a very satisfying double album capturing some great performances, even if it isn't quite as groundbreaking, revolutionary, or outright classic as Porcupine Tree's greatest accomplishments.

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Send comments to Warthur (BETA) | Report this review (#750966)
Posted Tuesday, May 08, 2012 | Review Permalink
5 stars Steven Wilson is without a doubt a genius. He is the leader of respected bands as No-Man, Porcupine Tree, Blackfield, Bass Communion, recently Storm Corrosion... He worked with artists like Opeth, Robert Fripp, Anathema, Marillion, Fish, OSI... His talent is recognised by many people (at least, in prog world) and an album as "Fear Of A Blank Planet", for example, (by Porcupine Tree realesed in 2007 for those who didn't know...) shows all his capacities as a musician, a songwriter and a vocalist.

Aftter remastering King Crimson classics from 1969, it's undeniable that Fripp's work had an influence on "Grace for Drowning". I think it's not an accident if Pat Mastelotto, Tony Levin and Trey Gunn all appear on this album.

The musicianship is very impressive: in addition to the artists quoted, Theo Travis (fron The Tangent, Gong and Robert Fripp) on wind instruments, impressive, reminding the great David Jackson, Mel Collins and Didier Malherbe; Nick Beggs (from Steve Hackett, Iona, Troy Donockley...) on bass and stick, inventive as never; Jordon Rudess ( from Dixie Dreggs, Dream Theater and Liquid Tension Experiment) on piano, very delicate, not trying to show his virtuosity (don't take it as an insult DT's fans!); Nic France (from David Gilmour) on drums, very precise; Steve Hackett himself (from Genesis) on some guitars; and Dave Stewart (from Khan, Egg, Hatfield and the North, National Health and Bruford) on conduction and arrangements of strings parts, bringing a new dimension to the music. Steven Wilson focused a lot on the keyboards, piano, bass and vocals work, letting less space to his electric guitar playing. But in fact, it is no so shocking, because the music is not so "guitar based".

There is something which influenced the music too. It is wrote on the sleeve: "Dedicated to my father Michael George Wilson (1938-2011) without whom..." I think this means everything: Steven Wilson was more than saddened by the loss of his father who made him discover music. That's why the atmospheres are dark...

As we start the first CD, the opening title track illustrates this perfectly. The subtile piano by Rudess and the wordless 40 tracks vocals (!) provided by Wilson, create a gloomy and mysterious environment. And this is beutifully done.

"Sectarian" is an instrumental track and could have been written during the "Lark's Tongues in Aspic"-"Red" King Crimson. In fact, the differences of musical landscapes, the angry guitar riffs, the almost free sax solo by Travis and the ending electric piano part are very "crimsonic". But there is somethng modern in this song...

"Form To Deform a Star" is a very beautiful melancholic song. It sounds more accoustic and could remind a little "I Talk To The Wind" by KC. But Steven Wilson's voice is far different from Lake's one, trying to express his sadness. There are two poignant guitar solos in this song.

"No Part Of Me" is a more experimental song. Yet it stays a very melodic tunes, far from disharmony. It features a good electric percussion work by Mastelotto, which brings a kind spatial feeling. SW's vocals sound very "atmospheric" totally in the mood of the song. The vocals part ends with a bass solo by Nick Beggs, before Travis goes with his incredible sax play with an overdrive guitar background in the spirit of VDGG.

"Postcard" is another beautiful song which was edited in single. It is once again beautifully sung by SW The Strings by London Session Orchestra and the Choir brings a romantic feeling to the song.

"Raider Prelude" is a somewhat frighting song even it's very short. The choir and the organ brings a very dark sound landscape which annonces "Raider II".

"Remainder The Black Dog" is an impressive epic track. It opens with dark piano melodies and anxious SW's whispers. Then, it is only instrumental. The very sustained guitar played by mister Steve Hackett brings a special climate. The sax and clarinet provided by Travis is totally free and adds a disturbing feel mixed with the killer rythm section Beggs- France. Some parts become violent and sond experimental. The track ends with Hackett guitar melodies, more quietly. Great song (in my opinion)!

The second CD starts with "Belle de Jour" a nice instrumental tune. The accoustic guitar work is very melodic and the autoharp is very well played adding a classical feel to the whole song.

"Index" is a song influenced by SW's work on electronic music. But, don't be scared: once again it is more than listenable, even the similar work on "Sleep Together" ("Fear Of A Blank Planet"...) seems extreme (so don't worry). And once again, Mastelotto provides some electric drums. Steven Wilson's vocals express a lot of sadness and the Orchestra brings a melancholic side to the song. This is a really unusual song, as in fact all the songs from "Grace For Drowning".

"Track One" begins with beautiful vocals harmonies, guitar melodies and nice percussion, remainig something from The Beatles or Syd Barrett. Suddently, a violent organ sound breks the song and brings the listener in a darker landscape, supported by heavy drums. As it becomes quieter, Steven Wison ends the song with his electric guitar harmony.

Then comes the nerve of the whole album. "Raider II" is just a gorgeous track. This begins with few piano notes, then joined by SW singing and flute harmony. Suddently, a powerful riff take us from this atmospheric climate supported by the strong musicianship of the album. The lyrics are very rare in this epic but it brings something very enthusiastic to the whole which couldn't have succeded without. As it becomes quiet, we can hear a nice accoustic break between Travis and Rudess on piano. In fact, the whole song is based on that kind of contrast, between crazy sections and more appeased ones. I can understand someone who don't like this song because it is too varied. But, in my opinion it is a strength because it synthesizes all the influences of the album: psychelism, folk, jazz, space, electronic... And this is really well done. Travis deserves once again a special mention for his work on flute, sax (whixh sometimes as a guitar!) and clarinet. Steven Wilson shows at three or four times his guitar soloing creativity and creates lush atmospheres with keyboards.

"Like Dust I Have Cleared From My Eye" is another beautiful song which ends the album into a serene spirit. SW's voice is as always excellent in this folky landscape. The song fades into organ harmonies for one or two minutes.

Steven Wilson delivers a very creative strength and the excellent which is "Grace for Drowning". It could be seen as a come back to more "traditionnal" prog music and an abandonment of hard prog (which was in fact not so heavy compared to other bands).

But if you think Steven Wilson try to sound like bands as King Crimson, VDGG, Pink Floyd, Genesis or Soft Machine which are his influences, you're totally wrong. SW owns his strong personality and it can be clearly heard.

I hope he would continue to produce great albums like "Grace for Drowning"!

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Send comments to Usandthem (BETA) | Report this review (#751209)
Posted Wednesday, May 09, 2012 | Review Permalink
5 stars Grace For Drowning is one of my favorite pieces of music at the moment. It will continue to astonish me every time I decide to embark on its musical journey. Steven Wilson has been writing, recording, mixing, mastering, and producing for quite a long time now and has become my idol for doing so. To do all the work by yourself is quite amazing and even unbelievable but somehow, he manages to pull it off...and he has always managed to impress me with every piece of work he has released.

The album itself....well lets put it this way. It is a masterpiece.

From the very beginning, all the way to the very end, the music seems to all flow together and become part of me as I listen. Although at my first listen of this album, I was looking for something else within the music...which I did not find (This seems to be what I always do with new albums...expecting something else) I put the album away for a while. I came back to it and played it all the way through and was blown away. It all makes sense. Steven has a very clever way of piecing his music together, so it sounds as if it were meant for you at the exact moment you listen to it. Many things about this album inspire, musically and even my life choices. Some may say I'm crazy but I have listened to this album while taking a journey into my mind with Magical Mushrooms. The album made me cry, feeling loss, feeling hope, feeling love, feeling as If I am my own person and thats exactly who I should be.

Overall, I love every minute of this album and I encourage you to listen to it all the way through. My favorite tracks (even though the whole album as one is my favorite) I would have to say would be Deform To Form A Star, No Part Of Me, and Like Dust I Have Cleared From My Eye. I have realized from this album that all music, no matter who from should be looked under different lights, in new ways. The music contained on this album has too much for me to explain so instead of me telling you about it...you should be listening to Grace For Drowning yourself and seeing how it affects you and your life.

Thank you Steven Wilson.

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Send comments to Progmuzak (BETA) | Report this review (#751839)
Posted Friday, May 11, 2012 | Review Permalink
Gatot
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars As I can see the later development of prog it is likely impossible to discuss about prog without involving Steve Wilson's name as his reputation has been widely recognized by many prog musicians - younger and older generation. Look at this album: you can find many heavy hitters like Steve Hackett, Jordan Rudess, Tony Levin and others. The good thing is whoever big names they are, this second solo album by Steven Wilson totally driven by the genius brain of Steven Wilson. You can't tell who the players are until you open the CD sleeves.

After my disappointment with debut solo album Insurgentes, this second one pays off as I enjoy the music, overall. The music is really atmospheric, dark, haunting and it blends various elements of prog you never imagined before into one cohesive whole. I can not tell you precisely track by track as tome, enjoying this album is like TOTAL experience that I dive in deeply into the music and enjoy it from opening to end of the album. As I know Steven core competence on sound engineering, I assure that you will agree with me that the audio and soundscapes qualities are all really wonderful. Composition-wise, this album has excellent melody even though at the outset I can see that this is not a song orientated composition and I must listen to it in its entirety to get total experience. There are some elements of King Crimson as well on the second track Sectarian that are blended beautifully with symphonic style. Yes, there are changes of style that happen smoothly as the transition pieces make them smooth.

Overall, this is an excellent addition to any prog music collection that you can hardly skip. Keep on proggin' ..!

Peace on earth and mercy mild - GW

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Send comments to Gatot (BETA) | Report this review (#754110)
Posted Wednesday, May 16, 2012 | Review Permalink
4 stars If I could rate an album five stars just for production, this, Steven Wilson's second solo effort, would be one of the few that would come to my mind, leaving aside the obvious Dark Sides. Wilson has long since earned quite a reputation as ace producer. What's changed is he also remastered some King Crimson albums recently and fell in love with the more organic, improvised approach on those albums. Adopting that approach on a modern recording works wonders, to say the least. Somebody shared figures of dynamic range for several albums on the forum recently and, not surprisingly, Grace for Drowning boasts of a high dynamic range.

Just the sound of listening to Grace for Drowning is a wonderful feeling. The multitude of instrumental layers can be heard in crystal clarity and at the same time, my ears are able to feel the sounds rather than just hear them. There is excellence in the way this album has been put together and yet, there is also warmth. In short, it kicks ass. You might take that as a rousing endorsement, if you will, because I am not exactly a diehard Steven Wilson fan.

Having given it plenty of time before I decided to formulate my opinion on this album by means of this review, though, I am not sure the compositions make a resounding case for masterpiece class. There is not a single track that I felt irritated by, but there are some which I wouldn't particularly miss. Forgettable, unremarkable, in other words.

Before I elaborate on that, I want to talk about my favourite track from this album - No Part Of Me. This track strikes at the very heart of what makes Grace for Drowning an exciting proposition. Wilson's 60s and 70s influences creep into this album quite prominently while, on the other hand, he never completely lets go of his contemporary identity. On No Part of Me, this juxtaposition seemingly haunts the entire track. What starts out with Wilson in a pensive mood explodes into a heavy workout a la the Dance on a volcano coda. In under six minutes, Wilson covers seemingly the full spectrum, and very effectively.

Which brings me to the contradiction in Wilson's approach. Wilson appears to consider himself not so good at writing pop songs and has professed that his few attempts at writing something more accessible were with an eye on marketplace imperatives. But to me, his attempts at writing something short or catchy seem to be more effective than his epics.

There's one epic on this double album - Raider II. It initially holds my attention strongly but I cannot help losing track after some time. This composition seems to lack a certain overarching structure, within the framework of which the various themes could convey a more coherent impression. It also lacks substantial changes and tends to drift back to where it started from every once in a while. Perhaps appropriately, the epic fades away in an anti-climactic finish with an improv that I thought would build up to one more theme to conclude matters but it didn't.

Of the four long tracks, the more Porcupine Tree-esque Deform to Form a Star and Like Dust I Have Cleared from My eye initially struggled to make an impression on me but they eventually grew on me. Sectarian and Remainder the Black Dog sound very impressive at first, but Wilson doesn't seem to have fully realized these compositions. Once again, he falters a bit when he attempts to develop the opening themes and the tracks seem to meander, even if at pace, from one motif to another. And yet again, he balances this by avoiding any particularly daring twists that might prove more difficult to resolve.

In saying this, I may have hit upon the crux of this album. It is very solid and the execution is impeccable. The problem is, barring No Part of Me, it doesn't challenge me as much as it promises to. Maybe Wilson is more effectively able to challenge ideas in a pop-like format than in epics. Maybe he is not quite as great a composer as he is a top notch producer.

That's not for me to say, at any rate, but because the compositions fall a touch short of generating the same enthusiasm that I have for the production, I will stop at 4 stars. Nevertheless, a must have in contemporary prog.

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Send comments to rogerthat (BETA) | Report this review (#780644)
Posted Sunday, July 01, 2012 | Review Permalink
5 stars I don't know how he manages to keep doing it, but Steven Wilson continues to zig zag all over the place with sound and styles, yet the quality is always of the highest order, both in songwriting and sound quality. Grace for Downing harkens back to glory days of progressive rock (mellotron all over the place, which is never a bad thing!), while still throwing in a lot of his unique twists on modern hard rock, resulting in a very fresh and organic-sounding piece of music. So many modern artists try to duplicate what was done decades ago, but fail to add any originality to it, which often comes off as sounding derivative, but Wilson has managed to make a modern progressive rock record which has nods to the past while definitely looking ahead to the future. With his 3rd solo album just around the corner, Wilson's creative musical window is still wide open!

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Send comments to Biff Tannen (BETA) | Report this review (#794442)
Posted Wednesday, July 25, 2012 | Review Permalink
3 stars I like Porcupine Tree. They make nice music. Wilson is obviously a big part of that. However, they have never once wowed me. Signify, In Absentia, Deadwing and Fear of a Blank Planet have all been enjoyable albums to my ears, but I would not consider any of them masterpieces. Now Wilson has released a couple of solo albums, with Grace For Drowning being the more highly acclaimed of the two. This has me slightly perplexed as I have found nothing to be enthusiastic about with this latest release.

I find Grace For Drowning to be plodding and slightly boring. It reminds me of Deadwing and Signify at times, yet muffled and ambient in the Sky Moves Sideways vein. The cornerstone of the album is the 23-minute epic, "Raider II." While I am a big fan of epics, this one is just too ambient for my taste. I find myself bored and wondering why Wilson felt the need to drag this out such as King Crimson did way back when with "Moonchild." Much of the song (which is basically completely instrumental) is just slowly moving soundscapes that ultimately build in intensity with a climatic percussive crash (almost identical to "Larks' Tongues in Aspic"). The whole thing leaves me thinking "gosh, I would have much preferred to listen to a 23-minute loop of Talking Drum, the noodling of Moonchild and the climax of LTIA." Oh well, we all have our different tastes as a number of people obviously love this epic.

To me, the highlights of the album are "Postcard", "Track One" and "Remainder the Black Dog." These are strong songs with nice melodies and musical arrangements. I find "Postcard" especially beautiful while "Remainder" would have fit nicely on the Signify album. The rest of the album is fairly forgettable, in my opinion and overall leaves me with the same feeling that I get when listening to The Incident. It's okay, but nothing to get excited about.

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Send comments to Lofcaudio (BETA) | Report this review (#802278)
Posted Thursday, August 09, 2012 | Review Permalink
5 stars When I first encountered Steven Wilson, I was starting to delve into 70's symphonic progressive rock. I was constantly listening to Yes and ELP. I also started to get deeper into Pink Floyd's catalogue (ie Atom Heart Mother, More, Piper), and made my first visit to the Court of the Crimson King. A friend of mine in NJ sent me this album about two months after it was released, and just kept raving about it. I had heard of Porcupine Tree once back in 2007 when I was skimming a Modern Drummer magazine that had an article about Gavin Harrison's work on Fear of a Blank Planet. I really disregarded it. Boy, do I regret that. I popped in the album, and took off onto one hell of a journey. The titular track is such a great way to start off this masterpiece. Steven's soothing vocals and Jordan's relaxed piano really set the tone. Mournful, atmospheric, and moody. Great stuff. This explodes into the second track, entitled Sectarian. This track was the first song I sampled off of the album via YouTube before I received the album, and I was blown away. Consider this the second overture, with the first track being the soft overture and this being the louder, more aggressive overture. A nasty saxophone solo really accents this song, and adds so much Crimsonian character. The last part mellows out quite a bit, and ends the piece on a high note. Very cool. Deform to Form A Star is one of my favorite Jordan Rudess works. Quiet piano starts this beautiful ballad off. Steven's lyrics are very strong here, but he seems to love to rhyme the word "coil" a lot. Doesn't detract, just kind of noticing. Anyways, there are always some buildups in the chorus with some very nice mellotron and flute sounds. Almost the polar opposite of the preceding track. Second best song on the album in my opinion. No Part of Me has always kind of stuck out like a sore thumb for me. It's very light in the beginning, and the keys bring out this kind of uptight melody, but it's enjoyable anyways. Near the end of the song, things start to get a little heavy. This isn't a normal song, we can all tell. But my god, if you want Steven Wilson's style brought out in one song, this little nugget is the one for you. Postcard is Coldplay-gone-prog, but it's really a great pop tune. Kind of a reprieve from the uniqueness of the rest of the album. One may consider this filler, but I think it's a very valid track. Beautiful, and sad-ish lyrics about a breakup (which are a little different. Get off the kitchen floor?) accent the piano, guitar, and mellotron choirs. Raider Prelude shuts off the light Postcard turned on and shone on everyone. The dark and ambient atmosphere runs awry here, and those now-famous piano chords scuttle over the brooding landscape. We all know something huge is going to come from this. Remainder the Black Dog is wonderful. The piano is so ominous at the beginning, signaling a brief journey through the twisted minds of Stevens Wilson and Hackett. The processed vocals are sometimes indecipherable. The Raider theme is brought into play here a little bit, and some nasty sounding guitar comes from the Genesis master. Some electric piano kind of adds in the atmosphere, and the closing fadeout leaves the listener shuddering a little bit. Very, very awesome. Belle de Jour is masterful. You can truly see Steven's influences from movie soundtracks here. I always picture a man walking through the rain away from his problems and pains with this playing in the background. This song is like being picked up by the Ferryman on the River Styx, and the rest of the second CD is the fabled river of death. Just waiting desolately, knowing your incoming fate. Index starts out with a pretty cool drum pattern. Steven's vocals are very creepy, and go practically exactly with the ominous lyrics about a person cataloguing, preserving, and amassing. Really unsettling, but pretty awesome as well. Track One. I first thought this would be a ballad, with beautiful guitars and Steven's angelic vocals bringing up the first half. But the second half, turns very dissonant. The LSO brings in the wall of sound technique perfected by the almighty experimental group Swans, and creates a terrifying atmosphere that would be touched on a lot more on Storm Corrosion's debut. After the orchestra is done, the real fun begins. Admit it. You saw the fabled 23-minute length. It's the magic number. I mean, look at Lizard, Supper's Ready, Echoes, and Octavarium. Every proghead loves the number 23. Raider II is now among the ranks of the Almighty 23-Minute Epic Club. It starts out with those ominous piano notes that we encountered in Raider Prelude and Remainder the Black Dog. Steven's muted vocals come in, and set the scene. Recurring themes fly everywhere in this song. Sectarian's themes and structures come back into play, and a wonderful flute solo flies into the mix. Mel Collins would be proud. The quieter sections put the listener on edge. Try listening to this in a darkened room with big headphones. It'll blow your mind. Steven's closing vocals bring out the true intentions: robbery. Only the great Mr. Wilson could create a 23-minute song about a home burglary, and create such a terrifyingly beautiful atmosphere. Easily one of my favorite progressive rock songs of all time. Like Dust I Have Cleared From My Eye is semi-predictable. Many PT albums had a quiet closer. In Absentia had Collapse the Light Into Earth, Insurgentes had the title track, and The Incident had I Drive the Hearse. Steven's ambient influences from his project Bass Communion come into play, closing the last 4 minutes of the album with Aphex Twin's SAW2-like ambiance. A good closer to an amazing album. 5 stars can barely do this justice. A true sign that prog isn't dead, but is really evolving into a modern art form.

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Send comments to RedNightmareKing (BETA) | Report this review (#905371)
Posted Sunday, February 03, 2013 | Review Permalink
5 stars Although there are some people that don't get this album, I feel that within the next ten or twenty years, Grace for Drowining will be remembered as one of the strongest releases by a musician of this decade. In this album, Wilson gathers from his enormous palette of musical influences, and musically, lyrically, and emotionally, delivers one of his finest, if not, his finest album of his career.

Grace for Drowing has some surprises in store for its listeners. Wilson embraced many different people with diverse musical backgrounds to help him achieve his musical visions on this album. I was shocked, floored, and felt downright punched in the jaw when the choir entered on Sectarian. Also, the addition of jazz musicians complement the music nicely, especially in "Remainder the Black Dog".

Never before has music reached me in such a way that Grace for Drowning does. In some of the songs (in particular, Sectarian, Postcard, and Belle De Jour) I have literally felt before like I was being sucked into the heart and soul of Steven Wilson (as cheesy as it sounds), almost as if I was seeing the world through his eyes. Some of the lyrics, but, in particular, the melodies are so poignant, they make me feel an incredible amount of sadness and sympathy for Wilson. I don't know what has happened in this man's life, but this album truly captures his sadness, melancholia, and hearbreak, with a little bit of hope scattered here and there. If you are looking for a happy, upbeat, and optimistic album, look elsewhere. What you will get in Grace for Drowining is a musically diverse album that is deeply personal, honest, touching, genuine, and hauntingly beautiful.

5 stars without a doubt!

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Send comments to ThumpinBass (BETA) | Report this review (#920441)
Posted Wednesday, February 27, 2013 | Review Permalink
5 stars 4.75 Stars. Graceful walking into the twilight zone

GfD is the second of SW's solo albums and the first one that clearly spells out what his new musical direction is. The alternative and metal aspects of PT are stripped away and replaced with King Crimson inspired 70s Prog and a greater reliance on atmosphere. Don't be fooled into thinking this as a rip-off in KC album, Wilson uses a lot of modern ambient/drone techniques (drawing from his Bass Communion side project) to add another level of depth into this double album.

GfD can therefore be seen on two levels. There is the obvious nods to 70s Prog in terms of instruments used and the production. However there is a very strong atmospheric undercurrent that surrounds this entire album. There is lots of minor details and texture which subtly enhances the listening experience and deepens your attachment into this eerie world he is painting. There are busts of energy to be found here and there but overall this is a much more laid back experience compared to recent PT albums and The Raven.

The title track is a gentle and simple into (with lots of lalala vocals) which is designed to set the right mood, on its own it's forgettable. "Sectarian" is an instrumental which reminds me a lot of Anglagard in terms of song writing and structure . It is relatively unstable in its design and is prone to outbursts in energy. Overall it relies on the chaotic jazz-rock that KC loved, but subtle sound effects are put in to add some richness into the song.

"Deform to form a Star" is a beautiful balled which ranks among the most instantly enjoyable things he has done. While not complicated or very Proggy it fits the mood of the album perfectly and is able to maintain the mellochromatic mood while still being uplifting in the chorus. It's one of my most played tracks on this album.

"No part of me" is one of my favourite songs here and is split in two half's. The first is a very modern (think Radiohead) and drawn out instrumental that manages to be very catchy and depressing at the same time. Wilson then sings probably the most depressing lyrics on the album which come across boarder-line suicidal. In the second half the mood changes and the song goes into a furious jazzy attack which is incredibly effective. It's like the first half of the song tugs at your heart strings and the other rips and tears into your soul. Probably the best song on GfD.

Postcard goes back to the poppy sound of "Deform" however it does linger a bit too close to general mainstream and would not be out of place in a Coldplay album. It's nice though and there is a good bridge between this song and the next.

"Raider Prelude" changes the mood dramatically and surrounds you with bleak darkness. Its a piano and choral vocal based song but its structure is designed to max out the dread and despair until its almost at breaking point. "Remainder the black dog" starts on a quiet note with distorted vocals and gradually building energy to capitalise on the last song. There is then a rush of intense jazz-rock/metal which is a bit too short lived for my liking. The rest of the song is more free-flow jazz-rock which fluctuates in energy, but perhaps goes on for too long. Still a good song.

Disc 2 starts with "Belle de Jour" which is another mood setter like the title track, however this song is significantly stronger. Quite a few moods are explored in this short classical guitar driven track, but they are all eternal and well connected.

"Index" is a very tense song to the point of being suffocating. Unlike "No part of me" it does not lead into anything very fierce but it is designed to unsettle. The lyrics on this song are very remember able. "Track one" has 3 parts, another tense but simple intro with vocals, a longish and very dark build-up in noise which harkens back to SW's last solo album and finally a gentle instrumental to finish. Its a odd little song but despite being so incredibly moody I like it!

Now we get to the 23 min "Raider ||" which will make or break this album, because everything has been hinting towards this one song. The intro is incredibly slow and drawn out. Just occasional grand piano notes and long periods of silence. Wilson finally starts singing is a almost whispering voice and more sound effects are added in to build the tension.

Finally things get going with a intense instrumental and a brief reprise of "Sectarian". This is followed by angry vocals from Wilson (and some Death growls!) and then a long flute solo (I am a sucker for flute solos). There are more quiet and load sections with the quiet parts sounding similar to PT (i.e. not 70s derived) and the load parts are inspired by angry KC/Van Der Graff.

Around the 12 min mark things settle down and we go into Bass Communion territory for a while. After the 15 min mark there is a very slow build-up which reaches a brutal climax at the 20 min mark and we are swamped in hell fire noise (the most intense part of the album by far). The last few min are haunting background sounds. Its a great track for sure but it does take a bit of time to fully appreciate.

The closer is " Like Dust I Have Cleared From My Eye" which is another gentle song similar to that of "Deform". Its very laidback and acts as a peaceful closer so that the intensity of the last track is not your final memory of the album. The last 3 min is pure drone music and could fit perfectly in any BC album. This last section is very airy and is very effective at sending me to sleep (in a good way).

GfD is not a perfect album, it is easy enough to nit-pick it for being too slow and bash it for being too closely linked to KC. However SW had a clear structure for this album and combined with his excellent skills in atmosphere and texture it is incredibly easy to forget these problems and just enjoy the album. The whole album is much stronger than the sum of its parts (which by themselves are generally strong) so I have no issues giving this 5 stars. One of Wilson's best albums. Its also proof that you can borrow lots of ideas from other artists and still come up with something very unique.

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Send comments to LakeGlade12 (BETA) | Report this review (#1047733)
Posted Sunday, September 29, 2013 | Review Permalink
apps79
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Neo Prog Team
3 stars Steven Wilson is the undisputed leader of the modern Art Rock scene in UK and one of the most recognizable rock figures worldwide.From his teenagers years with the Neo Prog band Karma and the Electronic outfit Altamont to his more recent activities as the leader of Porcupine Tree, No-Man and Bass Communion, he developed his musical skills as an instrumentalist and composer, scanning various different styles and sources of inspiration.In 2001 he started a collaboration with Aviv Geffen in the Blackfield project, while he even developed his knowledge as a producer and collaborated with an endless list of artists and bands, including Fish, Opeth and Paatos.But he also found time to release his debut album ''Insurgentes'' in 2008 in a kind of Ambient/Art Rock mood, followed by another effort in 2011, the ''Grace for drowning'' release on the Porcupine Tree-related KScope Records.

The original output consists of 2 CD's of about 40-minutes of length each and is of course driven by Wilson's impressive multi-instrumental offerings, but also includes a nice list of guest musicians: Jordan Rudess on piano,Theo Travis on sax, clarinet and flute, Ben Castle on clarinet, Nick Beggs on bass and Chapman stick, Nic France on drums and Tony Levin on bass.Musically I bet that ''Grace for drowning'' would be the best soundtrack of a future Steven Wilson autobiographical movie, delivering most of his career sights and sounds in 80 minutes of well-crafted music.The first part of the first CD clearly shows Wilson's Retro Prog inspirations with GENESIS, KING CRIMSON and even some light Canterbury vibes around, very dominant use of Mellotron, sweet and romantic vocals ala CRESSIDA and BRACLAY JAMES HARVEST and emphatic guitar textures in a ROBERT FRIPP way, creating grandiose, atmospheric and solid musicianship all the way with jazzy, psychedelic and Classical flourishes.As it progresses the CD becomes more and more flexible with modern-sounding orchestrations pompous symphonic soundscapes combine with jazzy interludes, led by electric piano, clavinet and sax.The music is very dramatic and often bombastic, although some ambiental breaks are often present to calm thigs down.

The second CD is a bit more one-dimensional and definitely as contemporary as it gets, at least in the first three tracks, which come as a mix of laid-back Symphonic/Art Rock and Ambient music.Mellotron strings shine through these pieces, offering a haunting mood during the orchestral lines.PINK FLOYD were among Wilson's cetain influences, but become more apparent at this point.It's exactly the same point where the English mastermind chooses to place the 23-min. grand epic ''Raider II'', propably the purest amalgam of his career as an artist.Combining the stylings of both PORCUPINE TREE's and NO-MAN's efforts, it explores a progressive sound akin to KING CRIMSON, colored by extended jazzy moments with sax, clarinet and flute in evidence, powered by breaks between slow motion soundscapes and fast/furious rhythmic deliveries and adding a loose feeling through its jazzy nature.Guitar work is simply outstanding, especially when accompanied by the powerful, orchestral keyboards, the lower point being the very mellow Ambient-like passages, definitely I can see them being added as balance factor during the process, but wasn't really fond of them.Anyway, this is overall a very strong piece of Prog music.The closing FLOYD-ian ''Like dust I have cleared from my eye'' is a decent, slightly psychedelic farewell with nostalgic keyboards and very GLIMOUR-like electric solos, quite attractive even if the last 3-4 minutes are pure Ambient explorations.

''Grace for drowning'' belongs among Steven Wilson's discography highlights.Diverse Progressive Rock with 70's and modern inspirations, offering some monumental themes among the generally well-crafted music.Strongly recommended...3.5 stars.

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Send comments to apps79 (BETA) | Report this review (#1074922)
Posted Sunday, November 10, 2013 | Review Permalink
3 stars I am sorry to say that the first few listens of 'Grace for Drowning' was mainly an experience of disappointment and a sence of wanting more from a truly great artist that has proved his worth time and time again. There are a few special moments but on the whole I felt this album lacked any substence, or anything memorable that makes me want to return to it anytime soon. When 'Insurgentes' was released I listened to it without too much expectation. As far as I was concerned Porcupine Tree were the main project so the solo album would be more experimental and have a different sound. How wrong could I be?! 'Insurgentes' had me hooked from day 1, with great ambience, great mix, great production and powerful tracks that make you go back for more. Rarely does an album give me the same shivers of excitement that say the likes of the Floyd do. Then came 'Grace for Drowning'. I can only describe it as the same as insurgentes - if you take out all the memorable stuff. Too quiet, too samey, no edge.

So why 3 stars? It's well packaged - the music is good - there are some good moments, but overall very average.

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Send comments to Kevman28 (BETA) | Report this review (#1135966)
Posted Sunday, February 23, 2014 | Review Permalink

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