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GRACE FOR DROWNING

Steven Wilson

Crossover Prog


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Steven Wilson Grace for Drowning album cover
4.20 | 1155 ratings | 64 reviews | 49% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection


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Studio Album, released in 2011

Songs / Tracks Listing

CD 1
1. Grace for Drowning (2:06)
2. Sectarian (7:41)
3. Deform to Form a Star (7:51)
4. No Part of Me (5:45)
5. Postcard (4:29)
6. Raider Prelude (2:23)
7. Remainder the Black Dog (9:27)

Total Time: 39:38

CD 2
1. Belle de Jour (2:59)
2. Index (4:49)
3. Track One (4:16)
4. Raider II (23:21)
5. Like Dust I Have Cleared from My Eye (8:01)

Total Time: 43:24

TOTAL TIME: 83:02

Lyrics

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Music tabs (tablatures)

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Line-up / Musicians

Grace for Drowning:
- Steven wilson / vocals (40 tracks), keys
- Jordan Rudess / piano

Sectarian:
- Steven Wilson / guitars, keys, autoharp, bass guitar
- Theo Travis / soprano sax
- Ben Castle / clarinet
- Nick Beggs / Stick
- Nic France / drums

Deform to Form a Star:
- Steven Wilson / vocals, guitars, keys
- Jordan Rudess / piano
- Theo Travis / clarinets
- Tony Levin / bass guitar
- Nic France / drums

No Part Of Me:
- Steven Wilson / vocals, keys (and some percussion, claps ... etc.)
- Pat Mastelotto / acoustic and electronic drums, additional production
- Markus Reuter / U8 touch guitar
- Nick Beggs / bass guitar solo
- Trey Gunn / Warr guitar, bass guitar
- Theo Travis / saxophone solo
- London Session Orchestra / strings
- Dave Stewart / strings arrangement and conduction

Postcard:
- Steven Wilson / vocals, piano, keys, guitar, bass
- Nic France / drums
- London Session Orchestra / strings
- Choir / synergy vocals
- Dave Stewart / strings and choir arrangement and orchestration

Raider Prelude:
- Steven Wilson / piano, gong
- Choir / synergy vocals
- Dave Stewart / choir arrangement

Remainder the Black Dog:
- Steven Wilson / vocals, piano, keys, glockenspiel
- Steve Hackett / guitars
- Theo Travis / flute, clarinet, sax
- Nick Beggs / Stick, bass guitar
- Nic France / drums

Belle de Jour:
- Steven Wilson / guitars (nylon string), keys, autoharp, bass
- London Session Orchestra / strings
- Dave Stewart / strings arrangement and conduction

Track One:
- Steven Wilson / vocals, guitars, keys
- Nic France / drums

Index:
- Steven Wilson / vocals, keys, guitar, autoharp, Programming
- Pat Mastelotto / acoustic and electronic drumming
- London Session Orchestra / strings
- Dave Stewart / strings arrangement and conduction

Raider II:
- Steven Wilson / vocals, guitar, piano, keys, harmonium, percussion, bass (2nd half)
- Theo Travis / clarinet, flute, saxophone
- Jordan Rudess / piano solo
- Mike Outram / guitar
- Sand Snowman / acoustic guitar
- Nick Beggs / Stick, bass (1st half)
- Nic France / drums
- Dave Kerzner / sound design (coda)
- Choir / synergy vocals
- Dave Stewart / choir arrangement

Like Dust I Have Cleared from My Eye:
- Steven Wilson / vocals, guitars, piano, keys, harmonium, autoharp
- Tony Levin / bass guitar
- Nic France / drums

Additional credits confirmed by album's official website:
- Andy Leff / Acme Music
- Alex Leeks / assistant

Technical and production:
- Steven Wilson / production, mixing
- Mat Collis / engineering
- Paschal Byrne / mastering

Visuals and imagery:
- Lasse Hoile / photography, film director
- Bettina Ejlersen / photography assistant
- Carl Glover / art director
- Ray Shulman / Blu-Ray authoring

Releases information

2xCD (Dig) Kscope KSCOPE176 (UK) (September 26, 2011)
2xCD Kscope KSCOPE 177 (Europe) (September 26, 2011)
2xLP Kscope KSCOPE818 (Europe) (September 26, 2011)
3xCD+Blu-ray (Box) Kscope KSCOPE510 (UK) (September 26, 2011) (with different cover)
Blu-ray Kscope KSCOPE511 (UK) (September 26, 2011)
2xCD WHD Entertainment, Inc., Kscope IECP-10246 (Japan) (February 26, 2012)

Thanks to Lerxst88 for the addition
and to The Bearded Bard for the last updates
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The Raven That Refused to Sing: And Other StoriesThe Raven That Refused to Sing: And Other Stories
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STEVEN WILSON Grace for Drowning ratings distribution


4.20
(1155 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(49%)
49%
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(31%)
31%
Good, but non-essential (13%)
13%
Collectors/fans only (5%)
5%
Poor. Only for completionists (3%)
3%

STEVEN WILSON Grace for Drowning reviews


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Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Conor Fynes
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars 'Grace For Drowning' - Steven Wilson (10/10)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Send comments to Conor Fynes (BETA) | Report this review (#539652) | Review Permalink
Posted Saturday, October 01, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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Posted Wednesday, October 05, 2011

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

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

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

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

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Posted Sunday, October 23, 2011

Review by Isa
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars |A| One of the most diverse, brilliant, haunting, heart-felt, transcending, contemporary, daring, progressive, eclectic, creative, beautiful works of music I've ever heard.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Posted Wednesday, November 02, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Send comments to Epignosis (BETA) | Report this review (#562284) | Review Permalink
Posted Friday, November 04, 2011

Review by Slartibartfast
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Sitting here as the storm passed through, fitting time to have another listen, and write a review.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Posted Friday, November 04, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Posted Saturday, November 19, 2011

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

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

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

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

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Posted Saturday, December 03, 2011

Review by Bonnek
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Prog Metal Team
4 stars It's been more then a month already since Wilson and his new gang of recruits totally blew us away in London's Shepherd's Bush. I was already very enthusiast about this album before the show, but hearing these songs in their full live glory was a revelation. The record doesn't always reach the level of intensity that some of the songs require but when played at a deafening loud volume it's a treat!

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

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

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

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

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Posted Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Review by Starhammer
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars The 22nd Century Schizoid Man...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Posted Friday, December 30, 2011

Review by Anthony H.
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars Steven Wilson: Grace for Drowning [2011]

Rating: 6/10

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Posted Sunday, January 01, 2012

Review by Marty McFly
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Errors and Omissions Team
3 stars And so it's here, arguably the most anticipated album for 2011 (certainly the one most reviewed) and, as it is with Steven Wilson, album bringing big fan-base with it. The funny thing is that the more positive reviews were piling for this album, the less I was anticipating it.

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

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

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Posted Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Review by m2thek
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars While I've never been a naysayer of Porcupine Tree, I've never been one of their biggest proponents either. After never being in love with any of the PT that I've casually heard over the years, you could say that I was planning on letting Steven Wilson's newest album slide by without a second thought. However, with the ridiculous amount of praise that Grace for Drowning saw in the back end of 2011, there was no way I could ignore it and I'm sure glad that I didn't.

Grace for Drowning is a special album. Lots of styles, surprises around every corner, great flow, huge ranges in dynamics, and tons of emotion are just some of the things you'll find in the near hour and a half that Wilson has crafted. The full album is actually made up of two volumes titled Deform to Form a Star and Like Dust I Have Cleared from My Eye, respectively. Both volumes stand apart from each other with their own believable beginnings and endings, and contain enough strong material that they can be listened to separately. The only connection between the two volumes is track 'Raider Prelude' (a song on the first CD that is an excerpt to a song on the second CD) though I question why it was included at all if so much effort was made to differentiate the volumes.

Deform to Form a Star contains seven songs, all of which are under 10 minutes. They range from loud, dynamic full-on prog songs to shorter, softer and more traditional songs. The changes in styles between songs are huge, but always work and make musical sense. Changes within the songs can be drastic too, and I still find myself being genuinely surprised by the twists and turns that the compositions take. Throughout the seven songs I find myself thinking 'wow that was really awesome' and 'wow that was really beautiful' almost equally. The balance between interesting compositional and instrumental choices and emotion put into the music itself is striking, and is the strongest thing about the first volume.

Like Dust I Have Cleared from My Eye, on the other hand, only has five songs, and the focus is not on the entirety like the first volume, but on the 23 minute 'Raider II.' In my opinion, the song would be more aptly titled 'Raider (Lizard II)' and if we do a small bit of digging, we see that Wilson was working on King Crimson's Lizard around the same time he was writing Grace for Drowning. The influence shows in its use of loud horn sections, softer flute sections, and even the fact that there's a short coda after a gigantic climactic ending. However, with the inspiration showing through, not at one point does the song feel like a rehashing of the 40 year old piece. Like the rest of the album, it is totally dynamic and full of surprises, and is by far the standout track. That's not to take anything away from the rest of the volume, as the other 4 songs are just as good as anything on the first volume, especially the album's closer 'Like Dust I Have Cleared From My Eye' which beautifully ties up the volume and the whole album.

I really have nothing bad to say about Grace for Drowning. The vocals remind me the most of Porcupine Tree (which I have never really enjoyed), but I find Wilson's mellow delivery very fitting with the music. The lyrics can be overly melancholic, but when Wilson finds the right words, they really hit home, like the longing for a lost loved one on 'Postcard.' There are a large number of guests which include Jordan Rudess on a number of tracks, Steve Hackett on 'Remainder the Black Dog' and Tony Levin on a couple tracks, but none of the performances are so distinctive that you'd recognize them without looking at the credits.

I normally don't take the packaging into consideration, but even the booklet that comes with the CD is wonderfully done. The credits are on handwritten sheets and the personalization by Wilson makes it feel truly special. The photographs of Wilson around the area that the cover was taken are beautiful, and the short dedication to his father is maybe the most important thing about the whole album.

Whether you're a Steven Wilson fan, a Porcupine Tree fan, or a fan of progressive rock in general, you need to hear Grace for Drowning. Just like the classic albums that he has been remixing the past few years, his own album feels like its pushing boundaries, and it is not one to be missed.

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Posted Sunday, January 15, 2012

Review by EatThatPhonebook
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars 10/10

"Grace For Drowning" is the album that will give Steven Wilson the official title of Prog Rock Giant.

Steven Wilson in my book reached his peak, before 2011, with his band Porcupine Tree with "Fear Of a Blank Planet", an absolutely flawless masterpiece of modern Progressive Rock. It was against all odds that four years later he releases, as a solo artist, an album that potentially tops FoaBP: "Grace For Drowning" may just be the best album Steven Wilson has recorded so far, and it's great that such an album comes out from this man after more than twenty years of being an active musician. It feels that all of his efforts have really built up to this release. All the typical characteristics of Wilson's music, his sense of romance, his aggressive moments, his wonderful sense of melody, are all here stronger than ever before, making this album not only an extremely personal one but also THE Steven Wilson album.

Anyone who has listened to Porcupine Tree will find something in "Grace For Drowning" familiar; there is still a great chunk of romance and emotion and soothing moments (resembling the ones the band usually delivers), which are far more present than the aggressive ones. However, there is a great sound change overall: Steven Wilson picks up Jazz Rock and golden age Progressive Rock as well as little sparks of Ambient and Folk, mixes them all together to form something that, although has noticeable roots, is something that ends up being utterly original, a beautiful balance between old and new, that only the cynical person can say is too familiar sounding, or that it belongs to the wrong era. But there is a very strong 2011 feel in "Grace For Drowning", not only in the amazing production, but also in the various contemporary touches like Electronic beats here and there and even some Vocoder. Steven Wilson has always loved to mix different sounds together and to be eclectic, but here, he has more variety than ever: there is a great amount of sax playing, tons of flutes, and amazing synergy vocals effect that steals the show every time it comes in. Not to forget the amazing keyboards, which include some beautiful mellotron playing. The musicians playing on this album are all of immense talent, from old veterans like Tony Levin on bass and Jordan Rudess on keyboards, to new, great musicians like all the various drummers playing, all of them giving terrific performances and playing with plenty of soul. Steven Wilson then, aside from being a great musician, is also an extremely gifted songwriter, his songs so powerful and moving that it is hard to do anything else but to sit down and listen to him. Together with all these things, "Grace For Drowning" finds its musical side.

The atmospheres this album delivers are too a nice variety: the more aggressive ones, mostly instrumental, are extremely dark, eerie, but always extremely gripping and fascinating. Then, of course, there are the soothing moments, for the most part sung, sometimes mildly melancholic, but full of hopefulness and bright light, others feel depressed and helpless, but just as enchanting and magical. This was evidently a downer period for Steven Wilson: just recently, he lost his beloved father, to accentuate his state of perpetual gloominess. While listening to "Grace for Drowning", you feel his emotions so clearly, it is one of those albums that is truly a beautiful but sad example of the human condition put into music. These are the sufferings of a regular person, who deals with death and abandonment just like anybody, but nobody ever before has put them quite like this.

This 83 minute piece of music is divided into two discs, the first one entitled "Deform To Form A Star": after a wonderful, piano based intro, ("Grace For Drowning"), "Sectarian" is a punch in the face: the simple guitar riff, the intriguing synergy vocals effect on keyboards, the sax playing, the pondering structure, this instrumental song is basically perfect, violent, but also very mysterious and obviously highly Progressive. The melancholic "Deform To Form A Star" is one of the most beautiful songs Steven Wilson has ever written: the feel here is more than ever a perfect mix between a somewhat typical SW song and an old Progressive Rock one, but the melodies are absolutely enchanting, original, and just gorgeous: when you think it doesn't get better than that, "No Part Of Me" feels extremely sad and helpless to pain. The Electronic beats really make this a gem of Modern Prog, as well as the outstanding climax that brings this song to a chaotic, distorted ending. "Postcard" is another nice little gem, a much more melodic and memorable piano driven song, and after the interlude, "Remainder of The Black Dog" comes in much less emotional but still with a quite impressive burst of energy, the most lively we've seen so far: the enthralling leading piano gives a solid base to all the Prog storm that will hit the listener hard. One of the coolest songs here, ending the first disc.

"Like Dust I've Cleared From My Eye" is the second part of the album, starting with the brief but fascinating intro "Belle De Jour". "Index" is possibly the best song of the entire album, extremely dark in its mood and in the music thanks to the clever electronics: however, it ends with the one of most gorgeous ways to end a song ever. "Track One" is maybe the song that least succeeds, since it follows up a song like "Index"; it has however really interesting moments and a great melody, and it's just curious how actually this song was the single for the album. Then, comes the definite monster: "Raider II", a twenty plus minute extravaganza of Progressive, Jazz Fusion, Porcupine Tree-ish moments and others you will hear nowhere else: the atmosphere swings make this a wild but always gripping roller coaster ride that doesn't even come close to anything else a Prog Rock musician has done this year. "Like Dust I've Cleared From My Eye" is the closing, bright lighted track, this one resembling much of Steven Wilson's typical sound, but the ending Ambient minutes are once again a new side for the musician.

An album that will give Steven Wilson the official title of Prog Rock giant, an album that will be remembered as the magnum opus of the musician and, just maybe, it will get to the point where it can be considered a milestone of 3rd millennium music. I'm definitely liking this latter idea.

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Posted Monday, January 23, 2012

Review by AtomicCrimsonRush
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Symphonic Team
5 stars Wilson's 5 star masterpiece has mesmirising musical beauty and a dark, chilling tale of desolation.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Send comments to AtomicCrimsonRush (BETA) | Report this review (#617445) | Review Permalink
Posted Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Review by Negoba
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars Simply Solid Modern Prog with a Pinch of Black

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Send comments to Negoba (BETA) | Report this review (#636988) | Review Permalink
Posted Tuesday, February 21, 2012

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

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Send comments to Warthur (BETA) | Report this review (#750966) | Review Permalink
Posted Tuesday, May 08, 2012

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

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

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

Peace on earth and mercy mild - GW

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Send comments to Gatot (BETA) | Report this review (#754110) | Review Permalink
Posted Wednesday, May 16, 2012

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

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

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

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

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Send comments to apps79 (BETA) | Report this review (#1074922) | Review Permalink
Posted Sunday, November 10, 2013

Latest members reviews

3 stars I am sorry to say that the first few listens of 'Grace for Drowning' was mainly an experience of disappointment and a sence of wanting more from a truly great artist that has proved his worth time and time again. There are a few special moments but on the whole I felt this album lacked any subs ... (read more)

Report this review (#1135966) | Posted by Kevman28 | Sunday, February 23, 2014 | Review Permanlink

5 stars 4.75 Stars. Graceful walking into the twilight zone GfD is the second of SW's solo albums and the first one that clearly spells out what his new musical direction is. The alternative and metal aspects of PT are stripped away and replaced with King Crimson inspired 70s Prog and a greater reliance ... (read more)

Report this review (#1047733) | Posted by LakeGlade12 | Sunday, September 29, 2013 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Although there are some people that don't get this album, I feel that within the next ten or twenty years, Grace for Drowining will be remembered as one of the strongest releases by a musician of this decade. In this album, Wilson gathers from his enormous palette of musical influences, and mu ... (read more)

Report this review (#920441) | Posted by ThumpinBass | Wednesday, February 27, 2013 | Review Permanlink

5 stars When I first encountered Steven Wilson, I was starting to delve into 70's symphonic progressive rock. I was constantly listening to Yes and ELP. I also started to get deeper into Pink Floyd's catalogue (ie Atom Heart Mother, More, Piper), and made my first visit to the Court of the Crimson Kin ... (read more)

Report this review (#905371) | Posted by RedNightmareKing | Sunday, February 03, 2013 | Review Permanlink

3 stars I like Porcupine Tree. They make nice music. Wilson is obviously a big part of that. However, they have never once wowed me. Signify, In Absentia, Deadwing and Fear of a Blank Planet have all been enjoyable albums to my ears, but I would not consider any of them masterpieces. Now Wilson h ... (read more)

Report this review (#802278) | Posted by Lofcaudio | Thursday, August 09, 2012 | Review Permanlink

5 stars I don't know how he manages to keep doing it, but Steven Wilson continues to zig zag all over the place with sound and styles, yet the quality is always of the highest order, both in songwriting and sound quality. Grace for Downing harkens back to glory days of progressive rock (mellotron all ... (read more)

Report this review (#794442) | Posted by Biff Tannen | Wednesday, July 25, 2012 | Review Permanlink

4 stars If I could rate an album five stars just for production, this, Steven Wilson's second solo effort, would be one of the few that would come to my mind, leaving aside the obvious Dark Sides. Wilson has long since earned quite a reputation as ace producer. What's changed is he also remastered som ... (read more)

Report this review (#780644) | Posted by rogerthat | Sunday, July 01, 2012 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Grace For Drowning is one of my favorite pieces of music at the moment. It will continue to astonish me every time I decide to embark on its musical journey. Steven Wilson has been writing, recording, mixing, mastering, and producing for quite a long time now and has become my idol for doing ... (read more)

Report this review (#751839) | Posted by Progmuzak | Friday, May 11, 2012 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Steven Wilson is without a doubt a genius. He is the leader of respected bands as No-Man, Porcupine Tree, Blackfield, Bass Communion, recently Storm Corrosion... He worked with artists like Opeth, Robert Fripp, Anathema, Marillion, Fish, OSI... His talent is recognised by many people (at least, in p ... (read more)

Report this review (#751209) | Posted by Usandthem | Wednesday, May 09, 2012 | Review Permanlink

5 stars I bought the cd and found it very interesting. is very listenable even though in many places I have found very anxious. steven wilson remains a very inspired singer for his solo project too. musicians who participated in this collaboration were very complete presenting various ideas that are very di ... (read more)

Report this review (#674584) | Posted by Aenima 2112 | Thursday, March 22, 2012 | Review Permanlink

3 stars I really respect Steven Wilson, his work as a producer and sound engineer remixing classic albums like Tull's Aqualung and KC's In The Court Of The Crimson King, Red and the (I hope) upcoming Larks' Tongues In Aspic with a 'fan' and even somewhat audiophile approach is something I'm very grateful ... (read more)

Report this review (#628817) | Posted by JackFloyd | Wednesday, February 08, 2012 | Review Permanlink

4 stars 4.5 stars, really! I hated Insurgentes. The repetition, the white noise, the boring progressions repeated over and over and over and over again (I know, that's the same as repetition, but I'm trying to drive the point home here), the guitar solos that sounded like a kid still learning how to p ... (read more)

Report this review (#607816) | Posted by infandous | Thursday, January 12, 2012 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Influences, imitations, and similarities be damned, this album is a psycho-sonic journey with few rivals in this 21st century. The problems are the length--i.e., the time necessary to immerse oneself into this music (and total immersion is where it gains its biggest impact) is considerable--the ... (read more)

Report this review (#605416) | Posted by BrufordFreak | Saturday, January 07, 2012 | Review Permanlink

4 stars In 2011, Steven Wilson released Grace for Drowning, his second solo album apart from his main band, Porcupine Tree, or his various other side projects. Technically, this album is a double album, with the first album being called Deform to Form a Star, and the second album being called Like Dus ... (read more)

Report this review (#600727) | Posted by MoodyRush | Saturday, December 31, 2011 | Review Permanlink

2 stars Let me start this review by saying that I am a Progressive Metal lover, who tries to get outside his comfort zone on a fairly regular basis, and occasionally finds things he really likes in other sub-genres. This is NOT one of them. I am, obviously, a Dream Theater fan, but not so obviously a fan ... (read more)

Report this review (#594975) | Posted by dtguitarfan | Friday, December 23, 2011 | Review Permanlink

4 stars While being a big admirer of Steven Wilson's previous work with Porcupine Tree, I just cannot seem to connect with this album. After reading all the extremely positive reviews on this site for this album I really tried to like it and to find what others seem to have found with it. So I gave it at le ... (read more)

Report this review (#591930) | Posted by Mexx | Tuesday, December 20, 2011 | Review Permanlink

5 stars In a year that saw releases from Opeth, Dream Theater, Unexpect, Neal Morse, and Devin Townsend, Steven Wilson can still turn heads when he announces a double album. In more proper terms, Grace for Drowning is actually a set of two individual albums, titled "Deform To Form A Star" and "Like Du ... (read more)

Report this review (#584835) | Posted by Daggor | Thursday, December 08, 2011 | Review Permanlink

3 stars I wanted to wait a while to review this Steven Wilson Album, I have now listened 3 times, the last time with headphones, I like the music quite a bit, But as I'm not a huge Steven Wilson fan, or Porcupine Tree for that matter, I didn't Particularly like their last album, though Fear of a Blank Pl ... (read more)

Report this review (#584042) | Posted by darkprinceofjazz | Wednesday, December 07, 2011 | Review Permanlink

2 stars YES....a new Steven Wilson album. I could not wait to hear this album, but even after listening to this album 6 times, I find myself bored. This album has its moments, but nothing I find special. Steven Wilson/Porcupine Tree albums always seem to take sometime for me to digest. Fear of a Blank ... (read more)

Report this review (#583455) | Posted by Prog_Rocks | Monday, December 05, 2011 | Review Permanlink

2 stars I don't get it. I just don't understand why people love this album like they do. Its nothing like Porcupine Tree, which I am fine with. Why make a solo album if it sounds like your other band? But this just isn't that good. It is mostly a instrumental album, it probably should have stayed inst ... (read more)

Report this review (#581191) | Posted by kawkaw123 | Saturday, December 03, 2011 | Review Permanlink

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