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Steven Wilson - Hand. Cannot. Erase. CD (album) cover

HAND. CANNOT. ERASE.

Steven Wilson

Crossover Prog


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admireArt
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars STEVEN WILSON, - Hand. Cannot. Erase. 2015.

Song by song perceptions-

1st one is like Steve Roach but in a lo-fi heavy/metallic world, perfectly translated into SW's idiom with an astounding and quiet complex song-writing. A 5 star song undoubtly.

2nd song- The first part of this song is something like SW meets America , the soft/folk US band, not the continent. Even though he adds up the P.T. anger, the main melody line is close to America's soft evocative passages, and the final part detours completely and turns towards YES , the way they should have ended up sounding like and not the s..t they chose to be.

The 3th song is the kind of POP/METALISH song that coud easily meet the radio-waves and catch a more undemanding audience. Of course, never pointing out to the silly parts of those audiences.

The fourth song takes a different direction, even commenting on its own musical roots, which is as admirably as humble, for SW to do so. This Mortal Coil, if that means something to the expertise prog-audiophiles, if not look for this project - " band" , to understand this tribute song. (they are not featured in PA, so look somewhere else).

The fifth song is quiet in the middle of great and boring. It travels at least 4 separate directions, although perfectly threaded, performed and sung, the melodies more than once are quiet anonymous , in comparison to its elder sisters. So far, the less inspired song or in PA's terms a 3 star song.

The sixth song will make all PT's and SW's followers super happy. It delivers the kind of material, that when played live, will surely be a highlight to remember. It even includes a great electronic metal-jazz/folk prog, grand-finale (inevitably Jeff Beck comes to my mind, but that is me).

Song 7 is the showcase of SW musical virtues (literally speaking), as his aquired knowledge in these his own fields. Therefore, expect intense riffs and solos, as mellow strumming and intelligent guitar works. Another 5 stars song.

Song number 8,explores again (track 4), the gothic side of SW's heart. A mellow/bombing, soft hearted unidirectional song. Super nice!

THE 9th, is introspective at first, then it turns out to be something like the possible future for P.T. if they decided to do so. Although the song writing is not that astounding, as it could have been, in those terms.

Song number 10, could be like the synthesis of the whole record so far, but kind of cutting short on some of its own highlights, which is quiet undeserving.

Song 11, the closure song, is exactly that.

****4 PA stars, strongly inclined to a future 5 stars project.

Report this review (#1373631)
Posted Thursday, February 26, 2015 | Review Permalink
Conor Fynes
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars 'Hand. Cannot. Erase.' - Steven Wilson (81/100)

I think it is a testament to the brilliance of Steven Wilson as an artist, that the least immediately gratifying album thus far in his solo career is still one of the most impressive things I've heard in these nascent months of 2015.

While I'm altogether certain I'm not the only one who longs for a Porcupine Tree reunion one of these days, Wilson's latest flagship has long since proved itself. His 'solo' phase has not been so much a continuation of that band's sound as it has been a liberation from the expectations fans might have had for any successor to The Incident. Porcupine Treeis synonymous with the sort of melancholic 'alt-prog' they're known for popularizing, but fans with a cursory knowledge of Wilson's music should know that was only a facet of his art. His poppiest tunes went to Blackfield. His love for drone and krautrock manifested themselves in Bass Communion and I.E.M respectively, and his longstanding collaboration with Tim Bowness (as No-Man) channelled ambiance in several shades. For any of the material that fell in- between these lines, a project under his own name was perfect. In spite of the heavy praise Steven Wilson has received for his eclectic solo work, I am positive a lot of the stylistic expeditions would have been given flak, had it been released with Porcupine Tree. An audience's preconceptions and expectations can make shifting sounds a tricky thing; this is something Wilson's pal Mikael Ĺkerfeldt might have taken into account when Opeth released Heritage (to intensely polar reactions) back in 2011.

The sleepy Insurgentes and - to an even greater extent - jaw-dropping Grace for Drowning pulled in sounds from every corner of Wilson's art. With these last two albums however, Wilson has let his love of classic progressive rock guide his approach. I don't mean to imply that Hand.Cannot.Erase. is a repeat of 2013's The Raven that Refused to Sing, but the open-ended, career-encompassing variety that had me obsessed with Grace for Drowning back in the day isn't so much a part of Wilson's solo material these days.

It's not the love note to 70s' prog rock that The Raven was, but Hand.Cannot.Erase. continues to pay homage to Steven Wilson's classic influences. His pop songwriting (one of his best talents, I think) takes a backseat to longwinded prog observations, the likes of which only usually seen once per Porcupine Tree record. "First Regret / 3 Years Older" is replete with Wilsonian vocal harmonies and successfully moving choruses, but its greatest charm lies in its not-so-subtle nod to A Farewell to Kings-era Rush. Yeah- I wouldn't have ever expected to mention the Canadian trio in a Steven Wilson review (his classic influences tend to rest near the psychedelic spectrum) but the precise basswork and bright power-riffs demand the comparison be made.

The comparisons don't end there either. "Home Invasion / Regret #9" starts with chugging, quasi-metal fare (it's not the first time Wilson's love of Meshuggah has found its way into his art) before it expands into a jazzy, King Crimson-esque exploration. From there, it falls into a longform, gradually building solo showcase shared between Adam Holzman and Guthrie Govan- again, this kind of chilled and soulful soloing could be traced to Pink Floyd, but so many prog rock bands have made use of it since that it may well be considered common property. "Routine" may be the only longer track here that escapes all quickdraw comparisons to classic prog. It's soft, varied and beautifully dynamic; I've seen a few people call "Routine" their favourite cut from the album; it might be a little over the place and rhapsodic for me to call it one of my favourites, but following the beautiful minimalism of "Perfect Life" before it, it's a refreshing switch of gears.

Hearing Wilson place an emphasis on this kind of tried-and-tested longform composition is both impressive and frustration. Wilson's natural talents with writing, matched with his encyclopaedic interest in the genre, his warmth as a producer and cast of brilliant musicians (some of them legends in their own right) make the least- involving moments on Hand.Cannot.Erase. a joy to behold. Coincidentally (and I may strike a note of controversy for saying so) those 'least-involving' moments all fall in the stretches of time Wilson hands the reins over to his backing soloists. Guthrie Govan stands as one of the best working guitarists today (his masterpiece debut Erotic Cakes is proof of that), but I notice my attention slipping whenever another extended guitar solo rolls around. From a technical standpoint Govan (and keyboardist Adam Holzman) hit all the proper marks, but the compositions fall into the age-old issue of making added space for the solos, without creating the dynamic surroundings to make it feel more than an expression of (their admittedly superb) technical musicianship. When it comes to some of these lax instrumental passages, I feel myself reeling back to thinking of the way Wilson masterfully opened up The Raven, with "Luminol". "Luminol" offered some of the best musicianship I've ever heard in the progressive genre, and felt consistently engaging in spite of its length. There wasn't a need to create longwinded solo passages then, and I don't think there was a need for it here.

I know I could have stopped with simply saying "TOO MANY SOLOS" and risked sounding like just as much of a curmudgeon, but the talent of everyone involved is worth far more than falling on old tricks like that. Barring that, any issues with Hand.Cannot.Erase. are negligible. Steven Wilson's work with would-be prog 'epics' has seen better days to be sure, but the three 10+ minute tracks grow with every listen. "First Regret / 3 Years Older" is the most contagious opener I have heard in a long time, and in spite of my criticism towards it, "Home Invasion / Regret #9" seems to get more charming with every listen. "Ancestral" was the slowest grower of the lot for me; the darkest note on Hand.Cannot.Erase. begins with Floydian melancholy, and erupts into one of the closest skirmishes with prog metal Steven Wilson has ever had. The dark atmosphere and oppressive riffs fly close to the heavy climax on The Incident, but unlike that album, Wilson makes sure to give the aggression due time to emerge and erupt.

Also quite like The Incident, the album's final moments following the climactic storm are tender. "Happy Returns" isn't quite as heartbreaking as "I Drive the Hearse", but I'm sure it was written in a similar mindset. To be honest, this sort of Porcupine Tree-ish tenderness and beauty strikes an even stronger note with me than the more progressive and overtly sophisticated material on Hand.Cannot.Erase. To anyone who's heard the album already, it shouldn't come as any surprise that the title track is my favourite song. "Hand Cannot Erase" is, without a doubt, one of the most infectious and enjoyable songs Wilson has ever written, up there with "Trains" and "Lazarus". The melodies are crisp, the lyrics intimate and Wilson's voice fittingly warm and passionate.

"Perfect Life" was a far less intuitive choice for a single, but it's come to hit me just as hard emotionally. The anecdotal spoken word (performed by Israeli singer Ninet Tayeb) is an intimate gateway into the album's concept of isolation. Foreboding electronic beats build underneath. Halfway into the track, the atmosphere switches from tension to tenderness. Steven Wilson's voice chimes softly: "We have got a perfect life..." From underneath that, a one-man chorus of harmonies emerge, themselves building up in layer and intensity until the song ends. I describe this moment because it is completely haunting every time I hear it; I know the word 'haunting' is tossed around in music reviews as many times as McDonalds sells Big Macs in a fiscal year, but this is one of the occasions that truly warrants the description.

To date, the only album concept from Steven Wilson that really meant something to me was Porcupine Tree's Fear of a Blank Planet. Deadwing and The Incident are conceptual works, but there's not a great deal of narrative or symbolic sense to make of them. I've always loved Steven Wilson's intimately poetic lyrics, but I've rarely cared to draw conclusions about the album concepts themselves. In the case of Hand. Cannot. Erase., the concept is more clear, although Wilson's left particular lyrical meanings up for an audience's interpretation. Suffice to say, the album's conceptual foundations (of a woman who isolates herself from human contact for three years) fall in line with Wilson's recurring anxieties towards modernity. Even if the narrative's character is female, the lyrics feel too personal to have come from anything but Wilson's own experience. What are we to make of the way the story ends? The woman finally re-enters society, but sees nothing has changed while she's been away. It's a bittersweet way to part ways with a character so disenfranchised with the isolation inherent in modern living. Still, it seems a brighter ending than the one shared by the concept's real-life inspiration; Joyce Vincent (an abused woman living in London) was discovered in her apartment three years after she died. Given the anxieties Wilson explored on Fear of a Blank Planet, it's not surprising he would have been moved enough to create art based on that story.

I wonder, were she alive to hear it, what the real-world Joyce Vincent would have thought of Hand. Cannot. Erase. The essential beauty of art and music is that it allows people to share their emotional experience, conveying the hidden depths of themselves to another person they have probably never met before. Humans feel more isolated than ever, and none moreso than in cities. The kind of feeling an artist like Steven Wilson brings to his music has never been so important. No, I'm not awe-struck the way I was with Grace for Drowning or his other best work, but Hand. Cannot. Erase. feels resonant and powerful. Wilson may play with traditional progressive notions here, but unlike your Flower Kings and Transatlantics, he never succumbs to them. By this point, Steven Wilson's solo work has become a monument, increasingly independent from the legendary prestige of his old band. Part of me still hopes he'll revive Porcupine Tree one of these days and follow-up The Incident, but I'll eagerly await anything of his if he keeps up with this brilliant standard of quality. The man has no signs of slowing down any time soon.

Report this review (#1373666)
Posted Thursday, February 26, 2015 | Review Permalink
5 stars Here it is ! The album that I wanted the most for 2015 ! Two years after the amazing "The Raven That Refused To Sing", Wilson come back. And he shows that he is more creative than ever.

First Regret : An introduction song which is very cool, with gloomy piano like at the end of Nine Inch Nails' Closer, but with a typical Wilson melody. A great opening.

3 Years Older : One of the longest song of the album, and also one of the best. Pure prog, with great melodies, furious and calm sections, really cool.

Hand Cannot Erase : The title track is in fact the worst track on the album. But it's not bad. It's just pop. Pop is not really a problem, but the others songs are better, that's all.

Perfect Life : A atmospheric song, pleasant and really apperciable.

Routine : A 9 minutes great prog song, with beautiful piano and vocal work.

Home Invasion : One of the best tracks. Begin like a jazz rock jam, with awesome keyboard riffs, and great vocals.

Regret#9 : A great synth solo and a f**in amazing guitar solo. Just beautiful.

Transience : An acoustic interlude, very nice.

Happy Returns : A more pop song that I didn't really enjoy.

Ascendant Here On... An atmospheric final, great closing for a great album.

A wonderful album by the king Wilson !

5 stars !

Report this review (#1373740)
Posted Friday, February 27, 2015 | Review Permalink
4 stars I received my copy of Hand. Cannot. Erase yesterday morning, and am seriously impressed as always with the format I ordered, being the digipack edition with DVD Documentry etc. A nice solid item that you come to expect from SW/PT albums of late, with great artwork and album info. The documentary is nothing amazing and would not stand up to be sold separately, but is very interesting all the same, and the perfect accompaniment for the album. I would definitely recommend purchasing this version.

On to the album! - There is little point in covering the history of the album, or a track by track review, due to this being covered by others. So I will try to summarise with an overall opinion. I found myself being pleasantly surprised by this album, which occasionally steps away from the familiar often 'dark' SW sound. That is not a negative take on Steven's past work, and I genuinely love it all, however I have been hoping for a while to hear some older PT electronica sounds in the mix, and here I got it! Hand Cannot Erase delivers quite a mixture of styles, with elements of various points in Steven's career as an increasingly rewarded musician, plus some extra suprises such as the addition of female vocals on a couple of tracks. After four listens from start to finish, I find this a good solid album, with many strong moments and in places a step away from more recent albums. Five stars may be a little generous in the way that I would never place it in the same category as other 'essential masterpieces of progressive rock'. This is no Dark side of the moon - but a truly excellent album from start to finish all the same.

4 stars. Well done SW!

Report this review (#1377117)
Posted Tuesday, March 3, 2015 | Review Permalink
5 stars 4.75 Stars.

So here is the hotly anticipated new album from SW which has been getting rave reviews from virtually every music critic on the internet. Its also worth me mentioning that Wilson's previous album (The Raven) remains one of my favourite albums of all time and easily the best thing he has ever written. So it's fair to say my hopes for this album were extremely high, as well as my fears of disappointment.

The concept of HCE is based around the true story of a young woman who isolated herself from the world in London and then dies. Nobody misses her for 3 years despite having lots of friends and family. Wilson created his own version of this woman and puts his own feelings and emotions into the character. You can see the level of detail he went to on the deluxe edition of the album, I was personally very impressed.

The first thing I noticed with HCE is how different it is from the Raven. The 70s Prog/Jazz -fusion that dominated the last album can only be properly found in 2 connected songs (Home Invasion and Regret #9) while the remainder of the album is a far more modern affair. HCE contains the incredibly catchy pop elements found on In Absenia along with some of the metal of FOABP and the electronic sounds of Insurgentes. This level of diversity runs the risk of making the album incoherent, but the story-line helps to successfully tie all these elements together and build momentum between songs.

In terms of mood this is actually one of the most positive albums SW has ever produced. 3 Years Older and the title track are gloriously uplifting and have some of the strongest hooks Wilson has ever written. The first half of the album is also very controlled musically, with extended solos being kept to a minimum and instead focusing on making the songs very tight and extremely detailed. It's only on the second half of HCE that Wilson allows some of the elements present on The Raven to creep back in. This is done again to tie in with the story as the main character gets lost in herself.

"First Regret" opens the album with some beautiful electronic music and piano playing. Much like GfD this piece is designed to set the mood for the album, however this time the music is engaging enough to be enjoyed as a standalone song. "3 Years Older" continues the mood on the previous song before going into an upbeat Rush style instrumental. The beat and instruments used are also very similar to the instrumental found on the second half of Genesis's The Cinema Show. Things settle down until all that remains is a simple but catchy acoustic guitar pop song. This gradually develops into a wonderful piece of Progressive Pop Rock, which combines flashy but very upbeat instrumentals with equally cheerful pop music. A wonderful song and one of my favourites from the album.

"Hand Cannot Erase" is a pure pop song, but it has to be one of the catchiest and engaging pop songs I have ever heard. Wilson does this by not compromising instrumentally and using the powerful bursts of energy found in the chorus (which is fully instrumental) to drive the entire song forward. Pop music really does not get better than this.

"Perfect Life" was the most difficult song for me to get into, mainly because of the first 2 minutes. We are introduced to guest actress Katherine Jenkins who narrates over the story. Spoken word during a song which lasts for minutes is something I personally hate as it usually bores me to sleep. Fortunately Wilson was aware of this danger and uses some engaging and constantly shifting electronic music in the background to keep me engaged. Finally the talking stops and Wilson sings the line "we have got perfect life" over and over but with much variation in the harmonies. After half a dozen listens this song really grew on me. But patience is needed when approaching this song.

"Routine" is for me the best and most original song on HCE and also one of his best songs full stop. It starts simply with Wilson singing sadly about his character being locked into a constant routine of chores. The song itself is dense and restrained musically which fits perfectly with the lyrics. Over time things gain pace and energy and Ninet's singing voice in introduced for the first time (she is a very fine singer by the way). Eventually things reach breaking point which results in her screaming in anguish in the end. The song-writing here had to be top notch for him to express the complex range of emotions, and he really pulled it off.

People who are paying attention to the story will know that the woman has now entered full isolation and is no longer in contact with anyone else. This is reflected in Home Invasion/Regret #9 which are a lot more free flowing, wild and overall more similar to The Raven. However it would be a mistake to say this is a copy-cat of his last album. As well as 70s Prog there is also modern Djent metal along with some electronic music which has been present on almost all the songs on HCE to some degree. As someone who adores The Raven these 2 songs were the most instantly accessible for me.

"Transience" and "Ancestral" make a notable change in the mood of the album. These songs are much darker and have strong connections with Insurgentes. Ancestral is the major epic of HCE and does well to live up to that role. The beginning section could have come directly from Insurgentes, it's very dark and full of electronic effects and texture. The song gradually builds and launches a powerful duet between Wilson and Ninet. What then follows is the longest instrumental on the album (around 7 minutes long!). This section contains the largest amount of metal Wilson has done since FOABP and its clear he has not lost his touch. There are plenty of twists and turns in the instrumental, all though I might have cut a minute from the running time to make it more concise. But given how concise most of the album has been, a little bit of over self-indulgence does no harm.

"Happy Returns" and "Ascendant Here On..." finish the album on a much more hopeful mood. The former has a great deal of emotion to it and a very potent instrumental while the latter is ambient music to finish the album on a gentle note. You can think of these 2 songs as Deform To Form a Star from GfD in terms of what Wilson was aiming at. We don't know if the main character survives or dies, SW left the ending to be open to interpretation.

For me personally this album does not reach the heights of The Raven, nor Fear of a Black Planet for that matter. However I still see this as one of his strongest albums and it's definitely one of his best written. What I love the most about HCE is that it manages to use the high level of detail present in Insurgentes, but this time each song is distinctive, engaging and just far more entertaining to listen to (something Insurgentes really lacked). There are very few faults here and plenty of fresh and modern ideas. The one thing I was a little disappointed was that Ninet's voice was not used all that much on the album. However alternative versions of Routine and Ancestral exist which just have her singing so it's not too big a deal.

So personally I really think HCE deserves the 5 star rating all the critics are giving it. There is such a depth of music to be enjoyed here and it has been wonderfully put together. Looks like Wilson has done a hat-trick of masterpieces, I hope he can keep it up.

Report this review (#1377145)
Posted Tuesday, March 3, 2015 | Review Permalink
LearsFool
PROG REVIEWER
2 stars Do I have to be the one to rain on the parade? Well, I remember the run up to the album's release, when some singles were released and most gulped; none of what was being shown sounded inspired. The promised concept and electronic rock sounded tasty, but we weren't getting anything that lived up to expectations of the great Steven Wilson making a prog stew out of those ingredients.

Actually listening to the final product started out great, as "First Regret" sounded much like and as good as the trip rock Archive put out in January with "Restriction", and flowed naturally into "3 Years Older", which came out as a neat piece of modern crossover prog that weaved various styles into a ten minute extravaganza. But, alas, that was the end of the fantastic, well-executed part of the record. What we get beyond the opening combo is some decent, nice, unoffensive and by-the-numbers modern cross. Turns out those previews were representative of most of the result. Again, uninspired. Also, once again for a post-"Fear of A Blank Planet" offering SWilson has bungled a concept beyond repair. What about any of the lyrics does it have to do with the idea he was supposedly building off of I have no clue. Not much I can say about any of the latter nine tracks in particular beyond the above, and understandably.

So, after the masterful "Grace for Drowning" and "The Raven That Refused To Sing" we get a piddling album. His use of electronic rock has been bested by the aforementioned crossover underdogs Archive, and non-prog bands the world over have proved themselves better at making concept albums than two out of the three tries Wilson has given. While this is very hard to call an out-and-out bad album, it's a very poor showing and only for a good chunk of fans. I also round down since the next time I listen to this in whole - for more than the opener - will be a long, long time from now. I'm even left half-dreading any possible Porcupine Tree reunions, since Steve seems to be charting a career trajectory that will mirror itself going forward, leading to an inevitable Son of The Incident. One last thing I wonder is if his naming of two tracks as regrets is a hidden apology note and as prophetic as the track called "Routine".

Report this review (#1377653)
Posted Wednesday, March 4, 2015 | Review Permalink
5 stars Like other reviewer stated, giving this album five stars would be unfair to the true masterpieces of the golden age. BUT! I believe that this album truly deserves a place up there with other important works of the past, and this is not because of the sound resemblance of such works in some parts of this album, but because Steven created an amazing modern prog album. I don't find it fair either to label this album right away as a "retro prog" sounding album, because it really has nothing of that. As a prog musician, I find it natural to include some elements of past influences more as a homage to our past heroes, but this doesn't mean that you may lack creativity. Here, Mr. Wilson blends these few "retro" elements with some very modern ideas, which create an amazingly new sound. What I like the most about this album is that it actually presents a set of ideas very well put together to create a very listenable and enjoyable sound structure where you never grow tired of hearing. I have to admit that the Raven album was grower a to me because it sounds like a set of ideas just scrambled together all through out the length of the album. Obviously I enjoyed the aforementioned immensely, but I sensed a purpose missing whether as here you can sense the artistic expression of the artist and yes, the catchy, poppy side of the album helps a lot to give this album a far more melodic approach than its predecessors. I feel like a progressive rock work really triumphs when it sounds appealing to non prog listeners, and I'm sure that this album is one of those. Me, like probably everyone else, is longing for a PT reunion, but if Mr. Wilson keeps evolving like this, we don't really need another PT, do we?
Report this review (#1377665)
Posted Wednesday, March 4, 2015 | Review Permalink
5 stars Steven Wilson is modern Progressive Rock's figurehead with a spirited work ethic. A singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, producer and four time Grammy nominated surround-sound genius, he has influenced Prog's steady resurgence worldwide the past 25 years. A master in the studio, he remixed (with permission of the bands) the great classic Prog albums by King Crimson, Yes, Jethro Tull, ELP and many others but his own discography guarantees his place among the greatest of Prog legends.

Hand. Cannot. Erase. is a modern concept album inspired by the compelling real life story of a young, popular, attractive London woman who dies in her apartment and is not found for three years. The music and narrative are powerful, heartfelt, and immersive. Highly creative compositions that are atmospheric, elaborate and multidimensional as well as complex pop/rock tunes deliver Wilson's hallmark time-signature changes from melodic to metal to symphonic. This is the Prog music that Prog artists aspire to create and the rest of us celebrate. Executed and performed with precision by Wilson on vocals and several instruments and his brilliant band that includes guitar virtuoso Guthrie Govan, Prog's best bassist Nick Beggs, former Miles Davis keyboardist Adam Holzman, ever present drummer Marco Minneman plus additional musicians, singers and orchestra, this is par excellence.

The tracks in order:

1 & 2) First Regret/Three Years Older segued together is an engaging and multifaceted arrangement 3) Hand Cannot Erase is melodic pop/rock 4) Perfect Life is a beautiful song with female spoken voice and electronic landscape 5) Routine has old school Prog time-signature changes, choir, orchestration, piano and Nanet Tayeb's Floydian vocal 6) Home Invasion is a heavy, catchy song with post-punk guitar riffs 7) Regret #9 is an instrumental with Moog and a guitar solo from heaven 8) Transience is understated emotion 9) Ancestral begins with haunting strings and flute followed by percussive guitar driven heavy metal 10 & 11) Happy Returns/Ascendant Here On... is a soulful end to the story.

Seamless from song to song. One of the top 10 Progressive Rock albums of all time. A masterpiece!

- JD, host of Closer to the Edge, AshevilleFM

Report this review (#1377898)
Posted Wednesday, March 4, 2015 | Review Permalink
3 stars Review #13 Steven Wilson is definitely one of the most talented and hard-working musicians of our age, and I don't think can anybody argue with that. Speaking for myself, I'm a fan of Porcupine Tree since the '90's, owning about 10 studio albums + a few Ep's in my collection. Furthermore, I have 3 albums from Blackfield, 1 from No-Man, and 3 of Steven Wilson's solo works. (In vinyls, cd's and MP3's). I included 'The Raven that refused to sing' in my list with the best albums of 2013, but I never thought of it as a 'masterpiece'. Knowing these facts, it's up to you to continue reading this review or stop right here.

Having the really big success of 'The Raven' on his shoulders, Steven Wilson had 2 options for his next album: To continue in the same style and record one more succesfull and well appreciated album in the Prog circles, or try something different. He chose the second option.

Hand.Cannot.Erase is a very different album in comparison with 'The Raven' in almost every aspect. Starting from the cover, continuing with the lyrics, and finally musically. I will not make any comment for the cover (which I didn't like), but that's the least important. The important is what is hiding on the inside, right?

Let's take a look at the lyrics: In 'The Raven' the lyrics were mostly metaphysical stories, horror tales, and in general there was a dark and gloomy background. This new album was "build" around the true and very sad story of Joyce Carrol Vincent, who lived a lonely life, and when she died, her body was discovered after 2 years. (You can wiki her name and read about her life, which I recommend you to do). In that sense you can say that 'Hand.cannot.Erase' is a concept album.

And now let's take a look at the music: 'Hand' has a very different and more "fresh" sound in comparison with the previous album. The compositions are more melodic and simpler ones, and in many ocassions the guitar is been replaced by synthesizers. 'The Raven that refused to sing' was a classic modern Progressive Rock album, but I wouldn't say the same for 'Hand.Cannot.Erase'. This album has a "lighter" approach to Progressive Rock, and in some ocassions is even "flirting" with Pop. But the fans of Progressive Rock shouldn't be afraid and they should keep their faith in Steven Wilson. Why? Because the album includes some breathtaking Prog moments, on which the performance of the extremely skilled and talented musicians is setting once more very high standards. Fine examples are the songs '3 years older' (one of the best songs here), 'Regret #9' and of course 'Ancestral'. (Without a doubt the best Prog song by far in this album).

One very interesting fact is the addition of female vocals (in some songs) which must be a surprise to all those who are familiar with the works of Steven Wilson.

I will conclude this article by saying that if someone ask me the question "is 'Hand.Cannot.Erase' better that 'The Raven?", the easy answer would be 'No'. But that would be very unfair, because these two albums are different in almost everything. Surely the standards of 'The Raven' are very difficult to be repeated, but what we have here is a true & tragic human story, "dressed" with beautiful music, and some Prog explosions which are impossible to be ignored. My Rating would be 3.0 - 3.5 stars thanks for reading

Report this review (#1377985)
Posted Thursday, March 5, 2015 | Review Permalink
rdtprog
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Heavy / RPI / Symphonic Prog Team
5 stars Steven Wilson takes us back on a another journey of his progressive rock adventure, and the expectation were high because of the quality of his music with Porcupine Tree, Blackfield and his solo albums. The music here has this atmospheric feel, almost cinematic with different moods and sounds, from melancholy, to dreamy and to explosive. From the first song "3 Years Older", there is a short reference to "Watcher of the Skies" intro, then it goes on a Rush a like sound. Sometimes we can feel the light atmosphere with the piano and the flute and at others times, the heavy blast of guitars. All this music back up with the beautiful vocals of Steven and the female singer Nibet Tayeb in some songs. "Happy Returns" and "Perfect Life" are simple songs, but the latter especially is very well done with his airy melody and melancholic feel that takes us back to the sensibility of the first Blackfield album. It also contains some modern electro beat throughout. "Regret" contains some exquisite keyboards/guitar parts. "Ancestral" has a nice crescendo with intense and heavy guitar parts that are not unlike Opeth. There's some songs that didn't do it as much for me like "Routine" with his Dire Strait guitar passage and "Happy Returns". "Home Invasion" has some nice instrumental section and cool guitar effect. This album combined the quality of songwriting and musicianship with refine arrangements. It's got a overall sound that is new and old, melancholic and modern. It's a natural evolution of the man's career that his marked by his originality and creativity.
Report this review (#1378160)
Posted Thursday, March 5, 2015 | Review Permalink
5 stars This album is deserving of the hype that it has generated. It is wonderfully composed and produced (I suppose that we should expect nothing but top notch production from anything that Steven Wilson touches at this point). I have read in places that there are an excessive amount of solos on this record and I disagree. Where there are certainly plenty of moments that highlight the players on the album, none of them become indulgent and/or wanky for me. Rather they are displays of the virtuosic talent that SW has amassed around him. Other reveiwers have done an admirable job with the track by track description of this album so in the interest of brevity I will simply say that my favorite song on Hand. Cannot. Erase. is Ancestral. Gripping stuff and truly a prog masterpiece. I can't wait to see this upcoming tour in Boston in May If you are on the fence about checking this album out, don't hesitate in purchasing a copy. It is well worth it. A note about the art work, I have the LP and think it is absolutely stunning. I could see myself framing this record along with other classic covers like Lark's Tongues someday... Beautiful cover that fits the mood and tenor of the album and its subject matter. A masterpiece (perhaps not quite what Raven or In Absentia are, but still one of the better new releases I have heard in the past decade).
Report this review (#1378550)
Posted Friday, March 6, 2015 | Review Permalink
5 stars 4,55 stars.

Wilson in an interview, said that one of the text and to some extent the concept of music of this album is to show the life of the average middle-aged human from the early childhood to ... (?? ) (I'll write about it later) Therefore, the mood of each song and emotions on this album are very diverse, just like in our life.

In the first 30 seconds of the two-piece composition First Regret / 3 Years Older, initially you can hear a "tape effect" with the sounds of children sojourned itself outside. But at once! Something here does not match! In the background of childish voices to be heard incidental torrential rain.
It is possible therefore to conclude that these childish sounds is a recollection of care-free childhood of the female hero of this album. She's standing in the rainy morning at the bus stop on a way to work, probably somewhere in northern London (quote "You stand there with the other [%*!#]ers in the rain.").

After the short nostalgic entry, picturing the early childhood (First Regret), towards the end of second minute music suddenly is revived. Excellent guitar riffs in the style of group Rush slows down suddenly in vocal sequence, which begins the second part of composition.
3 Years Older - The story is about too quickly ended carefree school days with first emotional relationships and the sudden contact with the hard realities of everyday life. While waiting for arrival of the double-decker bus, she thinks of her first committed errors for which she'll have to pay, and which she now regrets.
Beautiful text ends by the change of rhythm, and already to the end of this composition we'll hear a sharp prog-rock riffs, intertwined keyboard improvisations and guitars in the climate of groups Rush and U.K (lack only for Jobson's violin), with the splendid Nick Beggs bass part. Can you believe that once upon a time - during the time of my youth - he was a bass player for stricte pop music group Kajagoogoo? :) As for me, a great start to the album!

The next composition, but rather song, Hand Cannot Erase, with music structure reminds me "Beautiful Day" by U2. It's a joyful diving-board from the climates from a first composition. But as in the true life - nostalgia and melancholy will be able suddenly to be exchanged in joy and the first antiquated love. Great song.

Large sensation exerted on me during the succeeding composition Perfect Life. In hidden loomed manner is here solitude of human in the heart of a large city. In order to entirely to understand its beauty (and cause why the Wilson's text is recitated with music by woman) it is necessary to know that music on the all album "Hand.Cannot.Erase." sacrificed memory of 40-years young Joyce Carol Vincent. The female protagonist of the majorities of the texts of this album is modelled on this exactly figure. Towards the end of December of 2003, Joyce Vincent died in solitude in the social dwelling in the north part of London. Her remains in a state of complete decomposition was found after three years. Television in the room was switched on all the time, because all charges for electricity and rent were automatically deducted from their bank account. The neighbors were convinced that the bad smell comes from the neighboring waste.
Perfect Life, in my opinion, deliberately breaks off quite unexpectedly, just as suddenly for no reason had stopped the "perfect" Joyce Vincent's lonely life.

Routine - these are the typical prog-rock nostalgic song (a la early Genesis) with a beautiful part of piano, and with the motive text about monotony of daily life. She constantly performing the same actions that helps her to live with personal tragedy from the past and to "kill" the passage of time. After the sixth minute, followed by a brief revival of the guitar part and at the end of a quiet ending. I like it a lot.

The two-piece composition Home Invasion / Regret 9 begins energetic prog-rock broken rhythm, where the leading role is played drums. Although nothing can not be blamed on the album drummer Marco Minnemann, but personally I miss here a lot Gavin Harrison's drumming style, which in my opinion (and not only my) is currently the best prog-rock drummer in the world. Gavin certainly will prove that at the most recent upcoming King Crimson studio album. I.CANNOT.WAIT. ;)
After three sharp minutes of energetic prog-rock, music's followed by a slowdown and Wilson's vocal part begins. The text tells the story of human's voluntary isolation from the outside world, to which he lost his confidence. Time is spent to replace the real world, ubiquitous network website, where you can find and download virtually everything - sex, dream house, a wife, God, ocean, sky, war, love and hate.
At the end of vocal part, Home Invasion pass in Regret 9, with the most beautiful instumental synthesizer-guitar part, ended by exemption and renewed "tape effect", with the sounds sojourned itself the children. Again here to be heard the hankering of our female heroine for care-free childhood, without the television, the internet and without computer games. Splendid composition!

A three-minute Transience is a short piece with difficult to the decipherment text. IMO it is about the fast lapse of life and unredeemed dreams from childhood. Nice moody piece, with a powerful bass and synthesizer riff - that is exactly like the one with the title composition Pink Floyd album "Obscured by Clouds", hmm .. by the way has the same 3- minute length. Too bad it's so short, but as in the text .. our live is also short and unfulfilled.

In the long (13-minute) Ancestral, she's suffering from loneliness, living in a closed society of the great industrial city, settles with its past. She cannot accept the fact, that all good moments that lived long ago passed away forever. This very digging out, depressing text is excellently coordinated with dark, gloomy and depressing music.
With regard to music - happens here very a great deal. The frequent changes of rate, the powerful riffs and excellent rhythm section - causes that this composition is "paradise" for prog-rock and prog-metal fans. Excellent track!!

The album closes two-part composition Happy Returns / Ascendant Here On... It shows our heroine in a similar place where she was at the beginning of the album - at the bus stop. It's late afternoon and she's on a way home. Heavy rain develops into the thunderstorm. In such a scenario she performs a telephone conversation with a long unseen brother. He called her to "see if she was still alive". In a conversation with him she says that would be a lie to say that everything is going okay, cause she has financial problems as to make ends meet, but she would like to give gifts to her nephews who are aged childhood. "..But I'm feeling kind of drowsy now, so I'll finish this (talk) tomorrow.." - she ends the conversation.
The most beautiful melodic line of this composition, motive monumental guitar solo just after last vocal part, proceeds smoothly into two-minute short Ascendant Here On.... The drops quieting down rain on the background of sounds sojourned itself children - that's the end of this excellent "a jaw dropping" concept album.

This ending gives the impression that the whole story is written on the board - however, can result in optimistic, but it depends entirely on our imagination.

4,55 stars, or 9 of 10.

Report this review (#1379461)
Posted Saturday, March 7, 2015 | Review Permalink
5 stars This will probably be the most reviewed and discussed album on PA this year, so I'll skip the full song by song recap that others have and will take on, and just say that for me this is the best album overall from SW to date. Less "Prog" than his last solo album, but more "Progressive" overall with the way he blends together different types of sounds and genres, both older and modern, into this amazing musical journey. Also the album's lyrics and story arc are his most cohesive since "Fear of A Blank Planet", augmented by SW's creation of a faux online blog from the protagonist at the center of the story (and also found in the gorgeous deluxe book edition). The highlight song for me (among many other great moments) is "Routine", a Kate Bush-inspired song featuring Israeli singer Ninet Tayeb and a boy's choir. It's an emotionally charged "story within the story" piece, depicting a mother struggling to keep it together after her family is mass murdered in a school shooting (the protagonist is obsessed with collecting newspaper clippings of stories about people who just went missing, this mother later becomes one of the "disappeared"). Also lyrically, love how the album ends on an ambiguous note ? does the protagonist re-join society, or did she commit suicide, or herself become one of the mysterious "disappeared"? Heady stuff, could see this album/story being made into to a movie one day, it all works together that well.
Report this review (#1380728)
Posted Tuesday, March 10, 2015 | Review Permalink
Second Life Syndrome
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Anytime a Steven Wilson album releases, the progressive world goes into a panic. I've lost count of the number of album selfies I've seen in social media since this album released. Well, at least the artwork is stunning and sure to be one of my favorites. Anyways, those that follow me on my prog page The PROG Mind know that I have mixed feelings about this prog legend. Like it or not, Steven Wilson is now a legend, and we honestly might owe him the entirety of the current prog revival. Yet, I don't always connect with his music. After hearing "Hand.Cannot.Erase.", however, I feel I can endorse this new recording from the new face of prog.

This new album is not innovative. It is not some sublime rip-off of 70's prog, like his previous album. No, "Hand.Cannot.Erase." is just Steven Wilson, perhaps even pining about his Porcupine Tree days. You see, this new album avoids the excessive technicality of "The Raven That Refused to Sing" for a straightforward pop rock album that somehow magically winds up being extremely progressive, as opposed to Prog, that is. I've seen some people call this new album "electro rock", though I don''t see the point of the label. There is very little in the way of noticeable electronic sound, so that label seems strange. The album also doesn't seem like a King Crimson or Pink Floyd rip-off, so it's definitely a new sound for Wilson. All in all, "Hand.Cannot.Erase." is very similar to late era Porcupine Tree, only with an elusive pop element that shows itself here and there. I can honestly say that I think this was the best step for Wilson.

Give the PT fans something to chew. Rumors have been flying about a PT reunion, though Wilson denies it. Instead, he's given the fans the next logical PT album, and I salute him for that. The album starts off a bit sluggishly, in my opinion, with good songs like "3 Years Older" and the title track. Honestly, they don't wow me at all, mainly due to the pedestrian feeling they exude. Then the single comes around, "Perfect Life", and the album really takes a turn for the better. I happen to love this single, even though it seems ripped from a Hibernal album, but the album never stops firing on all cylinders from there.

My favorite track, for sure, is "Ancestral", which I deem to be the only 5 star song on the album. Honestly, this track is a monster that builds and builds, adding layers upon layers to the point where only the extremely sensitive will really detect the true genius of the crisscrossing, spiraling movements of guitars and keys. The last two minutes give me goosebumps every time. "Ancestral" is going to be a difficult track to beat this year! The album essentially ends, however, with a great little ballad that will certainly get stuck in your head, and for good reason. "Happy Returns" shows Wilson at his most melodic, and possibly even his catchiest. So, while "Hand.Cannot.Erase." is no masterpiece, it is still a strong showing from an important figure in prog.

Report this review (#1380812)
Posted Tuesday, March 10, 2015 | Review Permalink
5 stars Steven Wilson, the songwriter, producer, singer, guitarist behind Porcupine Tree and an uncompromising and successful solo career has once again delivered on surprising his fans. Following the success of his last album, the brilliant 'Raven that refused to sing', Wilson has returned to making a concept album and with 'Hand.Cannot.Erase', he has delivered perhaps one of the best albums of his career.

A true concept album, it is based on the story of Joyce Vincent who was found after being dead in her apartment for 2 years. This can make for some dark moments but Wilson finds a way of encapsulating the entire story of the young woman's life, providing moments of endearment, love, remembrance, loss and intensity all within the flow of the album. Musically, the album covers a lot of territory from parts sounding like Porcupine Tree and Opeth to Pop and Electronica. He has always ventured into other areas, but seems to be shying away from staying in one lane even more with this one. But rest assured, Prog fans should love this album.

For any fans of Porcupine Tree, the opening track 'First Regret/3 Years Older' will feel like a return to form. Opening like a movie soundtrack, the section 'First Regret' builds on a simple piano refrain and then moves to a string arrangement. The guitar into for '3 Years Older' sounds like it could be the guitar opening from Tommy but quickly the syncopated drum and bass from Marco Minnemann and Nick Beggs draw you into the building excitement. The next few minutes are like a musical overture leading to a simple acoustic guitar where Wilson begins to sing. The harmonies and background vocals are sublime and the explosion when the band kicks back in with force is captivating. There are some brilliant progressive moments in this latter half of the track, with the Adam Holzman's piano leading the way along with the tremendously talented Guthrie Govan following on guitar. The band features some of the best musicians in the world and they are absolutely incredible throughout.

The second track, 'Hand.Cannot.Erase' is nontraditional for a Steven Wilson album as it is a simple 4 minute pop song and perhaps one of the most radio friendly songs he has ever produced, certainly from his solo albums. It is an uptempo song that by itself would be cause for concern from the discerning Prog fan base, but in the context of the album, it is completely welcome as a breath of fresh air.

'Perfect Life' follows and this is where the album begins to shift. As seen in the video previously released for the song, it is mostly a narrated track where the sister of the lead woman in the story recalls how they first connected and then fell out of each other's lives. Mostly over an electronic rhythm, Wilson starts to sing 'we have got the perfect life' towards the end of the song, making for one of the most interesting and beautiful moments on the album. When asked about this track being a strange choice for the first video and single, Wilson said he is not interested in doing what is expected. Check out the interview with The Prog Report.

The centerpiece of the album is 'Routine'. The song introduces Israeli singer Ninet Tayeb as the lead character. The song is as much a musical theater track as it is a progressive rock track. It is an epic track that incorporates a boys choir which adds a particular depth to the track. The use of the instruments as characters, shifting them in and out, is another welcome element and shows Wilson's brilliance as a producer.

The next track 'Home Invasion/Regret' is something that would have fit on his last album. A heavy progressive track with a lot of instrumental parts make this a fun track to listen to and explore. The second half features an incredible solo section from Holzman. Guthrie Govan has his best solo moment on this track as well. This should be a great live song.

'Transciense' sounds like 'Lips of Ashes' from 'In Absentia'. It is a nice break from the heaviness of the previous track. And is a perfect pairing with 'Ancestral.' The big epic track on the album is also the heaviest track. It is similar to how Wilson used to write in the early days of PT in songs like Russia On Ice where the first half of the song is subdued and dark before kicking into a metal riff explosion that continues until the song reaches is climax.

The closing track 'Happy Returns/Ascendant Here On' is a soft ballad and a great way to close the album. After the haunting moments of 'Ancestral' Wilson chooses to try and leave the listener on a message of hope, even though we know the outcome is not good. He has often chosen to close his albums with ballad type tracks, some more simple than others. This one is grand and builds before ending softly with some piano and strings.

This is an album that demands multiple listens. It is layered and complex and once again Steven Wilson proves he is just an a different playing field when it comes to Prog and Rock music. He has created his own niche in both genres. He could easily do a full on Prog album as he did with the Raven, but knowing that is why he chooses to not do it. Instead he gifts us with another brilliant piece of music that should stand the test of time. This will definitely be one of the top albums of 2015.

Report this review (#1381178)
Posted Thursday, March 12, 2015 | Review Permalink
5 stars There's no denying that Steven Wilson's solo career has been on one heck of a roll. Since Porcupine Tree's The Incident was released in 2009, Wilson has focused solely on his blossoming solo efforts -- giving us 2011's Grace for Drowning and 2013's The Raven Who Refused to Sing, the latter of which was Album of the Year at the 2013 Progressive Music Awards. However, his latest studio disc, Hand. Cannot. Erase., is the best of the bunch and will continue to be lauded by progressive metal enthusiasts for decades to come. It'll also be staying in my stereo for a long time. Well done, Mr. Wilson.

The first thing listeners must understand before experiencing this disc is the unique subject matter of Hand. Cannot. Erase. For those who don't know, it's an emotional concept album inspired by the case of an English woman named Joyce Carol Vincent who passed away in December 2003, but had remained undiscovered for about three years. From what I read in old articles, Vincent's television and heat remained running during that span and half of her rent was being automatically paid by benefit agencies until the housing officials decided to repossess her home after enough unpaid rent had accumulated. That's when they finally found her corpse, which was so badly decomposed that she had to be identified through dental records, according to reports. Anyway, Wilson learned of the heartbreaking tale through the 2011 documentary, "Dreams of a Life," and he was inspired to explore how someone could become so isolated, ignored and overlooked in today's tech-heavy world. Needless to say, he brought me to tears at times and paid a terrific tribute to Ms. Vincent.

You know it's buckle-up time as soon as you hear the sound of children playing fade in on the opening track, "First Regret." It's the start of a journey that runs the gamut of musical styles over the course of 65 minutes. But we're not just talking about a collection of tunes -- there is thought-provoking artwork, a blog written through the eyes of the female character, and a special edition that has stereo and 5.1 surround-sound mixes and a 40-page booklet. You've got to respect the effort, with Wilson turning the album into a full-on artistic endeavor that covers a variety of mediums. But, at the core of it all, is the music itself. And Wilson doesn't disappoint. I hear a wide range of influences scattered throughout the tracks from Opeth to Rush, while some of the album's upbeat moments even remind me of The Who.

The disc's highlights for me include the pop-esque title track, which fits incredibly well on the eclectic record, and a female spoken-word track called "Perfect Life." The album's dynamics are dynamite too and excellent examples of this are "Routine" and "Ancestral" -- the latter of which goes from loud to soft, and soft to loud, with ease. Then, there are some impressive performances on the heavy "Home Invasion" and the instrumental "Regret #9." Kudos to guitarist Guthrie Govan, drummer Marco Minnemann and keyboardist Adam Holzman.

My only criticism is the overwhelming melancholy vibe of Hand. Cannot. Erase., which could make it a difficult listen on a frequent basis. But that's a tiny gripe. The truth is, everything Wilson touches turns to gold, and as fans all we can do is just sit back and enjoy the ride.

- Michael R. Ebert (progzombie.blogspot.com)

Report this review (#1384752)
Posted Thursday, March 19, 2015 | Review Permalink
5 stars Steven Wilson is one of the few "buy on sight" artists for me (Steve Hackett being just about the only other).

I was wondering what Mr Wilson would do after "The Raven..." - would he "do an Oldfield", rest on the laurels and make a "The Raven II"? or would he once more surprise and challenge us? I sure hoped for the latter and I was NOT disappointed by Hand.Cannot.Erase. - it is pure genius.

Musically he takes us places we haven't been before without losing the connection to where he's coming from, and lyrically he sets new standards. Having read up on the story ("concept") behind the album, the final lyrics, the closing lines on "Happy Returns" - superficially the most accessible song on the album, and no doubt thus causing the purist to froth at the mouth - was like a punch in the gut. I can't shake it off, yet the song stays on repeat a lot.

Only possible regret is that Theo Travis is used less on this album (and will be absent from the tour as far as I have heard), but that's Mr Wilson's decision - he just didn't write so much for wind instruments this time. But that is a minor detail. The album is an undisputed 5-star; this is a masterpiece of progressive rock music and essential in any collection.

Report this review (#1385940)
Posted Sunday, March 22, 2015 | Review Permalink
tszirmay
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars While being a reverent but discreet fan of Steve Wilson ever since seeing a PTree concert showcasing "Fear of Blank Planet", I was extremely predisposed to be unusually harsh with my expectations, finding enjoyment but not adulation with his preceding solo albums (though "The Raven?" did provide many hot chills), while "The Incident" did leave me somewhat puzzled, like many other proggers here and beyond, as it undoubtedly signaled some kind of temporary or perhaps permanent finality, in regards to PTree's future. I read some of the initial reviews and noticed the high ratings, as well as the gorgeous artwork, followed all the gab in the lounges, where there was talk of a surging masterpiece. I must grudgingly admit that, once again I have been proven wrong and deserve a guilty sentence. This latest offering has a very designed mood that permeates all the tracks, from beginning to end taking the rabid fan or the critical dissenter to a new level completely, forging some new kind of modern prog, laden with old , new and futuristic schools and methods that will cause some serious consternation in music land. Firstly, this is head music that just cavitates and captivates, spanning the entire rainbow of contrasts, from ultra-soft to 'ka-bang' heavy, encapsulated even within one song, the colossal "Ancestral". Not only are the returning instrumentalists deliriously proficient but they choose to explode into some distant sonic set that defies gravity, speed and light. The phenomenal Nick Beggs needs no more introduction, guitarist Guthrie Govan has a level of creativity that goes somewhere where no one has gone, yet. Keyboardist Adam Holzman is a timid type, doing magical things discreetly, so in my mind, he is a 'compadre' of Richard Barbieri, mood manipulators par excellence, a savory mix of Eno and Wakeman (he was a Miles Davis and Mahavishnu Project member in the past) . Marco Minnerman is a beast, we all have heard the applause and we are aware of the fame.

My first and ongoing impression was coherently focused on how this album was divided into mini-blocks, autonomous musical regions firmly entrenched within an overall confederation. There are also some linking messaging between pieces, common denominators blatantly exposed in the lyrics on "3 Years Older" and "Perfect Life". The mixture of past PTree glories and current mercies. Clever and brainy, Mr Wilson.

Showcasing a layering of styles that work well together, "3 Years Older" is a bass heavy ramble that combines all the talents mentioned above, Guthrie Govan in particular shining brightly on his electric guitar, flirting with countrified tones, 'I will love you more than I will ever show 'being a fine example of Wilson's simple yet exciting lyrics and an explosive instrumental part that, just as suddenly, veers into 'pianofied' jazz. The piece then evolves into a cameo spotlight for each soloist, starting off with Holzman's rushing organ, pursued closely by a spiraling missile lead guitar from Govan and even Beggs doing his Chris Squire thingy, better than recent Chris Squire! A slight wink to his previous PT classic track "She Moved On", off Lightbulb Sun can and should make one smile.

Another tasty block of songs that wink at more Blackfieldian horizons, yet with more dreaminess perhaps, is launched by the lovely ear candy title track, the more melancholic "Perfect Life" and its tendency towards foolish entitlement and sarcastic disbelief. Wilson's ongoing fascination for apathy is not hard to understand as it has rapidly and insidiously infected our world, rather completely. Apathy towards society, politics, even the arts, human interaction being now ruled by some stupid i-phone, banks screwing up deposits and withdrawals, lack of any customer service anywhere, people in England applauding suicide victims to jump. Apathy towards human interaction , being now ruled by some stupid i-phone, banks screwing up deposits and withdrawals, lack of any customer service anywhere, people in England applauding suicide victims to jump. Yeah, bad! Happens to fit nicely with the more developed 9 minute long case in point "Routine", another masterful track dripping with ennui, a spotlight on Guthrie Govan again, his slithering axe quivering like a frazzled leaf in agony. Someone mentioned Mark Knopfler-like , interesting !

The most overtly perfect tracks are actually within another group of tunes piled up together, leading the charge with the edgier and spectacular "Home Invasion", a thoroughly trembling slice of fizzy prog, and featuring a lively electric piano rant that will shock anyone listening, some brash and rash guitar frills embracing the insane drum fills. The first moments offer up a groove that sleeps between sheets of abyss and cloud, brooding and confusing, like fear itself. Creepy synths crawl into the delirious maelstrom, a feverish steamrolling beat that is just plain thrilling, as Steve sings convincingly; this is modern prog at its finest, adventurous, sonically illuminating and profoundly exhilarating. A slick slide guitar scours the scene of the crime, bleeding directly into the tectonic "Regret #9", an extended synthesizer blowout that sends shivers down the spine, recalling the spirit of PT track "Sentimental", well-muscled by some dynamic drum patterns and a gritty imagery that has melancholia in abundance. For those who enjoy electric guitar soloing, you will not be disappointed with this scorching Govan spotlight (wow!). There is also a nice Rush-like dynamic in the rhythmic assault, though this piece has a special feel that defies categorization.

The suave "Transience" serves as a gentle intermezzo between two cannonading sections, a pastoral and spacy ballade that reminds us of structure, contrast and expectations being appeased. Voice, acoustic guitar rule the waves, a solemn bass synth rumble painting the sky and serenity galore. 'It's only the start?..' he trills .

Now "Ancestral" may very well qualify as one of Steve's finest compositions, easily up there with "Anesthetize", for example. An outwardly explosive soundtrack of intensity and expression, erected within simple but effective sonic architecture, evolving from a serene onset and slowly morphing into a gigantic vortex of sounds. I sent this to a lovely lady friend who was not familiar with prog and she replied the following" I don't think I have ever listened to music like that and to have had so much emotion evoked inside me". Emotions, feelings, pulse and heartbeat. A raindrop beat pushing electric piano, jagged guitar slivers, a heavily echoed SW voice, flute in fluttering tow, the atmosphere is intoxicating, surreal and emphatic. Lush symphonics take this to a higher plane, rushed along by a celestial chorus, and a Govan slither job on the fretboard. This is so amazing, it verges on the laughable (when something musically is beyond my capacity to comprehend, I giggle nervously). Mid way through, the mood becomes tempestuous with clinical weaving that would shake Robert Fripp's stool, a whistling Holzman synth leading into a veritable mellotron deluge. Beggs begs to differ (pun) as he adds a colossal riff to the proceedings that has Red era KC (as well as an overt ELP wink) stamped all over it. Minnerman slams fast, hard and with purpose, making this a classic 21st century epic of seismic proportions.

Finish off with"Happy returns" the most accessible piece, a very enchanting, typically English mood piece, that I can admire but not go gaga over, this is the one piece that I find needless. Perhaps due to the preceding splendor, I just rate it somewhat skin-deep only. Finally, a brief moody outro, almost ambient, definitely relaxed "Ascendant Here On" will prove a perfect au revoir.

Some will like, some will hate but no one will deny the talent at play here. His best yet, I feel is still to come.

4.5 ears cannot erase

Report this review (#1386498)
Posted Monday, March 23, 2015 | Review Permalink
Flucktrot
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars I have to admit that Steven Wilson as an artist has been a slow grower for me over time, but due to the sheer immensity of his output, and the need to listen to his material more often to really appreciate much of it (particularly the softer, more delicate, bits), my appreciation for his music is now quite high, and I now have to pay attention to basically any stuff he puts out.

There are things such as In Absentia and Raven, which have tons of material that iss easy to love upon first listen and never look back. This album, on the other hand, and similar to much of the rest of Steven's work, takes multiple listens and some focused thinking about the subject matter to truly appreciate. I admit that I might perhaps be in the minority, as some folks appear to have loved this album right from the get-go, but I really have had to give this the benefit of time and persistence to fully appreciate.

Regardless of what might be said about this album and Steven's current status in general, let it be clear that his solo collaboration still sounds quite fresh. Generally avoiding even a hint of staleness with the volume of material associated with Steven is something to appreciate in itself. Part of this freshness must stem from the source: the haunting story of Joyce Carol Vincent, which has captured my thinking and imagination at least as much as the music itself. I'm not sure I would have learned about this case study without Steven's music, so thanks to him for that alone, as the penetrating themes of isolation, deindividuation and bystander effects only seem to be more prominent as the technological and virtual era marches on.

Now to the music!

Highlights: Home Invasion/Regret #9, 3 Years Older, Hand Cannot Erase, Ancestral. I'm basically listing these in order of my favorites on down, and like most, the Home Invasion/Regret sequence represents the best merging of Porcupine Style songwriting, psychadelic freakouts, and exception intensity and musicianship. Quite simply the best part of the album for me, although 3 Years Older is not far behind in terms of creative structure, melodies, and energy. The title track is also quite nice, as it is certainly poppy, but beautifully recorded and catchy. Finally, I almost hesitate to include Ancestral here, as is--sorry to say--disjointed in places, particularly toward the end. But the positives (haunting first half, interesting Magma-meets-metal vibe later on) outweigh the negatives (clunky transitions in spots, overextension of some of the riffing).

Overall, I'm more than happy to have this piece of music, as I--at least for the time being--keep coming back because it leaves me with questions and blurred images that need clarification. Long term, however, I will probably keep to my favorites and skip the whole album experience, because there just aren't quite enough interesting things happening musically in spots.

Report this review (#1386728)
Posted Tuesday, March 24, 2015 | Review Permalink
Tony R
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
5 stars Hand. Cannot. Do. Justice.

This is quite simply put one of the best albums I've ever heard! It's Steven Wilson. It's Guthrie and Marco, Nick Beggs and Adam Holzman and is every bit as good as you would expect from such a stellar cast. It's a concept album based on a film about real events surrounding the sad and lonely death of Joyce Carol Vincent was dead in her flat for three years before anyone noticed. You know, the usual upbeat stuff from Mr Wilson. I love every last second of this but if there is one "Desert Island Disc" moment it's the gorgeous Moog solo in Regret #9 that's worth the Ł50 special edition price on its own - there's two nights at the Royal Albert Hall in September 2015 to look forward to and I simply cannot wait.

Stunning. A masterpiece.

Report this review (#1387938)
Posted Thursday, March 26, 2015 | Review Permalink
Bonnek
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Prog Metal Team
3 stars Wilson's fourth solo album welcomes the same musicians as 'The Raven That Refused To Sing' but it sounds entirely different and that is not just due to the Theo Travis's all but absent flutes and saxophone. While the 'Raven' was a tribute to the sound of early Yes/Genesis/KC, this is very much a modern prog/pop album trying to find a middle ground between late Porcupine Tree, Blackfield pop and the delicious instrumental freak-outs from Wilson's excellent band.

It begins with a slow moody start 'First Regret', featuring some electronic beats reminding me of 'The Incident'. The 10 minute '3 Years Older' hits the scene with its already renowned 'Rush riff' that hurls us through the first 4 instrumental minutes and reappears at the end supporting a crazy organ solo from Adam Holzman. Unfortunately, the song part that sits in the middle is a very conventional and actually forgettable light pop tune. This gets worse on the next two songs. The title track sounds like a leftover from later Blackfield albums and the 'Perfect Life' is probably the cheesiest moment ever on a Wilson/PT album. All in all, despite the 'Rush' riff, a very bad start.

Then something interesting happens, 'Routine' still starts with the same type of singersongpop vocals of the previous 20 minutes but quickly turns for the good when guest singer Ninet Tayeb takes over and takes this album to a next level (well make that 5 levels up given how low we were). Even a little boys' choir joins in to spice up this interesting duet. It paves the way to what I find the most fun 25 minutes of Wilson's solo career so far. 'Home Invasion' starts like a jazzy/metallic take on 'Mother and Child Devided' but halfway in it turns into a groovy funky song. Wilson's vocals are again a bit underwhelming at first but he finds a better voice in the chorus, which seems to come straight off some Signify-era PT. I'll spare you my inadequate wordings for what happens on the instrumental 'Home Invasion'. It's a synth and guitar solo fest that's simply too good to be true, very Floydian but more virtuoso.

'Transcience' is the only 'song' on this album that I fully enjoy, it's a 'Heartattack in a Layby' meets Nick Drake doing Pink Floyd's 'Goodby Blue Sky' type of thing. Wonderful. It's followed by the exceptional 'Ancestral', another multipart long track with a 5 minute trip-hop like vocal section building up to a wonderfully epic chorus, it ends with an 8 minutes instrumental 'King Crimson in space' closing. The ending 'Happy Returns/Ascendant' suite is the type of ballad we've come to expect as a Wilson album closer. It's ok but he's done better.

Hand. Cannot. Erase. is an album of contrasts touching almost any style Wilson explored before, with some new angles on top. The main schism for me is between the (unbearable) old-school poprock of the first half and a second part that is rather dark and crammed with instrumental workouts. I must say I'm surprised of the very positive reception it got, I had taught more people would be struggling to make sense of the contrasting styles and moods on offer. Maybe Wilson's fans developed very eclectic (schizoid?) mindsets over the years.

Report this review (#1391724)
Posted Thursday, April 2, 2015 | Review Permalink
5 stars I am duty bound to give this five stars - because I reckon that based on musicianship, composition, and concept alone - this CD will be the finest out this year and if a CD does surpass it - than it will also be a five star effort by that fact alone. I would have had to give it five stars for the moog-solo alone - because it's so rare that a solo of such haunting perfection is attempted in todays prog - even those that are intending to be somewhat retrospective and attempting to re-capture the essence of the old- style concept album. The CD has all kinds of old-style influences merged in - I get Genesis, Rush, Yes, Floyd , Camel and Anthony Phillips - I am not going to bother taking you through the tracks again - a lot of other people have done that already - A final thought must go on the thought provoking and superb atheist lyrics - Ancestral "Distracted by their faith, ignoring every proof" - a better line I have yet to find in any CD in my collection.....This is definitely a must buy for 2015!!!
Report this review (#1395262)
Posted Tuesday, April 7, 2015 | Review Permalink
Slartibartfast
COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator / In Memoriam
4 stars I missed out on the preorder for the deluxe version of this album so I wll focus on the surround sound DVD and talk about on on a more personal level as there are already many detailed reviews of the music itself.

This is an album that will mark my 50th birthday for the rest of my life. It arrived about a month prior and will be one of three 2015 releases to do so, but this one will likely have the most meaning as time progresses. If you peel away the surface story, it's all about growing older, which we do everyday, and the regrets you encounter over a lifetime. Particular touching for me are the lyrics in Happy Returns addressed to a brother that one has lost touch with, but I will spare you the details.

I was amused to see an interview with Steven, where he was asked about the possiblity of a Porcupine Tree reunion and about his moving on to a "solo" career. To paraphrase: he felt he had said all he had to say through Porcupine Tree and moved on to the self titled albums so he could explore new musical territory that he couldn't in the band due to the other members particular musical tastes and what that brought to the band. This album actually impresses me as the most Porcupine Tree like music of his solo albums so far. It is particularly reminiscent to me of the albuma around and after Lightbulb Sun. Sure there are no females in the mix with PT, but come on. Not that I am complaining. Steven has a knack for putting out albums that alway appeal to me even if the feeling is not universal amonst some reviewers. This one is of course no exception.

I do have one question about Regret #9. What exactly is the regret here? That Steven didn't play anything on the track? That Adam Holzman is borrowing heavily from Jan Hammer and didn't give him a thanks a credits? That there are no vocals? I don't understand. Actually if this is reflective of a new band (the same musicians were present on The Raven That Refused To Sing) then I have no doubt their next album be equally as enjoyable.

So, I would recommend going with the blu-ray version if you have the means to play it back. It is certainly worth it for the surround sound listening experience, of which I think Steven is the undisputed master of. He has a real talent of surrounding you with the sounds be it his own music or remixing, progressive rock classics. It appears that all the artwork you would get in the deluxe version show up on screen as a coordinated slide show. Whoever laments the loss of the old LP sit down and listen experience, an album relased in this format certainly brings it back without the audio limitations and flaws of the vinyl medium. And after all it is a concept album.

Tons of bonus material on this version. A duplicate of the music with slide show and no vocals. Karaoke anyone? Some alternate version of the tracks.including a radio edit of Hand Cannot Erase (no Steven no!!!) There are also some additional images/slides included to go along with these tracks. Finally a studio documentary.

For those who can't do blu, there is a mediabook version with a high quality DVD audio disc, a standard CD version (no pretty video pictures though, as well as, sigh, a double LP version. He may have been able to spread the grooves far enough to overcome some of the audio limitations of that format, plus you get a nice LP package. I suppose you could also just download it, sigh, but why deprive yourself of a better listening experience?

At the Burning Shed store site it says Steven is a "four-time Grammy nominee and founder member of cult legends, Porcupine Tree." I knew the latter but not the former. That might explain why I saw a copy of the standard CD version available at a local chain electronics and appliance store...

Report this review (#1395760)
Posted Wednesday, April 8, 2015 | Review Permalink
5 stars The fourth Steven Wilson album has been out for around three months now, yet has not attracted as much feedback from Prog Archives readers as previous albums. Ratings are almost identical to the previously lauded "The Raven That Refused To Sing", but significantly lower in volume - 485 ratings at the time of this review. Which begs the question why?

Is the album too polarising? Some of the negative criticism suggests that it is too "pop" sounding in early stages, particularly the catchy title song. The criticisms remain until the latter part of the album. Other critics like the first half of the album finding it so very different to the previous albums. Some Porcupine Tree fans have noted that the title track is a return to some of the catchy singles of the Halo, Lightbulb Sun, Even Less and Stranger by the Minute era.

Too electro-pop? Perfect Life is a heavily electronic-influenced song that sounds like it has a drum-machine accompaniment, yet credited on the album to Marco Minneman. Just because something sounds like it was manufactured by a machine does not always mean there wasn't a human element.

Too different from the previous 70's style that drew so much acclaim for TRTRTS? Wilson himself has said he was very happy that they were able to emulate that era and used analogue recording techniques under the skilful engineering of Alan Parsons. HCE is totally different and firmly recorded in the 21st Century using plenty of digital techniques, as anyone who has seen the documentary on the Blu-ray (or on the three smaller teasers on Steven Wilson's website) would testify.

Or is it that people are now so comfortable that Wilson is going to produce a skillful, well-engineered, balanced and thought-provoking, boundary-pushing album that they are almost too bored to comment?

It's taken me a few months to rate this album, and it is not because of tedium, more so keenness to see what others think. In short the album is an essential collector ? for all of the reasons above. After listening to the deluxe edition 5.1 Blu-ray, the conceptual flow, musical clarity and sheer dynamism of the album is amazing. Fans have rated Ancestral as a classic, while others have appreciated the 70's style 3 Years Older combination of swirling keyboards and electric/acoustic guitars so reminiscent of The Who, Yes, Crimson and so many others. Yet is sounds so fresh and alive.

Regret #9 has enough keyboard sounds to satisfy Symphonic Prog lovers with a blistering guitar Solo from Guthrie Govan using a noiseless pickup Fender he had borrowed.

As other reviewers have noted all of the previous album's band members contribute, along with surprises like Nina Tayeb's amazing vocals showcased brilliantly on Routine and Katherine Jenkins' spoken part on Perfect Life. Guest appearances by other musicians (checkout the album liner), including a boy choir and soloist add to a richly diverse album. Many musicians would struggle to make such an amalgam of the above as well as mellotrons, banjos, moogs, electronica sound like music, yet the end result is an album that is cohesive, tight and very memorable.

An excellent album that deserves to be called a Masterpiece as much as TRTRTS has.

And a challenge to those that marveled at TRTRTS and felt compelled to review it and have not done so for this one - What do you think?

Report this review (#1403488)
Posted Friday, April 24, 2015 | Review Permalink
3 stars 3.5/5 ... I rounded down to 3 because I just cannot squeeze a 4 out of it....

Take a cut of the heavier, proggier end of Steven Wilson and season it with a judicious pinch of jazz fusion, simmer with a touch of Blackfield and Grace for Drowning, and serve over a bed of Porcupine Tree. Present on a silver platter of fan-hype and accolades and Voila! Hand. Cannot. Erase., the new Steven Wilson solo album.

I played this album more or less regularly once the iTunes download arrived, and then a bit more after my vinyl version hit the doorstep. After owning it for a few months, I find I do not play it at all any more--probably the fastest ever that any Wilson album has lost its luster. My overall impression is of an album of pleasant tedium interrupted by moments of sheer beauty. And alas I find that there are not nearly enough moments of sheer beauty, or any other sort of exceptional moments. It is all very competently done (as is ever the case with Wilson): well composed, well sung, well played, but overall it tastes rather...not so much bland, as restrained.

On the plus side: HCE is poppier, proggier, and more purely face-melting heavy than anything Steven Wilson has done solo for a long time, and this is not a bad thing. These are skills that are not lacking in the Wilson musical recipe book, and his prog-pop (pop-prog?) work is nicely concise and to the point. The long instrumental passages and jazzy solo stretches of the last two albums are (mostly) gone. There are instrumental breaks, of course, but they move the song along and one doesn't get the feeling they were stuck in there as a showcase for somebody's chops. This is a clear improvement. The introduction and careful use of the female vocalist has worked out better than a lot of people expected: Ninet Tayeb has a wonderful voice and her parts are perfectly placed.

Wilson does have a gift for the beautiful melody, and on an album as pop-flavoured as this one, he really shines. The title track is catchy, infectious, upbeat, and surprisingly heavy at times; I've heard people say that it might be a bit too Blackfield-ish, but you know, he does this sort of thing so well. The man has such a vast repertoire; I see no problem with his pulling influences from wherever he needs to get them. Likewise the intense heavy moments are reminiscent of the metal-ish days of Porcupine Tree--which suits me fine because those were my favourite PT albums. It's nice to hear them again.

I wish there were more tracks as completely immersive as "Hand Cannot Erase" but unfortunately the other stunning moments are kind of scattershot, popping up in the midst of pleasant but otherwise unremarkable tracks: the last third of "Routine", the first bit of "First Regret/3 Years Older" for example.

And on the downside: HCE has more heart and soul than The Raven that Refused to Sing possessed, and much less (thank god) sheer wankery than was on Grace for Drowning, but despite the beautifully heartbreaking moments and joyful metal heaviness, I find it lacks a fundamental sense of adventure or daring. It is just so polite and restrained. The most applicable description is "nice", with all the innate blandness implied in the word, and the great moments are not enough to overcome that final sense of dissatisfaction at the end of the album. It could have been so much more.

I will wind up on a more positive note because the album does end well: "Ancestral" (at least the last two thirds of it) is a mighty, mighty song. It. Kicks. Ass. in the way Deadwing kicked ass, and there are sections that could have come directly from Deadwing. And "Happy Returns/Ascendant Here on..." is my favourite song on the album by far, heartbreaking and transcendently beautiful.

Alas, there just are not enough of these moments on this album. It is a tasty stew, but it is not Cordon Bleu.

Report this review (#1403774)
Posted Saturday, April 25, 2015 | Review Permalink
5 stars I have a mix feeling about this album. If I didn't know SW work and was listening to HCE as the first album, I would probably give it 5 stars. This album have it all: great composed tracks, heavy progressive parts alongside lighter, catchy, poppier songs, performed by brilliant musicians and have the best sound production only as Steven Wilson knows how. On the other hand, knowing SW from Porcupine Tree and his previous 3 albums I can't help thinking that HCE was compromised a little, maybe to give it a touch of commercial aspects on account of progrier songs. I know SW, he always wanted to be at the top, to make hits and get his radio time share, but as a brilliant musician as he is, he can't just write conservative music, he's a prog artist. HCE is a very good successor to "The Raven?" masterpiece, but not as revolutionary though.
Report this review (#1409853)
Posted Thursday, May 7, 2015 | Review Permalink
5 stars Many reviewers already made good points on what superiority this album has both lyrically and musically and I agree on that acclaim.

Even though "Hand. Cannot. Erase." lacks virtuoso quality which makes "Raven That Refused To Sing" bright and applauded, this album has truly inventive and experimental sonic landscape.

For instance, "Routine" contains eerie and beautiful interactions among boy choirs, mellotron sound and mournful guitar works. "Ancestral" drives listeners to the bleak and sinister place. We can hear Opeth's riffs, King Crimson's dissonance and even Post-rock crescendo. "Perfect Life" is a interesting effort that try to capture bittersweet and old memories using modern and industrial electronic texture.

"Hand. Cannot. Erase." truly deserves five stars.

Report this review (#1410883)
Posted Saturday, May 9, 2015 | Review Permalink
Evolver
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Crossover & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
4 stars Here is a case for giving an album some time before posting an opinion on it. I purchased this album on the day of it's release. At first listen, I liked it, but thought it was nothing special. But the production was so nice, I kept it in my heavy play rotation for quite some time. I've come to think of it as a great album, but not as good as the previous "The Raven That Refused To Sing".

The exceptional songs are 3 Years Older, which begins with a Rush-like riff, but soon settles into a song with the structure and feel of a Neil Morse Spock's Beard era epic, and Ancestral which I believe owes more than a little to King Crimson's Starless.

Just behind those two are the more straight ahead rockers Home Invasion and Regret #9, both powerful and familiar sounding tracks with impressive passionate solos.

Even on the lesser tracks Wilson shows his talent as producer. The title track is more of an alt rock piece than anything else, and A Perfect Life, a repetitious euro-electronica song that, in other hands, may have been unlistenable. Both are strengthened by Wilson's fine ear for finding the perfect tone for his instruments. It shows why so many classic acts are hiring him for the remix on the bicentennial celebrations of our favorite albums.

If you don't like this at first, give it a chance.

Report this review (#1411393)
Posted Sunday, May 10, 2015 | Review Permalink
5 stars Every year he's published something SW has amazed us. Every record is different and unique in its own way, but they all carry that vibe, that sound, that masterful production, that genius... SW has yet to disappoint. Hand.Cannot.Erase is not what you'd expect but is flawless anyway. More pop oriented (if pop is really the way to put it) that his previous two releases, this entry carries inside a PT feel to it, mixed with the musicianship that SW's band brings in. Fabulous performances are heard all the way through, Nick Beggs in almost every song, Ninet Tayeb's hauntingly beautiful vocals in Routine and Ancestral, Adam Holzman's unmistakeable keyboards, Marco Minneman's prescence (in my opinion, one of the greatest drummers alive) and Guthrie Govan's talent. Every SW solo album has been a masterpiece with a unique touch, and this is no exception.
Report this review (#1422748)
Posted Tuesday, June 2, 2015 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars Steven Wilson's latest endeavor takes us to a more "song" oriented album but with plenty of adventerous and innovative instrumental excursions to keep most Prog fans happy. I really think his other job in re-mixing seventies classics has had a very big influence on the way he made this album. The common factor with the classics by GENESIS, YES, KING CRIMSON etc. was the ability of these bands to make accessible and melodic tunes but at the same time veer off into experimental and complex instrumental passages. I feel that same connection with "Hand.Cannot.Erase". This is the first solo album from Wilson that made me think of PORCUPINE TREE quite often, yet it still has that aspect that made me think of some of his earlier solo stuff.

This is a concept album of sorts based on the strange story of Joyce Carol Vincent who was found dead in her apartment and she had been there dead for almost three years. When Steven watched the documentory on her life he just couldn't get it out of his head so here he relays a fictional story inspired by the real life story of Joyce Carol Vincent who was 38 years old at her death and by all accounts popular and attractive. So how did no one find her sooner? Steven weaves a story about a female who grows up and moves to the city and becomes isolated, lonely, nostalgic of her childhood, and he also delves into the internet aspect of her life and how it connects to these things.

So this story is being told from a female perspective but mostly it's her internal thoughts and the more isolated she becomes the more her thoughts become surreal. Steven decided to look for a female singer for some of this music because of this and was looking for a Kate Bush- like singer and it wasn't until he heard Ninet Tayeb at Aviv Geffen's suggestion that he found his singer. Man she has an amazing voice.

Some excellent guests on here including Dave Gregory the former lead guitarist for XTC one of Wilson's favourite bands as well as Dave Stewart once again helping with arrangements and more. My oldest daughter got me this through I-Tunes and it's interesting how on that download he combines "First Regret" and "3 Years Older" along with "Home Invasion" and "Regret #9" and "Happy Returns" and "Ascendant Here On".

"First Regret" is 2 minutes of hearing children laughing in the background as atmosphere rolls in and builds. It all stops as relaxed piano melodies and atmosphere take over. Drums are added late. "3 Years Older" features strummed guitar that takes over quickly followed by a full sound. I'm in heaven and check out the drum work. Killer bass lines follow then a RUSH-vibe before the guitar solos over top. It calms right down as Wilson's reserved vocals arrive. The vocal harmonies are a pleasure, very CSN&Y-like. "I will love you more than you will ever know" is a cool line. It kicks in hard but then settles quickly with piano. So much emotion here. Themes are repeated then we get an incredible instrumental workout late to the end. That RUSH vibe is back late. "Hand.Cannot.Erase" is one of the most addictive songs i've heard, especially the chorus. This has a driving rhythm and great lyrics.

"Perfect Life" is another catchy tune with emotion. Atmosphere to start then a drum machine as spoken female words arrive from a British actress. Steven comes in vocally on the chorus. This is simple but so emotional. The collage of instrumental sounds is breath- taking. "Routine" is a track that many have said is the best song on Wilson's current tour. Ninet Tayeb sings on this one and her voice has such character. Fragile vocals from Wilson and relaxed piano to start. My God! It picks up some and atmosphere is added. Ninet follows and man this is so emotional. A calm 3 minutes in until it picks up after 4 minutes and my emotion is triggered once again. A beautiful guitar solo follows then Ninet is back vocally after 5 minutes. Damn! She blows me away before 6 1 /2 minutes.

"Home Invasion" just slays. We get some Funk, Jazz and spacey sections, the latter that recalls early PORCUPINE TREE. Man Holzman kills on the keyboards here, but they all impress instrumentally. Vocals 3 1/2 minutes in and they sound determined. That spacey passage comes in after 4 minutes. Love this tune. "Regret #9" is an instrumental with a moog solo and even some banjo. An insane moog solo kicks in fairly early and goes on and on as it builds in intensity followed by an amazing guitar solo. The last minute is reflective with the sounds of children in the distance. "Transience" has reserved vocals and picked guitars with atmosphere. STORM COROSSION comes to mind here. The drifting harmonies remind me of PORCUPINE TREE.

"Ancestral" is the longest track at 13 1/2 minutes and it would have fit well on "Grace For Drowning". Wilson's voice sounds different here and Theo Travis plays sax and flute. So much depth before 4 minutes then a guitar solo. Ninet is back vocally with these vocal melodies before actually singing words. Love the guitar that follows. This is dark with some killer drum work as it builds. Kicking ass 7 minutes in, mellotron too. It's mind bending after 8 1/2 minutes and they lay the soundscape waste a minute later. An amazing guitar solo follows. "Happy Returns" is laid back with piano as strummed guitar and vocals join in. It gets fuller and the words and vocals bring emotion. A full sound 2 1/2 minutes in, so beautiful a minute later. Love the guitar late that is followed by a haunting atmosphere. It blends into "Ascendant Here On" as piano joins in and the faint sounds of children.

What can I say? This will probably be my favourite album of 2015 and it's a top three Wilson album for me with "Insurgents" and "Grace For Drowning".

Report this review (#1424737)
Posted Sunday, June 7, 2015 | Review Permalink
BrufordFreak
COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Leave it to the genius of Steven Wilson to pick up on the disturbing story of London socialite Joyce Vincent and make the marvel and mystery of her death into the inspiration for an album--a brilliant album full of the musings and vignettes of subtle criticism of our 21st Century society. The possibility that a young, popular, almost-engaged woman of caring parents could go three years without being discovered or missed seems ludicrous, even impossible. Especially when considering that the television was on, the window wide open, and the mail and bills kept piling up inside on the floor of her front door--for three years! Amazing. What makes Steven Wilson such a genius, to me, is not his reverence for the "masters" and "masterpieces" of the past, not his incredible attention to detail in the engineering and production rooms, not his proclivity for attracting the most amazing instrumentalists to contribute to his songs and tours, but it is in his insightful articulation of the signs and symptoms of the disease and decay of contemporary society. And he's done it almost from the beginning--at least from Lightbulb Sun on. I actually don't like much of Steven's music. As sophisticated and catchy as it is, as well-constructed and well-performed as it is, as well-produced as it is, it is usually lacking something, je ne said quoi, (I can never pinpoint it)--which is what makes me rarely feel the desire to return to many of his albums. In Steven Wilson I recognize the true genius in his lyrics, his subtle yet oh-so timely and poignant social commentary. When we look back in 50 years for music that gave us a look at the real issues troubling our society in the opening of the 21st Century, we will be able to find it in the songs of Steven Wilson. Hand. Cannot. Erase. is definitely a work of genius, definitely a testament to our troubled times. Whereas some groups choose to focus on the big picture issues like Anekdtoen, Ulver, and Paatos, Steven Wilson chooses to focus on the microcosm--on individuals or scenes that provide us with pictures into the imbalances in our society, the odd patterns in our collective and individual consciousnesses, the disease eating away at our souls. Kudos to you, Steven, for continuing to find the cojones, the drive, as well as the right stories to satisfy your obvious need to place that ever-disturbing mirror in front of our eyes. We are such an odd--disturbingly odd--species!

The album starts off rather weakly, trying ever-so hard to breach the chasm of pop and prog for the first four songs (the fourth of which, "Perfect Life," just happens to be awesome and, yes, haunting). Yet, it's really not until the fifth song, "Routine" that Mr. Wilson and company reach the prog stride that will be necessary to please us progheads. From there on, however, the album is pure magic, power and bliss. Brilliant prog songs. Brilliant vignettes into individual lives which Mr. Wilson masterfully uses to illuminate the dysfunctional patterns and priorities that are eating way at our society.

Though not all of Hand. Cannot. Erase. is my cup of tea, I cannot argue with its masterful construction, its mature song writing and the sophisticated play of some of modern prog's instrumental masters. With Hand. Cannot. Erase., Steven Wilson has, once again, contributed something quite significant to posterity.

Five star songs: songs 4 through 9. Favorite songs: "Perfect Life," "Routine," "Regret #9," and "Transience."

Report this review (#1426891)
Posted Sunday, June 14, 2015 | Review Permalink
5 stars This album is the story of our generation. I am a 15 year old and this album exactly represents my life. It shows a lot about our generation, if we were to disappear we wouldn't run away but instead just lock ourselves in our homes and sadly no one cares, this is what the story tells us. When I heard the raven I thought it was almost impossible to better it, but still he won my(and certainly others) hearts.I am gonna do a track by track review(please forgive if it's bad I am a newbie)

1- First Regret: 8.5/10 it is the perfect introduction to the album, at the start you hear the sound of laughter and maybe rain too, that perfectly suits the mood of the album and the title talks about regret so you get the idea of the sad nature of the album from here itself

2. 3 Years Older- 9/10 the guitar at the start of the album is somewhat uplifting yet there's a sadness in the music that speaks for itself you get to understand how brilliant steven truly is.The line 'its complicated' itself describes the situation. Its basically just being locked up and thinking about the events that happend in your life, the anger and the sadness it brought to you and how you are moving towards medics. It asks a simple question, why do people like us still stay in a society that doesn't appreciate us 'life is not some silly game' it says and what a true statement

3. Hand Cannot Erase- 9/10 its a love song, but a complicated simple one, its about missing people in your life, regretting of all those fights you've had and remembering the time you spent with them, how you thought nothing could ever go wrong. But still after all those times even though you aren't together You still love him/her

4. Perfect Life- 9/10 It's.....beautiful...it is about remembering good times and how you had a perfect life but for me it seems its a dream like how you dream of the people you love, holding hands, running here and there, hugging and smiling then suddenly they vanish and you wake up from your dream, and then just wish if they would come back, Steven's voice shows this perfectly at around 2:10 when he starts singing 'we have got a perfect life' in the most uplifting manner, he keeps repeating those lines but in a way you always keep asking for more

P.S happens to me last night

5. Routine- 10/10 Miss N Tayab is a beautiful singer I am glad she is in this album, she's got a voice perfect for this situation(add Steven and the band into the music and just imagine) This song is basically when you're tired of living alone, you wake up, do your work, get bored, go to sleep without anyone to talk to, it represents the desperation of a tortured soul, musically its one of the best pieces on the album, 9 mins in length and pure prog #donteverletgo

Home Invasion- 8/10: the title seems like an alien invasion but for me its about the effect internet has on humans, it's a funky piece and reflects the anger and irritation of a human in a situation like that, when you're fed up doing the same thing again and again, downloading things to help pass your time but yet you're gonna get tired sometime, it has quite angrier lyric than the rest, 'download the ocean and the sky'( funny when you're away from them) when you think why download things that I haven't seen for days, you can't 'download the life you wish you had'... time passes you by and you're here doing nothing

Regret #9 - 9/10 great guitar!! Guthrie you are such a genius, it carries on the angry mood from the past song perfectly yet adds a bit of disappointment and sadness

Transience- 9.5/10 A hidden gem, its the most sentimental piece on the album for me 'a child in a train distressed as it departs' its when you leave everyone, and forced to go away

Ancestral - 10/10 I wish I could give it more than 10, but I can't... that solo around 4 is the best I have heard in years and Theo does his best in this song, actually all the members are at their best in it, its the climax of the album, its realizing you can't change the society the way it is and neither can hide away forever, it's when you give up isolation and are ready to use your wings again to fly high in the sky cause as everything in life it will pass too, Prog at its finest

Happy Returns/ascendant here on - 10/10 : its a sad ending to a beautiful album(happier in terms of the real incident in where she dies) its when you return to normal and then find that you weren't missed at much, it makes you cry, his angelic voice in this song just breaks me

this album shows that if someone wanted to run away they wouldnt escape but go into the middle of the city where each of them are busy with themselves and have no time and compassion for others

Report this review (#1451282)
Posted Tuesday, August 11, 2015 | Review Permalink
4 stars Without a doubt, Steven Wilson is the modern standard bearer for progressive rock. Over the course of four solo albums since putting Porcupine Tree on hiatus, Wilson has reached a standard of success other proggers just dream of. All right, he's not Katy Perry, but his new album, Hand. Cannot. Erase., debut not just in the charts in Europe but near the top of several. For a guy who's spent the last few years channeling King Crimson, Yes, and a host of other terminally unfashionable bands (while remixing chunks of their back catalogs), that ain't bad.

What's more, Wilson's done by producing four albums that are distinct from each other but still sound clearly like him. Where The Raven That Refused to Sing (and Other Stories) fully embraced its 1970s proggy roots, Hand. Cannot. Erase. casts a wider net, harkening back not only to some of the more tuneful bits of Porcupine Tree (think Stupid Dream or Lightbulb Sun) but also other Wilson projects like Blackfield or even No-Man. As a result, the album is more accessible, but no less interesting. Each track, whether it's an acoustic vocal piece or a frenzied prog workout, is deftly constructed and performed.

The performance comes largely from the band assembled to tour Grace for Drowning (and which made The Raven . . .), with some interesting additions, including a choir and some effective strings (arranged by the ever talented Dave Stewart). Wilson does a lot of work himself, but he leaves the spotlight stuff to others, particularly guitarist Guthrie Govan, who has his usual shreddy self reigned in somewhat, to great effect. There's even a piece that's basically spoken word, although I think it's probably the weakest effort here.

Hand. Cannot. Erase. is a concept album, inspired by the story of Joyce Carol Vincent ? a woman who died in her apartment and wasn't found for three years. She reportedly wasn't a loner or recluse, had friends and family. Wilson was drawn to the story by wondering how she got there. As a result, this is kind of like Wilson's run at Brave, the Marillion album inspired by a BBC report about a uncommunicative girl wandering on the Severn Bridge. The album is Steve Hogarth's attempt to figure out how the girl got there.

The comparison is inevitable and, unfortunately, Hand. Cannot. Erase. suffers for it. Hogarth and company are expert at picking you up and wringing every bit of emotion out of you. You feel for the girl in Brave, even if you never quite understand what went on in her head (there are also some broader swipes at the society in general that might have driven her there). Wilson doesn't work the same way, preferring a more detached observational approach. He's very Kubrickian in that way, which isn't a bad thing (I loves me some Stanley), but it does make for a stark contrast.

All in all, Hand. Cannot. Erase. is another great effort from Wilson. Highly recommended.

Report this review (#1453696)
Posted Sunday, August 16, 2015 | Review Permalink
Wicket
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars Oh happy days, now I can finally get to review some Steven Wilson, surely one of, if not the most polarizing figure in prog these days.

(I'll also try to refrain from calling him the David Gilmore of Porcupine Trees' "Pink Floyd", if you get the connection)

And surely the old prog faithful lambaste him for being boring, pathetic, unoriginal. And yet apparently David Gilmore wasn't on his solo albums, yet I could make the same argument there, lest I get persecuted by the old Pink Floyd faithful. Except those two bands, Floyd and Tree, sure got an awful lot in common.

But perhaps I'll get to that in a future Wilson album, I don't want to discuss that here.

Especially here on a more lively album in Wilson's repertoire. Yes, the album is based on a young girl's life and death (or murder), but especially on "3 Years Later", it's in much higher spirits than "Grace For Drowning" or "Insurgentes". It seems kinda funny since Porcupine Tree was one of those bands that seemed to always produce depressing music, or at least, that's what it appeared on the surface, underneath though there was so much more action happening.

"3 Years Older" is a perfect example. The instrumental intro is so lively and spritely, and Wilson's vocal harmonics are always a pleaser in my mind, very Beatles-esque those harmonic overlays, something surprisingly absent in most music these days. And the outro is spiffy as well. Then again, I shouldn't be surprised since we got Guthrie Govan on guitars, bit of a technical guy, but focuses more melodically than just straight shredding. And then you got Marco Minneman on the beats, frankly the closest guy you can get to replace someone of Gavin Harrison's character: he made most of those Porcupine Tree songs so much more interesting, he saved about half those.

But it really is a rare specimen, this. Wilson is only good at making depressing music, how the hell can he write happy music? Simple, by focusing on the simpler things.

"Hand Cannot Erase" is about as simple as it can get. Apart from the syncopation in Wilson's vocals, it sounds like a happy pop rock track, and "Perfect Life" just oozes ambiance and warmth. It doesn't get any better than that. One of, if not the biggest keys to Wilson's success and fame is this: he knows how to set the mood, and that can make or break an album, let alone a single song. Without the right atmosphere or mood set at the beginning of a song, the listener is left without an anchor to grab onto. Thus, he/she is less likely to be interested throughout the remainder of the song. Sure, there are some songs that are saved by future material, but they're just the exceptions to the rule.

And even the material just seems to sound right with what's going on. "Routine" is the perfect title for this song, it sounds typical, like a slow PT tribute song, but when you take into account the lyrics, and the monotony of it all, it somehow works. It's a soundtrack to an unfilmed movie that actually works.

Of course, the myth is that Wilson doesn't like fast action, that he prefers soft, slow, depressing blah. 1) That's absolute garbage. 2) You probably haven't listened to "Home Invasion" yet.

The title is self explanatory if you're following the dialog, but it's just such a groovy piece, with rock organ providing a little pizzazz, Minneman rocking like a fiend through time signature changes and groovy fills. It's a non-stop ride, with Govan providing some meat in his riffs as well. This is a jam, very blusey, very Pink Floydian like (oops, did I just mention them again?). One of the highlights of the album. And it just flows right into "Regret #9", another jam filled with fantastic keyboard and guitar solos. It's wonderful, a modern interpretation of Floyd if I've ever heard.

Yes, there are more somber spots, the acoustic driven "Transience" is one, and the electronic drum led intro of "Ancestral" is another, the latter moving in and out of mysterious, dissonant chords, with Ninet Tayeb providing some wonderfully haunting vocals here and there. Clearly, we're in the sad part of the story, so there's not going to be much happy here, but there are licks, by Govan and Minneman, before it all spastically accelerates to the finish with some quips from flute contributor Theo Travis before an almost Dream Theater-like finish.

"Happy Returns" is the final song of interest before the outro "Ascendent". It's another Wilsonian acoustic led ballad, but it's not really depressing. Unlike Dream Theater's "Metropolis, Pt. 2" which was "mostly" focused on the tragedy, and the mourning of a passing, this album seems more the opposite, more focused on the celebration of a life once lived. And yes, there are many nods to Pink Floyd that I hear, but I can't compare Wilson to Gilmore or Floyd to Tree anymore. Both are separate identities, the bands and the men. Gilmore, thriving in an age of space rock that contemplated human behaviors, Wilson, thriving in an age of pop that also contemplated human behaviors. Both are the same, living in different eras.

Except, not. Gilmore, to me, couldn't survive creating his own identity from his mothership band. Wilson couldn't have survived UNLESS he created his own identity from his mothership band. And the main reason for this difference, is Roger Waters. I'd like to think Gavin Harrison save a lot of PT songs from being boring, but then again, throw another prog drummer like Minneman here for example, and all is well. Wilson didn't have another mind (or ego, if you talk to some) like Gilmore did with Waters. Floyd couldn't survive in its famous state with those two butting heads. Tree, to me, could've survived as a Wilson solo project, even though their last album seemed to be rather created without an interest in actually making it from the band.

In the end, though, there are some genuinely good tunes to listen to here, not just an album that's best appreciated all the way through once in a while, which hurt some of PT and Wilson albums in the past. Original? Not in the slightest. But is it good? I'd say so. Revolutionary? Not really, but then again, what is anymore? What Wilson has done is take a beloved sound of Porcupine Tree and infused some life in it, partially from his backing band, and partially from his compositional skills, skills that dare I say could even rival that of one sir Paul McCartney? The resemblance is uncanny, and NO, it's not because they're both British.

But now with several grenades thrown, you, the unlucky reviewer who just read this entire piece of crap, can decide with your opinion. The decision on the wealth of music on this album has already been made: Almost certainly it'll be one of the best albums of the year, by far.

Report this review (#1454781)
Posted Wednesday, August 19, 2015 | Review Permalink
4 stars Wilson and T introduced me to progressive rock. I really like Steve Wilson's way of creating atmosphere a lot. On the other hand, sometimes a few more breaks and twists would be required to maintain interest for the whole duration. But sure this is criticism on a high high level. The production is wonderful, and though I think it would do the music good to have a more prolific singer, this is not really a minus for the cd. I am very thankful for the music being a bit pop-like. Else I would never have found out about this "genre" at all! In the end, this counts for a lot, although it might be a minus with reference to being "progressive ". Or maybe it really isn't?
Report this review (#1458044)
Posted Monday, August 31, 2015 | Review Permalink
lazland
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars How do you follow up the sheer brilliance of The Raven That Refused To Sing? How on earth do you give us a rich and satisfying work based upon the impossibly tragic story of a lady who lay dead for three whole years, utterly unnoticed, and not, apparently, missed at all?

Well, it is a bit of a cliche to state that only the finest artists are capable of managing such a feat. Cliches can be true, you know, and it is absolutely a truism in modern progressive rock that one of the few, possibly the only, artists capable of giving us such a rich, song based, piece of art which satisfies, enriches, takes us on a massive emotional musical trip, is one Steven Wilson.

I know that there are many people reading this review who pine endlessly for a Porcupine Tree reunion. There are others who, with some justification, compare Mr Wilson with one David Gilmour of Floyd fame. I will go one better. I compare him with the other colossus of that band, namely Roger Waters. Not musically, as such, but in terms of an incredible song writer, organiser, producer, and emotional lyricist who has been absolutely freed from the shackles of a collective which had, quite clearly, run its course, free to surround himself with illuminati of rock music, and, make no mistake, Beggs, Govan, Minneman, Holzman ( just listen to that solo on Regret #9, quite incredible), and Travis qualify as this, and simply express himself. The fact that the end result of all of this has been wildly commercially successful is, to my mind, simply a bonus.

I have listened to this album many times prior to putting hands to keyboard to write a review. One of the issues I have found has been the Prog Archives rating system. Masterpiece, excellent, good, with knobs on?

Actually, with repeated listens I have realised the best way to review and rate is simply to allow the music to wash over one, in waves, appreciate this for what it is, that is a concept absolutely drenched in emotion, backed by some of the finest soundscapes it is possible to hear. Transience is one such example. A quite lovely Wilson vocal, with dreamy acoustic guitar, and dark wall of sound behind, provides us with a sad piece of beauty.

One of the reasons for this, by the way, is the staggeringly beautiful performance provided by Ninet Tayeb. Her vocalisation of the "heroine" ( subject is, perhaps, a better description) written and sung about is quite simply one of the finest ever put to record. She has a feel for the subject, with a lovely voice to accompany, and Wilson, once again demonstrating his intelligence, allows her more than sufficient space with which to express herself. The pair of them, with some deceptively simple rhythms backing, produce a simply staggeringly gorgeous piece of music on Perfect Life, which says more in just short of five minutes, than many a twenty minute epic. A wall of sound to equal no other in recent times.

Thence to Routine, which, again, highlights the points I make above. A song rooted completely in ordinary life, and bringing out the emotion inherent in such a life. As in life, the emotions swing wildly, and the band is allowed to shine. The exquisite Beggs bass line, followed by a delicious Guthrie riff, is a joy to listen to. Tayeb is utterly haunting in her recital. The denouement of the vocal duet is simply beautiful.

It all leads up to the tour de force that is Ancestral. This is just about the finest slab of progressive rock one will hear. The deceptively quiet intro leads us into a supreme Govan solo, and, from then, a band absolutely in tune with each other. Beggs is utterly monstrous, and is, to these ears, now vying strongly with Pete Trewavas as the bass exponent of our times. The emotional roller coaster this track takes us on takes the breath and mind away, and it is, perhaps, as heavy and thunderous as Wilson has been heard in more than a few years. It competes strongly, in parts, with the King Crimson Red era as perfect hard rock in progressive clothing, combined with emotionality. I have not had such a feeling since I first listened to Red, or Starless, all those years ago.

We try our best, after this, to come down on Happy Returns and Ascendent Here On... The former brings a tear to my eye. Just a lovely Wilson lyric, backed by piano, guitars, building up to a band in utter harmony. How does he do this.......? How are they so good......?

So, how to rate such an album? Is it worthwhile to simply reduce such a work to a number of stars?

For what it is worth from a personal perspective, I find something new in each and every listen. You know, when you still listen to those beloved classics from the glory years of prog, you still wonder at a particular Hackett lick, Squire note, Bruford pattern, or Fripp invention, to name but a few? This has that. A chill down the spine at a particular passage, and a different one, at that, on each listen. The power to move you each time that you concentrate. An album which, you know, will be played for as long as you are still on this earth, and, hopefully, beyond.

It is timeless. It is brilliant. It is, put simply, a masterpiece. That gives it five stars, as if it needed such a mark.

This is the epitome of modern classic commercial progressive rock (yes, commercial, because he is selling shed loads of albums), and it is rather difficult to imagine a prog rock world without Mr Wilson. He is a genius, and he has added a huge sum to my happiness in life.

Report this review (#1458108)
Posted Monday, August 31, 2015 | Review Permalink
5 stars Hand. Cannot. Erase.

A brilliant album title, is it not? Genesis once tilted an album with similar lackluster words called We Can't Dance. But Genesis were never the geniuses that Steven Wilson is. They would never had the creative intelligence to concoct a title that's punctuated with periods rendering the title as We. Can't. Dance. See the genius in that? If not, I'll expand on it further in my review.

This album starts off with the now familiar atmospheric background sounds that open a Brave era Marillion album, or any era Pink Floyd album, before we get into the music proper. Gentle and benign acoustic guitar strumming soon gives way to a galloping fast rhythm section that sounds like a combination of a Yes/Rush hybrid depending on what rhythm instrument you're focusing on. Swilson displays Squire-like bass tones and riffs while Minneman does his best Peart homage by hitting every ride and crash cymbal between the beats to ensure that no dead air is present in this frantic sound mix. A sludgy guitar solo is reminiscent of one of Lifeson's solos and the effect is complete.

This song titled 3 Years Older devolves into more acoustic strum and emotive less piano break before morphing into an ELP 'homage" with a ripping Hammond organ that is not quite sure if it wants to be a caustic Keith Emerson statement or an over the top comic embellishment from TAAB era John Evan. Wilson's bass displays less treble in this musical climax so I suppose he's honoring Greg Lake now. A slight musician that has always been underrated, so Swilson is finally giving this poor underappreciated chap his do. Bravo. Bravo.

The third track of this masterpiece starts with groundbreaking atmospheric percussive programming that renders the primitive Linn Drum Machine, so cherished by Collins era Genesis, totally obsolete. The LDM only vaguely touched on the soulless bleeps and dashes that Wilson's electronics take to a higher artificial level. Is there no stopping this man's quest to expand the boundaries of progressive rock music?

But wait, Wilson is not only the keeper of the prog music flame, he also shows himself to be a deft lyricist with the profound and thought provoking lyrics of the album's title track. In a melody that would have taken the Collin's era Genesis all of five minutes to arrive out, Wilson shoehorns his brilliant lyrics into a jerky chorus with the profound words "Hand cannot erase love." Again, he's brilliant. Wilson did not say adversity or trials during wartime cannot erase love, or that time and distance cannot erase love, or even that common human failings cannot erase love. He said, quite plainly, that a hand cannot erase love. What a sumptuous treat for every budding lyricist that that genuflected over every lyric put down on vinyl by Ian Anderson, Peter Hamill, Roy Harper and Peter Gabriel, let alone stalwarts like Dylan and Lennon. They've simply been wasting their time. The silly buggers.

Track number four starts off with more stunning electronic pulses and digital dashes before an honored female guest vocalist speaks her part. Wilson could have had her sing this narrative with vocals that contain spine tingling high octives, soulful timber with an incredible pitch perfect delivery. But Wilson just let's her simply talk. Again, the genius of this move almost humbles me.

When Wilson does actually sing himself on this number, his guest vocalist backs him with harmonies so shrill that's its actually an attempt to give Wison's thin vocals some heft and body. It's an old trick that failed as badly for those that tried it some 40 plus years ago. Even Phil Spector called it stupid.

And here's where my ride on the Swilson propaganda train comes to an end. I tried to stick around for a few more lackluster songs before my attention wandered into more important concerns like putting out the evening trash. So, I got about this far at my first listening to his album some months ago, and I really doubt that three times will make it a charm.

Wilson is not a plagiarist. There's never a single note, chord or guitar riff that I think that he's lifted from another artist. But he is an imitator of other artist's styles. After his morbid fascination with old era KC on the Raven, I was hoping that Wilson would finally arrive at a style all his own. It's not impossible. Nearly everyother modern prog artist evolves past the imitation stage at some point, but not Mr. Wilson, he continues to dig up the corpses of old prog for more Frankenstein's monster reanimations. I have two things that I'm racing against: failing eyesight and a failing heart. So there's a good chance that I will expire while listening to music in my study. One reviewer opined that this music should be allowed to wash over the listener. I disagree, as it will be a cold day in hell before I let this stagnantly polluted bathwater wash over me, as it may be the last thing I listen to on this earth.

So 5 stars for Swilson's great swindle. A con man of this caliber should be greatly celebrated for pulling the wool over so many eyes, or ears in this case, and celebrate him I will.

As B.T. Barnum once said, there's one born every minute. And Mr. Wilson, no doubt, heard him loud and clearly. So did I and I'm heading in the other direction, just as quick as my sound mind and ailing body will allow me.

Report this review (#1458350)
Posted Tuesday, September 1, 2015 | Review Permalink
5 stars Steven Wilson continues to blow me away with each new solo album. I thought that it would be difficult to top the masterpiece that is "The Raven Who Would Not Sing"; But I was wrong!

"Hand. Cannot. Erase." is equally masterful if not better. It has all of the Prog elements which never fail to strike a chord with me. I can hear elements which, to me, pay homage to either another classic artist or work which is a classic. This is all woven into a Prog stew which never imitates but builds upon these foundations.

For example; I can hear the expected space and harmony of Pink Floyd, but even more specifically like passages from "Dark Side." I hear "La Villa Strangiato" like progressions without actually being that particular song. I even heard some elements which had early Black Sabbath-like sounds. Just amazing to sneak that stuff in the way that he does!

And the production and engineering, Steven Wilson is like-the modern day Todd Rundgren; A Wizard, a True Star. Always a studio master and impeccabile audiophile. And the scary thing is that as the years go by, he's always getting better and the equipment is getting better. Yet this doesn't mean that he uses technology as a means to an end. Steven will resseruct vintage prog sounds which may have not have been perfect back in the day, but can now be heard in super high quality like never before. This is evident once again by featuring the old mellotron and lots of vintage Moog synthesizers.

I put this album in my all-time "Top 10" and expect to see it have the staying power to remain and continue to climb the Prog Archives all-time top 50 prog albums.

Report this review (#1462939)
Posted Sunday, September 13, 2015 | Review Permalink
5 stars Much has been said about Steven Wilson and his genius. I remember when I first heard Luminol, the first track from "The Raven that refused to sing " I remained speechless. I understood that the creativity of this man had no limit. Steven Wilson master so many genres like psychedelic prog, pop music, electro-prog, progressive metal, and he showed to the world his talents in creating a fantastic jazzy song. The rest of the album remained kept a very high level.

When I purchased "Hand.Cannot.Erase" I was pretty sure that Wilson would follow into the same direction. I was totally wrong. This concept album is very different from its predecessor, and is IMO, even better. No filler, despite some weaker tracks (Perfect Life, Transcience) the rest of the album reaches the top of prog music. Highlights of the album are (in this order) Ancestral, Home Invasion/Regret#9 and 3 Years Older.

I have known Porcupine Tree for 12 years now, and I am still amazed by the talent of Mr Wilson to reinvent himself for each album.

PS: sorry about my poor English!

Report this review (#1463346)
Posted Monday, September 14, 2015 | Review Permalink
Prog Leviathan
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars Steven Wilson has been one of the most important figures in my musical journey throughout much of adulthood. Porcupine Tree was a big deal for me. In Absentia was one of the first modern art-rock albums I ever purchased, and I credit it for helping me jump all-in to the world of progressive music.

In the time since 2002, Wilson has proven to be one of the most prolific and versatile figures within our circle of the music industry. That's not to say he's infallible, or that he hasn't produced some misfires, but by-in-large I don't think there's a doubt in anyone's head that his legacy will be among the most important in the prog/art rock field.

That being said, even when measured against the vast body of his excellent output, Hand Cannot Erase is probably the best piece of music that Wilson has yet created.

Stylistically Hand isn't especially experimental or a deviation from the style of music Wilson is known for; it has a gorgeous combination of dynamics, instrumental virtuosity, impeccable song writing, stellar production, and aching poignancy... it just has all of these things in just the right balance. Like the stars coming into alignment, it will become apparent quickly in listening that you're in for a genuine music magic. Wilson's backing musicians are incredible. Wilson's voice and lyrics are top-notch. The songs are memorable and dense with musicianship. And the effect is just perfect.

It is a fantastically artful, majestic, soulful, complex, and ambitious album that grabs hold on every level that a prog fan could want and captivates for the entirety of its length. Simply put: it's a freaking master stroke by a consummate professional and is not to be missed.

If you've been a fan of anything Wilson has done in the past 10 years you'll find something to like with Hand Cannot Erase, if you love the work he's done in the past 10 years, you'll love Hand Cannot Erase even more. If you've avoided jumping on the band wagon... jump as fast as you can to Hand Cannot Erase.

Songwriting: 5 - Instrumental Performances: 5 - Lyrics/Vocals: 4 - Style/Emotion/Replay: 5

Report this review (#1479784)
Posted Tuesday, October 27, 2015 | Review Permalink
Meltdowner
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
PSIKE Team
3 stars After the flood of raving reviews and my own excitement for the new album and concert last year, I think I have a much clearer impression of the album now. I didn't find it particularly great before and my appreciation of it lessened since.

First Regret/3 Years Older sounded fantastic at first listen with its energic Squire-ish bass and joyful guitars but soon I realised it's twice as long as it should be, so after 5/6 minutes I'm already waiting for the end.

After this odd start come the two worst tracks of the album in my opinion, the title track and Perfect Life. I honestly can't think of anything positive to say about these 9 minutes, but at least it's not bad enough to skip them (for now).

Fortunately, it gets much better right after: Routine is one of the best tracks of the album. It has an interesting progression, great vocals from Ninet Tayeb and a heartwarming ending.

The next one, Home Invasion, is pretty good too, a Rhodes-led groovy song which is followed by the instrumental track Regret #9, my favourite one. The synth and guitar solos are epic!

Transience is an acoustic ballad that reminds me of some similar tracks from later Porcupine Tree albums. Thankfully, it's a short one.

Ancestral suffers from the same evil as the first track (even more, because I'm not as patient after 50 minutes). It still has a very moving guitar solo from Guthrie Govan, four minutes in, and Theo Travis makes a surprise visit.

The album ends with Happy Returns/Ascendent Here On, another Pop Rock song. Not bad, but a forgettable ending.

Conclusion: I have mixed feelings about this album, since half of it is quite good but the other not so much. With that amount of good musical ideas, I think it could be a fantastic 35/40 minute album, but instead it's way too long. I'm glad I bought it on Blu Ray though, since the sound quality improves the music a bit and alternating between the stereo/surround mixes will make me spin this album more times.

3 stars.

Report this review (#1516150)
Posted Wednesday, January 20, 2016 | Review Permalink
Magnum Vaeltaja
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Eclectic Prog Team
3 stars I'm a bit late to the game in terms of listening to this album but modern prog is hardly something I've been making an effort to keep caught up with.

What I found after finally getting around to hear Steven Wilson's work for the first time (aside from his remasters of 70's classics) is an album that delightfully exceeded my expectations. The production is top notch, as can be expected, and the music isn't too shoddy either. The album contains a mix between shorter, more pop-oriented tunes and longer symphonic prog tracks with a good balance between electric and acoustic textures. The songwriting is strong and some of the solos are quite emotionally moving, especially on Home Invasion/Regret #9, which I believe to be the peak of the album. As with many modern prog releases, "Hand. Cannot. Erase." suffers from the typical problems. The biggest is something that modern prog bands are awful for, which is excess. There are some moments that can be trimmed shorter and quite a bit of padding that isn't really necessary. As well, it sounds very derivative at times; some Yes here, Genesis there, Pink Floyd all over, but it doesn't distract and Wilson definitely plays up his influences as sources of strength. The only other complaint I really have, and goes hand in hand with the derivative bit, is that this album doesn't really break new ground. It's something that we've all heard before, a symphonic-ish/crossover-ish/metal-ish/neo-ish prog record that sounds like Joe Satriani playing revamped Genesis material with added ambient Pink Floyd stretches.

All in all this album is somewhere in between a 3 and a 4 star rating, an album that any prog fan could enjoy but not one that they need to have to complete their collection. I'll settle with 3 stars for a good piece of work that does the job.

Report this review (#1528828)
Posted Saturday, February 13, 2016 | Review Permalink
5 stars 'Hand. Cannot. Erase.' is one of the greatest triumphs of Mr. Wilson in several respects. First and foremost, this album shows that Wilson succeeded in assembling his electronic and ambient textures and virtuoso performance in brilliant forms. Clearly, he could make records that were supposed to be lauded by prog fans following the approach of 'Raven', which had complex structures and one of the finest performances in modern prog genre. Making such albums, however, could be artistic failure; admiration guaranteed by following the rule might imprison his strengths in making layered and constructed sounds and the results of that choice would make 'Hand.' a generic record. Fortunately (I might have to say expectably) Wilson took fresh sound elements and influences from electronica and contemporary classic music to make the latest full album (we could recognize BoC, Murcof, and Arvo Part etc. in the album) and his arrangement between those current experiment in genres and classic prog influences is in the greatest form he has ever achieved.

Lyrically or thematically the album covers broad and urgent issues; social alienation, freedom, and modern technology etc.. What makes these themes interesting is, however, not the theme itself but how Wilson narrates that kinds of familiar issue. Based on the real haunting story, the theme of album is clearly more concrete than Wilson's last attempts to deal similar issues; furthermore, he adopted various representations, images, and motifs from novels and movies (from Kafka to 'Under the Skin') and mixed those various fragments with superb sound design. For instance, 'Ancestral' is like Sirens voices extended by modern classic music and death metal. 'Routine' could be considered as melancholic poetry read by Kate Bush. The deluxe edition of this album provides much more interesting and imaginative experimentation in that direction.

Needless to say, the production is top-notch and performances are brilliant. The more you listen to the album, the more elements worth delving into you will find. Highly recommended.

Report this review (#1528874)
Posted Saturday, February 13, 2016 | Review Permalink
2 stars Steven Wilson's latest full studio outut (not counting '4/2') is in my view one of the most overrated albums of 2015. It actually starts off quite nicely with subte playing by Adam Holzman and the first song blends electronic and acoustic sounds successfully and sets the tone for an album very much in the vein of Wilsons' style on his first two solo albums and some of the Porcupine Tree material. The live performance of this song always sets off with a long clip of a housing block and lights in the windows. Accompanying the song there is a projection of a young woman as she walks around and sits alone in her flat, which also represents the introduction to the album's theme. While the actual story itself is very notable (in a sad way), I find Wilson's rendering of it both with regards to the lyrics as well as the video projection not necessarily profound but rather very in-your-face as if asking "have you got it now"? What underlines this is that the live performance was above all one thing: loud. I would have preferred more subtlety.

Unfortunately, it gets worse with the next songs. The title track is a rather uninspired pop-rock song with really boring lyrics, which is even more the case in "Perfect Life". While the next track "Routine" contains some pleasant melodies and a nice guitar solo, I cannot keep from thinking that it sounds just too similar to others of Wilson's songs. As noted before, it seems like this track's title is quite programmatic for the composition: Wilson has found his forumlae, which he now repeats, adding a couple of variations here and there. The lyrics and video projection again really drag this song done for me. The lyrics are so in-your-face and the video of an animated lady with eyes that are contantly red from crying is just trying too hard to drive the point home.

"Home Invasion / Regret 9" to me sound like a collage of elements from the prog handbook: an odd (or rather not so odd) time signature to start the song, followed by a disharmonic "riff" played on the synthesizer, all wed into a song that is longer than 7 minutes. The distorted vocals sound rather irritating to me and the lyrics represent Wilson's lamely polemic remark during the concert "Internet - truth = irrelevant". Holzman's synthesizer solo in the middle of the song is again an enjoyable element and also the guitar solo that follows is nice, even if slightly too long for my taste. "Ancestral" starts off like any other poppy Wilson song and in the second half again sounds to me like trying very too hard to be Progressive Rock, which makes a rather strange mixture. I find the second half absolutely boring as the last six minutes basically consist of a very basic riff stretched out to make an unnecessarily long song. The closing song again introduce the quite nice opening theme but fade into a slightly-above-average pop rock song. Again a nice guitar solo towards the end (though it is quite similar to the one heard before) and a seemingly unnecessary two minute ambient soundscape, which again gives the impression that its purpose was to distinguish the song from pop by its length. One thing which is again excellent throughout the entire album (and also live) is the musicianship of Wison's band. The sound and production of course leave nothing to be desired either, Wilson is, after all, a master of Mixing. But that does not remove my overall impression of an album that is mostly just pop rock with strained prog elements and sits very firmly in the multitude of songs already heard on previous Wilson (and Porcupine Tree) records. So to me the album is surely inferior to Wilson's "The Raven That Refused to Sing" and by no means the sensational release of 2015 it was so often hailed to be. 2.5/5 stars.

Report this review (#1534526)
Posted Wednesday, March 2, 2016 | Review Permalink
5 stars Steven Wilson's 'Hand. Cannot. Erase.' is probably the finest piece of progressive art so-far released in the 21st century. Quite a statement, in fact I'd go as far as to say it rivals even some of the timeless epics from the 1970's. Steven Wilson of course needs no introduction to readers of PA. His work with Porcupine Tree is all absolutely essential, and his four solo albums are must-owns for any fan of progressive art.

So I've used the term 'progressive art' a couple of times. That is exactly what I think this album is - it's one of those albums which transcends any one medium. It is pure sonic artistry rendered in a perfect vision. This album is a journey, not just musically, but in the minds-eye imagery Wilson & co conjure up in the listener. Steven Wilson is such a creative tour de force that any composition he turns his hand to is destined for greatness. And the collection of songs on this album are by far some of his best work.

Released in 2015 this album can be best described as bringing together all of the different elements of Wilson's previous work, both solo, side-projects, collaborations as well as Porcupine Tree. This has got it all. Chilling electronic music, haunting pianos and synths, majestic guitar, soaring leads and the most amazing story and lyrics I've ever heard in a concept album. There's electronica, rock, metal, acoustic and folk styles blended seamlessly together during the 66-minute run-time. Nothing feels out of place, and while it might take the listener a few spins to start the understand the record there is nothing wrong with that.

I think this will be an album that people talk about and remember for decades to come, and could prove to be Steven Wilson's finest moment. The easiest 5 stars I've awarded to an album. If you haven't already got this one then don't waste any more time!

Report this review (#1537289)
Posted Tuesday, March 8, 2016 | Review Permalink
DamoXt7942
FORUM & SITE ADMIN GROUP
Avant/Cross/Neo/Post Teams
3 stars Looks like Steven WILSON be one of prolific musicians and honorable creators in the progressive rock scene. Wonder what he means to do via lots of his productions.

Mysterious procession and a graceful curtain call can be heard in this stuff as usual. Dramatic guitar avoidance (from every annoying matter) as well makes the audience comfortable. Keyboard appearance has got altered colourfully, sometimes from a beauty phase to hard-edged style or sometimes from a tough call to a delightful theatre ... just case by case. Psychedelic Fantasia, heavy deepness brushed up by guitars or drums, etc. etc. every single variation rushes over in front of us.

His composition and production is basically filled with catchy essence seasoned with multi-rhythmic accents and capricious hints, all of which might be provided for popularity or hospitality for the listeners, I guess. Sadly in this album such a popularity would be more overemphasized than his musical progressiveness for commercialism and his identity should be veiled deeply into subliminal pleasure for everybody. To be honest any ambition cannot be heard.

Steven's strategies for launching progressive structural masses are not ordinary nevertheless. Various scenes can be imagined via instrumental, phrasal combinations ... whether soft or hard ... crystallized by him. In this sense, this album can be recommended for every progressive rock beginner.

Report this review (#1568652)
Posted Sunday, May 22, 2016 | Review Permalink
4 stars The consistency Steven Wilson manages to maintain from record to record is pretty staggering, and Hand Cannot Erase (periods omitted on purpose) is no exception; it's another stellar effort from the man. I like the mixture on this album, as you kind of get a little bit of every kind of music he has done over the year at some point, while never going too overboard with any one style. If you want the catchy shorter tunes, you get the title track or Happy Returns. If you want some prog, you get Ancestral or 3 Years Older. If you want the tunes with melodies that will crush you, you get Routine. If you want to get up and dance a little, you get Perfect Life. If you want to rock, you get Home Invasion. If you want some instrumental goodness, you get Regret #9. If you want folksy, acoustic stuff, you get Transience.

I don't love this record quite as much as SW's two previous solo albums, Grace for Drowning and The Raven That Refused to Sing, but it's still a 4.5 effort. I gave it 4 here since only the true 5 out of 5 records get rounded up to 5.

Report this review (#1668316)
Posted Friday, December 16, 2016 | Review Permalink
5 stars HAND. CANNOT. ERASE. is the most complete and fully-realised musical achievement by prolific prog artist Steven Wilson - widely regarded as the king of modern progressive music.

This album has been described as "The Wall for the Facebook generation", however I'd like to make it clear that this comparison does this brilliant work a disservice. I am a massive Pink Floyd fan, and recognise them as one of the absolute greatest prog acts of all time, and The Wall as an influential concept album. However, HAND. CANNOT. ERASE. aspires to a level of emotion and musical beauty beyond what The Wall achieves. For all of the brilliant records released with Porcupine Tree, this album right here justifies his decision to separate the band and pursue his own solo endeavours. I do not believe he would have had the freedom to create something so gripping and so powerful without having full control of the reigns.

But you can't have reigns with beasts of burden to pull the cart along, and thus credit must be given to the excellent instrumentation provided by Guthrie Govan, Marco Minnemann, Theo Travis and Adam Holzman. Each of these masters is at the top of their craft for their given instrument, and demonstrate that on full display here. Wilson could not have amassed a more brilliant team of musicians to help him release this creative project. I'd also like to give a massive shot out to Ninet Tayeb, whose guest vocals provide a pivotal layer of magic to the tracks she appears on. Some fans have lamented that Wilson didn't hand over a larger percentage of the vocal duties to Ninet, and I agree to an extend - her voice is incredible and far more dynamic than WIlson's. However, I believe this works in the album's favour. Ultimately, the narrative the album is portraying is bleak, depressing and incredibly human; Wilson's fragile and understated vocals capture this perfectly, which only adds to the impact of Ninet's vocals when they do appear.

This is one of the few albums to have ever made me cry, and surprisingly so it wasn't do to the emotional narrative concept it portrays. Rather, the concept is equally communicated through the musical journey Wilson takes you on, with climaxes during "Ancestral" and "Happy Returns" resulting in a well of feeling breaking through.

Steven Wilson had already earned his status as the king of modern prog through his work with Porcupine Tree, his great results as a producer, mixer and re-masterer of other prog material, and the three excellent solo albums preceding this one. HAND. CANNOT. ERASE., however, removes any debate on the matter, and puts the man in a league of his own. This is the prog album of the decade, and an easy 5 stars.

Report this review (#1953787)
Posted Wednesday, August 1, 2018 | Review Permalink
The Crow
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars I thought the great quality of The Raven that Refused to Sing was hard to achieve. But Steven Wilson proved me wrong!

Because Hand. Cannot. Erase is just another masterpiece of modern prog-rock which showcases the personality of this author and his great ability to create different moods, atmospheres and at the same time cohesiveness in the very same album.

The tracks are catchy, very varied, with a splendid songwriting and crystal clear production. What more could we ask for?

Best Tracks: I really cannot tell. The whole album is just wonderful! Nevertheless, 3 Years Older, Perfect Life, Home Invasion and Happy Returns are my favorite here.

Conclusion: Steven Wilson gave another lesson of his mastery with this wonderful record, which managed to achieve the quality of his previous masterpiece and even surpasses it sometimes.

Far away are dubious times of Insurgentes and Grace for Drowning. Hand. Cannot. Erase. is just an almost flawless prog record which every fan of this kind of music should listen and enjoy many, many times.

My rating: *****

Report this review (#2271183)
Posted Saturday, October 19, 2019 | Review Permalink
5 stars "The Dark Side Of The Moon" level album. To date, the pinnacle of Steven Wilson's tremendous creative journey. Unfortunately, the last album leaves much to be desired, and the freshest opuses are hardly worthy of any attention at all. Heavy, airy, powerful, energetic, dirty, crystal-clear, rough, melodic, beautiful, scary, splendid, ugly. Probably, any epithets can be balanced in it, despite the fact that this is a dense conceptual canvas. Shake, this is the pinnacle beyond which neither Steve nor neo-progressive in general will ever rise. In terms of scope and beauty, it simply has no competitors. The recording dates back to 2015, and here we are talking about a woman found dead in her own apartment, but not just dead, but forgotten, in front of the TV on. As the booklet says, the story was real. The album rather resembles a person's diaries, his routine experiences, both adolescent and mature. Steve shows himself as a poet of the highest quality and as a conceptual artist, touching on the problems of abandonment and alienation in the modern world. Absorption of a routine that interferes with development and self-improvement. The main line is the author's worries about his unrealized human potential, and the second side is short human memory. The ability of people to forget quickly those who were once near. The voice is in great shape and the lyrics blend perfectly with incredible and non-trivial music. Which is revealed in ALL facets: from heavy metal to airy, almost intangible angelic chants, coupled with a huge palette of musical instruments. From acoustic guitars to hard syncopated metalized drums. Everything is extremely incredible and laconic, and does not contain a single passing note, let alone a composition. What I love Steven Wilson for is his humanity and ability to turn a rather soulless and cold direction into something clear and tangible, while not slipping into the vulgarity of "commonplaces". Isn't this genius? To describe each track, whole notebooks are needed, and it is better to hear everything yourself. But you can dwell on the basic. The leitmotif of the album can be considered "Perfect Life", which is absolutely not like anything at all, but it contains a simple and terrible thought: "Each of us has our own Perfect Life", and we are the creators of our alienation. Towards the end of the song, the chorus of "We Have Got a Perfect Life" grows into a huge number of voices, as if every one of hundreds of people is in this "perfect" state. This is the very creepy "Perfect Imperfect", catching everyone in their chains and forcing them to forget about everything and everyone. First, opera singer Ninet Tayeb testifies in a cold voice about her dead and forgotten sister. And it is no coincidence in the phrase "Hand. Cannot. Erase." after each word a dot - it turns out that life and destiny can be deleted from our consciousness, because each of us has our own perfect life. Well, the composition "Transience", in strength and beauty, is incomparable with anything, except perhaps with the best albums of the 70s. Powerful, tragic, eerie, majestic. This is a whole rock opera in 12 minutes, which reflects a whole universe of ideas and styles. Well, the ending of the album "Happy Returns", Merry Christmas. An unsent letter found near the deceased. However, no matter how I describe this album, all the metaphors pale in comparison with the original source. Better to hear it once. p.s. We have got, we have got a perfect life...
Report this review (#2479332)
Posted Monday, November 23, 2020 | Review Permalink
SoundsofSeasons
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars The true last Porcupine Tree album. No PT required.

I don't believe that Wilson and boys will ever come back together under the moniker PT. Maybe there is still hope for a project where Steven goes at it with my boy Gavin Harrison again, I'll keep that hope alive. But I doubt we will see another PT studio album ever grace this world again. With my pre-ordered copy of, as Steven puts it 'Limited Edition Box Set' of his latest coming out 2021, I'm moving backward through his solo discography again. This is the album I think we all thought would be the natural progression Porcupine Tree was going, rather than the incident that was 'The Incident'. Not to say that 'The Incident' was a bad album, but it was a strange ending to the studio career of PT, and would have made more sense as a side project. All I'm saying is that if this album had changed places with 'The Incident' that would have made more logical sense to me. Anyway, what we have here is a tightly written piece of art rock with progressive structures that extend just outside of what was done on some of the more proggy songs from the PT trifecta 'In Absentia/Deadwing/FoaBP'. This one is structurally built just like some hate to love, some love to hate, and some just love, and some seem to just hate - this is a catchy hooky art rock album sitting on a foundation of prog-lite fundamentals. But that was always how Porcupine Tree (and Steven, my point) liked it. In retrospect sitting here in 2021, as a Steven Wilson solo album, this one is a bit strange because we can see the direction he is going now. Steven is paying homage to his love of 80/90's electronica and pop with some of his latest, but this album took everything he learned from his career with a full band. I can differentiate between solo Steven and full band Steven, maybe you know what I mean?

Report this review (#2491539)
Posted Friday, January 8, 2021 | Review Permalink

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