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THE RAVEN THAT REFUSED TO SING (AND OTHER STORIES)

Steven Wilson

Crossover Prog


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Steven Wilson The Raven That Refused To Sing (And Other Stories) album cover
4.31 | 1115 ratings | 75 reviews | 60% 5 stars

Essential: a masterpiece of
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Studio Album, released in 2013

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Luminol (12:10)
2. Drive Home (7:37)
3. The Holy Drinker (10:13)
4. The Pin Drop (5:03)
5. The Watchmaker (11:43)
6. The Raven That Refused To Sing (7:57)

Total Time 54:43

Lyrics

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Music tabs (tablatures)

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Line-up / Musicians

- Guthrie Govan / lead guitar
- Nick Beggs / bass guitar
- Marco Minnemann / drums
- Adam Holzman / keyboards
- Theo Travis / saxophone, flute
- Steven Wilson / vocals, guitars, keyboards



Releases information

Recorded September 2012 in Los Angeles, engineered by Alan Parsons. Release date - February 25, 2013

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The Raven That Refused to Sing: And Other StoriesThe Raven That Refused to Sing: And Other Stories
KSCOPE 2013
Audio CD$5.64
$5.22 (used)
Cover VersionCover Version
Kscope 2014
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$8.14 (used)
Get All You Deserve [Blu-ray]Get All You Deserve [Blu-ray]
Multiple Formats · Blu-ray
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$19.06 (used)
Grace for DrowningGrace for Drowning
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Audio CD$5.94
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Drive Home [Blu-ray]Drive Home [Blu-ray]
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Insurgentes (CD & DVD)Insurgentes (CD & DVD)
Kscope 2009
Audio CD$10.27
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STEVEN WILSON The Raven That Refused To Sing (And Other Stories) ratings distribution


4.31
(1115 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(60%)
60%
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(23%)
23%
Good, but non-essential (12%)
12%
Collectors/fans only (4%)
4%
Poor. Only for completionists (2%)
2%

STEVEN WILSON The Raven That Refused To Sing (And Other Stories) reviews


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Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by EatThatPhonebook
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars 8/10

The Legacy Of Progressive Rock.

"The Raven That Refused To Sing (and Other Stories)", released in 2013, is the third album by Progressive Rock artist Steven Wilson, most poplar for being the frontman of Porcupine Tree, esily one of the best Prog Rock acts of the last twenty years or so. After a few side projects such as Blackfield, and a few collaborations with other artists, Wilson started a solo career, and released "Insurgentes" in 2008. But it is with "Grace For Drowning", in 2011, that Wilson stepped up his game in a way nobody expected, and crafted one of the most beautiful and personal Progressive albums ever made. Some might consider such a statement far too much of an exaggeration, but this man, without being afraid of showing his influences, mixed the past with the present in an outstandingly sophisticated way; it's not an album that is destined to be an important point in musical history, but rather one that represents a complete portrayal of an artist, a swan song of his own.

"The Raven That Refused To Sing" comes a year and a half later. Steven Wilson seems to have already expressed his emotions in the best and most complete way possible, so it is only natural that this new album doesn't have the touching melodies and the haunting, roaring emotions of "Grace For Drowning". Even though Wilson does tend at times to repeat his sound throughout his albums, he does have the common sense not to repeat them too often. Instead, "Raven" stays as distant from his inner feelings as possible: this is the tribute to vintage Prog Rock some fans were waiting for, and others were hoping not to hear. It is by far the Jazzier, musician-oriented album yet from this artist. The songwriting is more studied and a little more distant, but it is exactly what Wilson needed to do. He unleashes on "Raven" all the love he has for Progressive music, without even looking within himself. Although it does sound like a bad premise, the songwriting, song structuring, and musicianship are so, so good, that there isn't really much that feels missing. Everything that needs to be in such kind of album is here in the most complete way. It is, in other words, a fun record for whoever is a fan of the genre, and a not-so-good record for those who are not fans enough to love Progressive Rock in any form, of any era.

What sticks out the most probably is in fact the musicianship: Steven Wilson surrounds himself with some outstanding players, including drummer fiend Marco Minnemann, bass player Nick Beggs, keyboardist Adam Holzman, flute and sax player Theo Davis. This ensemble all playing together do miracles, and Wilson himself has improved so much in both his vocal harmonies and guitar playing. With such a punch of virtuosity to the music, traces of Porcupine Tree's sound are at the minimum, unlike previous works by SW.

With six tracks, three of them above ten minutes, the other three under ten, the Porcupine Tree frontman structures his work with great sophistication, making these two kind of tracks alternate, starting with eleven minute "Luminol", easily one of the best Wilson songs ever: the opening minutes are mouth-dropping, Jazz-rock influenced passages, while the core of the track softens a bit, until slowly the song picks up momentum until it closes stronger than how the track started. The several melodies and hooks repeated themselves at the right pace, at the right time. Same thing can be said for the third track, the even Jazzier and vivacious "The Holy Drinker", that with its frequent organ usage has somewhat of a Hard rock edge to it. The last of the long songs is "The Watchmaker" perhaps the weakest of them, because of its terrible resemblance, structure-wise, with Genesis' "the Cinema Show", but it's still a great track that boasts gentle, acoustic verses that give a perfect musical variety to the album's whole. Now, the songs that divide up these three titans: the second track, "Drive Home" is a nice and calm song that has some great solos and good songwriting, while "The Pin Drop" has one of the greatest hooks of the entire album, and some of the best musicianship as well on behalf of Wilson's playing. The final track, the title track, is for sure the one that sticks out the most of the shorter songs, for its little amount of drums and incredible atmosphere that closes the album with a vibrating tension you wouldn't expect to hear.

"the Raven That Refused To Sing" is an excellent example of a modern Prog Rock album that tributes the past with newer, more elaborate sounds and great, lush production. Steven Wilson skeptics will be, for sure, multiply after this album, because of its nature, on the other hand, it might turn on some that never really were into Porcupine Tree, because almost all traces of the band's sonic characteristics are gone. Steven Wilson seems to be maturing, abandoning his roots more and more, straight towards a brave, new direction.

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Send comments to EatThatPhonebook (BETA) | Report this review (#902593) | Review Permalink
Posted Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Review by Evolver
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Crossover & JazzRock/Fusion Teams
4 stars Reading some of Steven Wilson's comments to his fans here ans at other sites, I get the feeling that he has never been too comfortable with being labeled as a prog musician. And that feeling causes me to wonder if on this album he is making or making fun of prog.

We all know that Wilson has spent much of his time the last few years making remixed versions of classic prog albums by some of the greats, including King Crimson, Emerson Lake & Palmer and Jethro Tull. It could be that here he is just paying homage. If so, it is fine homage. If not, it makes me think of Mark Wahlberg's character in the film "The Other Guys", where he becomes very good at all sorts of artistic endeavors (such as ballet dancing), just so he can show the other kids "how stupid it is".

Don't get me wrong, just like Ian Anderson's thumbing his nose at the genre with "Thick As A Brick", Wilson has managed to create an excellent album of original music. But some of the influences sound a bit too cliched to my ear, and almost gratuitous.

Luminol, the opener, is a gem of a track, blending old school prog with modern prog metal. It has a fantastic funky bass line, and uses Robert Fripp's own Mellotron for that retro effect. Drive Home is slightly reminiscent of Moonchild from the first King Crimson album. The Holy Water has some organ playing that borrows from Keith Emerson's history. All of these have fine flute and sax riffs that bring classic Mel Collins to mind.

The Pin Drop is the weakest song on the album. Instead of looking back at classic prog, it sounds to me more like Wilson's Porcupine Tree efforts, that have way too much of the alt-rock sound for my tastes.

The Watchmaker sounds like a nod toward Genesis, with some light opening verses that would sound very much like the aforementioned group if Wilson sang with a thin, nasal Gabriel/Collins-like tone (luckily, he does not. The middle section of this tune reminds me of King Crimson's One More Red Nightmare, before a Tony Banks-like arpeggio brings back the Genesis feel, but with some Yes (South Side Of The Sky) and even a Rush lick thrown in.

And the title track at the end is a good, but not overwhelming crescendo for this album.

There are a lot of parts of this album that bring to mind very specific pieces of classic prog, and some that just capture the spirit of those bands. But even so, Wilson has managed to come up with a wonderful collection of music.

Steven, if you read this and I am wrong about your intentions, I'm sorry. But I still love the album.

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Send comments to Evolver (BETA) | Report this review (#924683) | Review Permalink
Posted Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Review by Second Life Syndrome
COLLABORATOR Post/Math Rock and Crossover Teams
4 stars Just about every review thus far for Steven Wilson's "The Raven That Refused To Sing" has been praising the album as a progressive rock masterpiece; as essential prog fare for 2013; and so on and on. While I do not disagree that this wonderful album deserves a spin by every true prog fan, I'm not sure I can call it a masterpiece.

Wilson outdoes himself in this album with an amazing sound mix. He truly is a wizard: The 70's vibe that he portrays here is masterfully mixed and well written. Indeed, I really love the concept of an album all about ghost stories. I think Wilson knocked that concept out of the park. Not only that, but the musicians really amazed me. The musicians are very tasteful and restrained here, but can shred when they need to do so. The bass player and drummer especially amazed me with their unique approaches, instead of trying to just drown out everyone else. And, as always, Wilson's vocals are above average.

Yet, I cannot slap a 5-star rating on this album. I feel that Wilson tried hard to write plenty of instrumental passages (maybe trying to impress progheads? Not enough lyrics? Who knows.), but they usually come off as wandering and pointless. Take, for instance, the first track, "Luminol". This track begins with an amazing bass line and instrumental portion. Yet, it is the best instrumental portion in the entire album! It is to-the-point and groovy. But, as the song progresses, Wilson loses his focus. I feel that way about almost every song; too much filler.

That said, this album is very well done. The title track is already in my Top 5 songs for the year, for words cannot describe how masterful it is. You see, Wilson's composition is focused, emotive, and spell-binding on the title track; something he just missed in most of the other tracks. If the entire album had been as amazing as the final track, I feel we would already have the album of the year. As it stands, this is a great album; yet I think it will be forgotten relatively soon.

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Send comments to Second Life Syndrome (BETA) | Report this review (#928081) | Review Permalink
Posted Sunday, March 10, 2013

Review by ProgShine
COLLABORATOR Errors & Omissions and Crossover Team
1 stars With The Raven That Refused To Sing And Other Stories (2013) I decided to finish my hate affair with this musician. I don't like Steven Wilson's music, period. I tried far too much with many Porcupine Tree albums and now in his solo carrer. And that will not change with The Raven That Refused To Sing And Other Stories (2013), his new album.

What everyone else seems to praise in his music I find annoying, derivative, boring and very, very average. And I'm still trying to understand why he's considered a great mind in the 'New Days Of Progressive Rock'. And if he is, we're definitely screwed.

To begin with, I find his voice annoying and his composing dull most of the time and all seem to be too derivative. Everything was done before... and better.

I must admit that Nick Beggs, the bass player, is someone to pay attention to, especially on the first part of 'Luminol', the opening track. But soon his playing is buried under Wilson's music. There's a bunch of nice flutes here and there, but Wilson ruined it with lots of ridiculous keyboards and a fake drum sound. And they call him 'genious of sound', I still wonder why!

The opening track is the only exception of good moments in The Raven That Refused To Sing And Other Stories (2013) And it's quite obvious that Steven Wilson wrote this album while he was doing the 5.1 versions of King Crimson albums, that's for sure, cause it's almost a copy of their work, as with others of his albums. Solo, with Porcupine Tree or whatever he records.

There are some nice moments here and there, but all in all the album is so... empty. There's nothing IN it. It's only an empty shell, it's only... posing. All for show. It's like Wilson was sitting with his notebook making a list while recording: - Mellotron - checked - Minimum 10 minutes lenght - checked - Late 60's atmosphere - checked - More mellotron - checked - Epic ending - checked

A VERY average album, and of course will not change my mind about Steven Wilson A forever average Joe in Prog World to me.

But you cannot argue with one thing, Wilson is an amazing... seller. He'll sell his fans an empty box and they'll buy with a big smile on their faces.

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Send comments to ProgShine (BETA) | Report this review (#929249) | Review Permalink
Posted Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Review by Einsetumadur
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars 8.5/15P. This album leaves me helpless. So many decent ideas and so much talent here, but why does it all need to be so straight and perfectionist that even during the concerts the video clips are perfectly synced to the music?

I still remember clearly most of the moments which defined and shaped my life. And I'm grateful that I don't only remember them, but that I'm also aware that these situations had a distinct impact on the course of my life. These situations include social ones, experiences connotated with different places, and - which is why I am here - confrontations with music I didn't know before, or music whose qualities I didn't know until a variable number of listens. For instance I attended a multimedial show in a planetarium when I was a child, a show in which they played back Pink Floyd music while presenting films made in space. The effect which this little show made on me is invaluable in retrospect. Many years later, in 2011, I first listened to the debut album by Caravan, and the massive organ carpets suddenly catapulted me into a higher dimension - or, to put it more factually, into a different understanding of music. At a different time I - having bought and decently enjoyed a lot of albums of that genre before - listened to Steeleye Span's Lowlands of Holland on one summer evening somewhere in the fields. I had listened to this piece many times before, but on this occasion it opened the whole world of folk music for me, converting the unknowing enjoyment into a kind of spiritual connection to these sounds. Just as if I had been walking up a mountain in misty weather a thousand times, wondering why the people make such a fuss about mountaineering, then until one clear day when I finally see mountains at a distance of more than 200km. I also had a similar experience in February 2013 when Junip released their single Line of Fire, which kept me confident that transcendental music did not die in 1977, but rather transformed itself into a different style along with the huge changes in society which occurred since then.

Just looking at the credits and the artwork of Steven Wilson's Grace For Drowning in 2011 I knew that this album could be a huge cornucopia of good ideas. Still, after a lot of listens, I cannot really manage to view and estimate that album as a whole; but especially the electronic parts, which remind me of Steven Wilson's early trip-hop excursions, and the ambient parts with Wilson's restrained multi-instrumental works (dulcimer, autoharp, harmonium etc) always keep me motivated to listen to this album again and again, each time hoping to find something new.

I was pretty excited about The Raven That Refused To Sing when I pre-ordered it in vinyl at Burning Shed. Get All You Deserve, and especially Holzman's inspiring keyboard madness in Luminol, maybe didn't appear to me as a genuine musical masterpiece, but definitely as a step in the right direction - in a musical genre in which most of the time every step you make is a step into the past, a step closer to artistic insularity and musical fundamentalism.

...COMMENDATIONS...

Let's start with the positive aspects of this albums - and there are quite a lot of them. Again, the maniac electric piano work by former Miles Davis collaborator Adam Holzman, stands out on Luminol. The electric piano is fed through distortion devices and a ring modulator, and in the end the intensity of this stuff equals Dave MacRae's (Matching Mole) and Steven Miller's (Miller/Coxhill) more furious solos. The bass work by Nick Beggs is similarly convincing - especially the tritone-laden solo riff is quite a treat. Okay, the 'key chords' of the song are slightly derivative of Soft Machine's Pig, but I don't really mind this. At the latest, the Porcupine-Tree-ish mid-90s breakdown with the strummed electric guitar and Govan's jazzy lead guitar is able to put the same kind of big smile on my face as The Moon Touches Your Shoulder once did.

Govan's lead guitar in general is pretty good; he orients himself a lot towards Steve Hackett in terms of technique, but he might be the man in the band who puts the biggest emotion in his playing. He helps making the ballad Drive Home, which wouldn't be out of place on Porcupine Tree's The Incident, being a perfectly good listen at least over the first 6 minutes - afterwards it tends to become a bit overlong. Many critics highlight this track as the least convincing track of this album, but it grabs me as a pretty great piece of wistful alternative rock - the genre Wilson (until now) had the greatest artistic success in. The second half of The Watchmaker heads into a similar direction and is similarly successful. In retrospect, The Incident was a pretty good album after all!

The title track, a sparsely instrumentated neo-classical piece with grand piano and dense string arrangements, subtly builds on the cold atmosphere which was already conveyed on Grace For Drowning. The accompanying music video, an unusually sinister and insightful cartoon, is able to add a new dimension to the story which depicts a topic which the whole album actually reflects: aged people looking back on a life of losses, lost chances or wasted time. Former Hatfield & The North keyboarder Dave Stewart is again aboard as the arranger, and although his work is harmless and quiet compared with his eccentric Northettes choir arrangements, the orchestral work is tasteful and well-conducted. In the finale of the track, performed by the whole band, the strings really cumulate and rise and create something like an uplifting coda of a mainly cold album.

Alan Parsons' production is warm and absolutely good, but it ain't exactly imaginative. It's subject to the compositions - like quite a lot of aspects of this album. Although I enjoy Stewart's arrangements quite much, they mostly have the quality of film music. Don't get the album for Dave Stewart's participation, however, if you expect something like Mumps - he's more or less a studio musician here; no keyboards performed by him, of course.

...OBJECTIONS...

In spite of these good (and sometimes great) moments, the first listens of the The Raven That Refused To Sing album, both in the studio version and in Wilson's Cologne live concert, however, were a bit disappointing. It's neither that I would call this album boring - boredom occurs when a musician has a lack of ideas, and this ain't the case here. Nor am I annoyed by the neo-prog plagiarism phenomenon - there are some moments which fit into this category, but Wilson has too much knowledge of progressive rock and craves too much for creating something of his own to simply copy an idea by a different musician.

The problem rather is that I feel too comfortable in the consistently safe fairway of this album. When you listen to the tense Gilmourish introduction to The Pin Drop you know that some verses into the song Wilson is going to break into another tritone-filled dissonance, most possibly with fat guitars, mellotron or backing vocals. And, voila: at 1:14 the surmise proves true. I maybe would have expected this part to be mixed more differentiatedly (it's a bit of a mayhem), but whatever - it was pretty clear that something like this would come.

The same case in The Holy Drinker. When I saw that the song turned to quietness about two minutes before the end of the song, I knew that it was time for the big finale with metal guitars, dissonant counterpoints and busy drums. Go to 8:32 and listen to what happens. It's a biological fact that an immediate loud keyboard chord after a period of silence is a surprising moment, but too often it's hardly more than an effect here. Genesis' The Musical Box, for example, had a mighty finale which acted as the end of a big arc of suspense. I don't find this suspense on The Raven That Refused To Sing - here it's more a kind of 'arc of structure' or (expressed a bit unfairly) 'arc of predictability' which keeps the pieces together.

You might wonder why I have never mentioned Theo Travis in this review until now. Well, that's because he rarely attracts a great deal of my attention during the album. Not because he ain't able to do this - in fact, his tiny little flute lick in The Sky Moves Sideways, Phase Two is frequently swirling through my head. As a part of the Steven Wilson Band Theo Travis is a part of the arrangement, subject to the songs and their structure. The same issue with Adam Holzman: a passionate jazz pianist with his rare glittering outbursts on electric piano and Moog - not only in Luminol, but also in The Holy Drinker (0:28 onward, great) - but most of the time playing block chords and the occasional Hammond organ, the latter (sadly quite often) sounding like it always does on retro prog albums.

I cannot count out that my way of listening to music is too arrogating - maybe Wilson's music isn't addressed to fools like me who raise foolish predictions how the next part of the respective song could sound. And I firmly believe that real musical progress is always bound to technical progress - this is how rock music came into being. At the moment, there's no current invention like the first synthesizer or the first electric guitar. Hence it definitely would be arrogating to say that only revolutionary music is good music. And definitely this ain't how I perceive the nature music either.

Those of you who have read some of my reviews may have noticed how much I like (mostly British and Celtic-based) folk music, which is arguably the most minimalist music ever in terms of composition. There might be songs which are sung a capella, and they might be absolutely striking and beautiful - without complex chords, without instruments, without any arrangements. With just a voice and a melody sung to the endogenous metre of the lyrics. What brings sparse (and often ancient) pieces like these to live is first and foremost the delivery, the performance.

And this is the last aspect I'd like to point out about this album and my opinion of it - perhaps it's just a folly of my thoughts, but perhaps it's also a hint for some to listen to this record in a different way. A possible, and in my opinion plausible, explanation for my ambivalence towards Wilson's work is that he himself is an ambivalent musician. An emotional composer on the one hand, a cool performer on the other hand. The melodies and chord progressions themselves are absolutely inspired and filled with true sadness, anger and an occasional bit of hope. But, especially seeing Steven Wilson live as a performer, it seems he excludes the emotions as much as possible from his playing and singing - at least when these feelings threaten to disturb the structure of his work. I've already pointed out which aspects I complain about the music itself - but when played live the music is played in exactly the same way as in the studio (apart from some parts of the solos), perfectly synced with the music videos which are played in the background.

The guitar playing on certain bits and pieces, for instance, slightly resembles Anthony Phillips' guitar work - arpeggiated 12-string-guitar chords, most clearly to be heard on The Watchmaker. I don't really hear a clear hint at the Trespass material, but more likely an appreciation of his solo work (Private, Parts & Pieces etc). But, again, I don't really care about this - the guitar playing is just fine. But the playing defines a certain mood, that special Victorian sound which Genesis later combined with the dark British horror stories. Wilson also has a horror story to fuse with this song, a story of an old man who kills his woman after many years of marriage. But when Steven Wilson's really smooth and clean voice sings lines like "though all the cogs connected with such poetic grace, time has left its curse upon this place", it feels too smooth and pathetic - especially when Nick Beggs' similarly clean voice provides the harmonies.

...SUMMING UP...

My simple understanding of the development of Wilson's compositions is the following: Wilson's lyrics are stories of human imperfection. Stories which are later set to music and stylistic devices deducted from the (originally alternative and radical) progressive rock genre. The resulting music is then performed flawlessly, technically perfect and strictly according to Wilson's demos. Maybe the songs already determine how the finished album is going to sound before the members of Wilson's band have even gotten to know them.

The first two steps are authentic - everything's alright until here.

But this last step, the way of performing the music, clearly is the major inconsistency between Wilson's approach to music and my personal expectations. As I was standing there during Wilson's Cologne concert, in some moments I waited for some kind of variety, maybe even for some kind of revolution. I asked myself why Wilson doesn't do what all of his heroes did at some time - simply jamming and improvising around occasionally. His whole band would be able to do that. Many Canterbury Scene concerts of the 1970s seemed to be totally spontaneous (especially when Richard Sinclair was involved), with lots of lengthy improvised parts and unexpected guests. King Crimson used to mix up a setlist of strictly composed pieces (such as Fracture) with different jams - some of which ended up in a mess, and some of which proved successful later on. Moments in which one band member just turns around, briefly stops playing and smiles because he's so moved by what another band member plays.

But Wilson's band? It's in top form everyday, doing always the same (carefully set-up) setlist, the same encores, the tracks always in the same length, always professional, always tight, perfect timing. But seldom a moment of intense joy in any musician's face, rarely a cathartic moment, never a song in which the musicians subject themselves to their current feeling, to the feedback of the audience, to the state of mind which the musicians and the listeners share when they decide to spend an evening together in concert.

I don't want to claim that Steven Wilson is an all-dominant band leader. Everyone who has seen Wilson working in the studio with the band or with Akerfeldt finds that he is a pretty cool guy during the sessions. But he is a perfectionist, and the musicians who surround him are more than sufficiently versed in terms of playing abilities to cope with his ideas.

But maybe I still haven't found the key to this kind of music, just like it was the case with Steeleye Span - who I also would have rated 'good, but non-essential' a few years ago. Irrespective of how good this album is, it's quite unlike everything Wilson has conceived before. Instead, it gets closer to The Flower Kings, The Tangent and all the other bands from the retro prog realms. I'll surely give this album (and, of course, the more eccentric Grace for Drowning) more than just a few more spins, but I doubt that The Raven That Refused To Sing will ever enter the top40 of my personal favorite albums - contrary to the top40 of the ProgArchives which it has already entered by now (03.2013), just two mere weeks after its release.

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Posted Thursday, March 14, 2013

Review by Zitro
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars After what appeared to be an ambitious personal 2-CD album, a happier Wilson decided to go deeper into the progressive genre and write fictional stories involving the paranormal.

Luminol might be Wilson's homage to the genre of progressive rock, particularly Yes and King Crimson. You have an energetic overture, extended instrumental acrobatics, retro production, an epic mellotron solo, and so on. What's great about it is that it's very coherent and remains highly interesting throughout its 13 minute duration. Holy Drinker is a fantastic song as well. It opens with a vibrant jazz-fusion jam, leading to the main portion of the song, which has a 70s hard rock vibe with a great usage of mellotron. An ambient, eerie section introduces a hellish heavy metal section with dissonant arrangements. The Watchmaker is my favorite with a storybook structure to it. It emphasizes melody but offers plenty of dynamics to keep it going. The sinister ending may be an acquired taste but I find it essential to the song's balance between light and dark elements.

The shorter songs are of the highest caliber as well. Drive Home might sound familiar, but the melodic choruses and the passionate guitar solo are still highly enjoyable to me. Pin Drop may be short, but it has a powerful drive to it and offers great hooks and instrumental workouts. The moving The Raven That Refuses to Sing is the most minimalistic song in the album and is quite the tearjerker.

It's unbelievable how someone can have the talent to produce music this close to perfection. This album reaches the quality of the finest 70s progressive rock albums.

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Posted Saturday, March 16, 2013

Review by AtomicCrimsonRush
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Symphonic Team
5 stars Steven Wilson is arguably a modern genius of the prog community along with Mikael Akerfeldt, yet when they both came together for the Storm Corrosion project it had little impact on me. Wilson however as a solo artist has become intensely passionate about his music, and his solo albums are incredible masterpieces, especially 'Grace For Drowning' that floored me to the point where I had to obtain the deluxe version. Having to follow up such a brilliant album is not an easy thing but somehow Wilson has done so with a flourish that has heralded in the 2013 year in admirable style. Alan Parsons was on board to engineer this album so one would have to expect a high quality sound and it doesn't disappoint.

The album cover is like a rash all over the net with the astonished moon looming full and iconic in the darkness. The artwork is simple but embeds itself into the conscious easily and thus does its job to gain attention. The rest of the artwork in the Deluxe Version booklet consists of line drawings, some colourful paintings of the dishevelled looking kid in dense locations, a miserable man looking into a beer glass, later drinking a shot, some disturbing scratchy drawings, darkened stairwells and window frames, creepy faces staring out, images of a house, a tree and the scrawny watchmaker at work as his wife looks on, frames from the 'Raven' video clip with snow falling down in the forest, and the shivering old man pursuing the elusive bird. The booklet is extensive and arty as one might expect, and ends with an amusing drawing of the band playing looking like thin men with Wilson headbanging away. The artwork on the CD is the Raven looking mystical and enigmatic, and of course if you did get the Deluxe package you also have a 7 song demo to indulge in and the album in 5.1 sound on a blu ray and a DVD thrown in with all the clips and interviews.

'The Raven That Refused To Sing' has been promoted with film clips hovering about on the internet way before its release date and the film clip images that accompanies the title track are extraordinary. Wilson has reinvented himself again on this album, discarding the darkness of 'Grace For Drowning', and embracing a sound more akin to Porcupine Tree, oddly enough. The title track is masterful, and as it was the first track I heard initially I will start here. It is laced with beautiful keyboards and a pretty melody masking the downbeat lyrics that focus on the man's dead sister, that haunts the storyteller like the raven, and he misses her terribly and dreams of her to return to him; 'Just because I'm weak, You can steal my dreams, You can reach inside my head, And you can put your song there instead.'

Lyrically the poetry in the song has a melancholy edge. The images on the clip of an old man in a forest encountering a raven and then pursuing it finally capturing it and then dying, have a profound symbolic resonance. According to Wilson, the songs have classic Gothic ideas interspersed with suggested dread, regret, loss and the fear of mortality, or impending death, thus the omen of the Raven. It is these ideas that create a very unique atmosphere on the album. The raven essentially becomes, in the mind of the old man, a reincarnation of the old man's dead sister, and in his own delusion he believes if he can capture the raven and hear him sing he can recapture the life of his dead sister. The music is stripped back at times to a piano reverberating in the stillness. Wilson knows how to build on musical ideas and surpasses himself with such tracks, the mesmirising and haunting beauty is superb.

The album opens with 'Luminol' with a delightful pulsating bassline and reverb wah wah guitar splashes. Musically the album is faultless and the flute enhances the quality. There are some wonderful Yes-like multilayered harmonies for a moment and then the extended musical break dominates, with an odd time sig, an intense spectrum of bass, pounding percussion, floating flute, and Mellotron sounds. The electric piano runs have a 70s vibe especially when it builds with a shimmering soundscape, and utilising distortion devices and a ring modulator to good effect. At 4:35 it settles into a minimalist rhythm guitar and Wilson's vocals, in his reflective mood, with references to pop culture, 'the songs he learned from scratched LPs, stops in mid flow to sip his tea.' The lyrics centre on a protagonist who has died even in death continues to discover answers through reminiscing on the past or reflecting on a life that has faded; 'He strums the chords with less than grace, Each passing year etched on his face', is a reflection on how one might feel as we are 'born into a struggle, To come so far but end up returning to dust.' This ghost is a metaphor of fear and our obsession with mortality, according to Wilson in his online interviews.

Wilson doesn't labour on grim themes or death however throughout, and this album has more rays of hope than the shadows of despair found on previous releases, and leaves one with a profound sense of fulfilment. The music is uplifting and energetic, infused with passion throughout and progressive ideas using all the musicians at Wilson's disposal. The flute playing of Theo Travis is exquisite, but I am a real fan of that grinding organ by Adam Holzman, and the way the guitar interplays creating those endearing melodies. 'Luminol' is a masterpiece of the album and a promise of things to come.

Next is 'Drive Home' that opens with a sweet Neo-Classical melody that sounds partially like 'Castle In The Clouds' from 'Les Mesirables'. When Wilson comes in on vocals, the signature locks into a steady measured pace. All is held back like the old days of Porcupine Tree or the 'Deadwing' era. There is a remarkable beauty that emanates from the Mellotrons that sound like violins. The chorus is Wilson at his most melancholy with thought provoking lyrics; 'You need to clear away all the jetsam in your brain, And face the truth, Well love can make amends, While the darkness always ends, You're still alone so drive home.' The instrumental break is stripped back to a nice fingerpicking guitar motif, like Steve Howe, and Travis's achingly beautiful flute is layered over. The lead guitar break of Guthrie Govan that follows is incredible, soaring emotionally and adds so much depth to the overall atmosphere.

'The Holy Drinker' is a glorious throwback to the eclectic prog of vintage King Crimson meets Van der Graaf Generator, with elements of jazz fusion and mind blowing dissonant saxophone blasts. It opens with the wavering keyboard sound heard on Van der Graaf Generator's 'A Plague Of Lighthouse Keepers', then breaks into a cacophony of sound like a jazz shop exploded. Theo Travis is master at the sax helm and Wilson is the commander as he constructs this disharmony of musical instruments. I adored this on first listen and it soon became the quintessential track of the album for me. After this outlandish intro, the song finds some semblance of structure and Wilson sings some odd lyrics that I don't want to think about too deeply; 'With shaking hands and blackened heart, The glass he pours, this time it's also the last, In rapt communion with himself, The Holy Drinker is going straight in to hell.' On cue the song breaks into extended soloing with some wonderful organ and chirping flute taking centre stage. I love how the organ has that Keith Emerson 'Tarkus' sound at 6:25, but a special mention goes to the sporadic drumming of Marco Minnemann and Bass of Nick Beggs that are always on target and played to perfection. The song settles into Wilson's echoing gentle voice at about 8 minutes in, but it feels ominous as though the jazz fusion will break out at any moment. Then a grinding Van der Graaf Generator organ sound growls viciously with a downbeat tone, joined by odd rhythmic guitars. This feels like the coda of VDGG's 'White Hammer' and it is ferociously off kilter enough to jar the senses to their most awakened state. AlI in all a furious blast of masterful music and one to seek out for those interested in checking out the best on the album.

Thus far the album is astonishing, nothing less than brilliant prog, so I was looking forward to the next half. 'The Pin Drop' is the shortest song at 5.03, and has Wilson on his highest register tone singing; 'Carried away by the river that passes through bulrushes on to the sea, Dragged by the current to rest on the stakes of the breakwater shaded by trees, Beginnings and endings, love intersecting a rift that will break us apart.' The return of the sax is so welcome, and Travis lifts off with massive runs and haunting squeals of jazz ecstasy. The song moves into a Twilight Zone like atmosphere melodically, and feels again like vintage Porcupine Tree. The layered harmonies are exceptional and create a wall of sound, and all is augmented by the accomplished lead guitar solo of Govan. All this in 5 minutes, simply incredible work from Mr Wilson.

'The Watchmaker' is another of the album's epics, and showcases Wilson's poetry in the lyrics; 'The watchmaker buries something deep within his thoughts, A shadow on the staircase of someone from before, This thing is broken now and cannot be repaired, Fifty years of compromise and aging bodies shared, Eliza dear, you know there's something I should say, I never really loved you but I'll miss you anyway.' The music is appropriately like a music box chiming, very Gabriel-era Genesis in fact, and is enhanced by dreamy flute embellishments. There is a glorious lead guitar solo, perhaps the best on the album with Govan taking on speedy licks effortlessly and the squeaky sax joins in and it suddenly reminds me of Pink Floyd. The song takes on a new format then with piano runs and Wilson's voice emanating thoughts of the Watchmaker who reminisces on a dark deed involving the murder of his wife who has returned from the grave; 'But for you I had to wait, Until one day it was too late.' The music and harmonies become more romantically intertwined utilising old school 'do do do's' and then finally it breaks out into an odd time sig and some glistening piano sparkles, a booming bass solo reminding me of Rush's Geddy Lee. Finally the next phase of the music becomes dissonant with weird off tones in a 7/8 meter, being used where they should not, creating a disquieteing effect. This is a complex piece of music and perhaps the darkest track on the whole album, more like the 'Grace For Drowning' themes than others on offer.

It ends of course with the beauty of 'The Raven That Refused To Sing' and we are left with an astonishing album of dark haunting power as only Wilson knows how to create. This is certainly a different creature than 'Grace For Drowning' and did not impact me like that masterpiece, and yet this latest release is mesmerising on every listen. It is an album to listen to with unwavering focus, as is all of Wilson's work; music designed for headphones. It is hard to rate this album as everything is so well placed and perfect; Wilson throws in so many ideas that it is impossible not to enjoy this if your ears are attuned to experimental progressive ideas. It did not measure up to 'Grace For Drowning' for me, but still is a masterful album presented in a compact form of less than an hour. If you want more, the Deluxe version is ample enough though did not add that much musically, but more artistically. The experience is sheer joy when an album comes out that embraces all that is great about prog. The sax, the organ, the lead guitars, the rhythms; all are played to perfection. Wilson's voice is faultless and his ideas are poetically conveyed to precision.

Perhaps it is too perfect and too calculating for some listeners and I can understand how this can be off putting, and why it has received mixed critical reactions. However, Wilson is nothing short of passionate about his music and every note is placed to generate a congenial effect to enhance the overall experience. This is a series of stories, as the album titles states, and each story has its own atmosphere and style though there is a consistency in the thematic juxtaposition of music and vocals. It is a far superior album to some of the earlier Porcupine Tree albums and indeed Wilson's debut solo. I would rank it easily among his greatest triumphs, and certainly it is going to be one of the albums of the year. An album this bold and inventive deserves full recommendation and thus far it is the best release in 2013, so 5 shining stars to a modern musical genius that continues to produce prog at its highest caliber.

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Posted Sunday, March 24, 2013

Review by Warthur
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Like Grace for Drowning, The Raven that Refused to sing finds Steven Wilson exploring a range of old-school prog textures and sounds, but this time around I think I can detect a few more influences creeping in from Porcupine Tree's indie rock-influenced phase (the triptych of Stupid Dream, Lightbulb Sun, Recordings), particularly on the plaintive Drive Home. The sessions were engineered by Alan Parsons, but I don't really feel that this adds much to the album - Wilson's projects are usually impeccably engineered whatever name they issue under and I'm inclined to wonder whether Parsons' involvement is solely for the name recognition factor - but the album itself nicely develops on Grace for Drowning, mellowing its King Crimson-esque fusion jam sessions with more tranquil and gentle phases.

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Posted Sunday, March 24, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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Posted Monday, April 01, 2013

Review by Conor Fynes
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars 'The Raven That Refused To Sing (And Other Stories)' - Steven Wilson (9/10)

Although Porcupine Tree wasn't exactly a band known for narrow scope or resistance to experimenting, I've always appreciated Steven Wilson's choice to release some of his music as a solo career. Not only has it let him collaborate with a much wider range of musicians, it also frees listeners from many of the preconceptions they may have about his flagship band. As a result, Wilson's three solo albums to date have enjoyed a greater sense of risk and daring than much of Porcupine Tree's regular material. "Insurgentes" was impressive for its experimental nature and inclusive variety, and "Grace for Drowning" fleshed out the ambition with everything from finely crafted pop tunes to explosive jazz fusion. As with the last two, I don't think that "The Raven That Refused To Sing" would have struck such a note with me if it had been released under the Porcupine Tree banner. Although Wilson's staple production and flair for the melancholic are here in no short order, he takes this opportunity as a way to put a focus on his instrumental side that hasn't been often seen before in his career, solo or otherwise. The resulting focus on jazzy band dynamics and progressive rock tradition makes "Raven..." Steven's least varied but most focused solo effort to date. Also, it's a concept album, and that's pretty cool too.

On "Grace for Drowning", one of the most peculiar tracks was the behemothic "Raider II", a twenty three minute, largely instrumental monster, taking King Crimson-esque rock musicianship and jazz-based improvisations together in equal measure. On my initial experience with it when the album came out in 2011, I interpreted it as a bold declaration that the work of Steven's solo career was a conscious step away from his Porcupine Tree material. Now, I see it more as a predecessor and hint of what was to come on this album. Although Wilson gives longtime fans a dose of the classic PT sound with tracks like "The Pin Drop" and the cinematic title track, a great deal of "The Raven That Refused To Sing" focuses itself in on that prog fusion instrumentation. Whether it's a meticulously calibrated passage, or a mellow interplay between the piano and rhythm section, "Raven..." transposes Wilson's genius for composition into a realm that he has never dedicated himself so fervently towards.

Possibly the greatest thing about "Raven..." is not even necessarily Wilson's writing and arrangement, but the musicians that he has chosen to surround himself with. More than ever, it feels like Wilson has fashioned himself a progressive rock conductor of sorts, letting some of the best musicians in the scene bring his vision to life. Most notably, Wilson brings on two thirds of the virtuosic fusion band The Aristocrats. Guthrie Govan (guitars) and Marco Minnemann (drums) are each masters of their respective instruments. Of the musicians involved however, the top accolades go to keyboardist Adam Holzman, arguably best known for work he has done with Miles Davis. Especially on "Luminol", his jazz improvisations are rich with detail, and his firm background in the jazz genre gives Wilson's music a different sound than it has had in the past. Steven Wilson's voice seems to be a love-or-hate-it case for many people. There is certainly a lesser emphasis on vocal melodies this time around, but his voice retains the same emotional depth I have come to expect. His overdubbed vocal harmonies are some of the best I've ever heard.

Although it's certainly not the first time Wilson has done this, "The Raven That Refused To Sing" enjoys its status as a concept album. As the longform title implies, each of the songs here tells a different story, each about ghosts and an idealized notion of lost love. Of these, "The Holy Drinker" tells the most interesting story, about an alcoholic evangelist that plays a drinking game with Satan (spoiler: it doesn't end well). This dark subject matter is reflected musically by a constant exchange between catchy vocal segments and dark heavy instrumentation. "The Pin Drop" is another interesting piece, distancing itself from the album's lean towards longform instrumentation in favour of a more Porcupine Tree-esque song that seems to beg for 'single' status. Without a doubt however, the greatest piece on the album is the gut-wrenching title track and closing piece. "The Raven That Refused To Sing" (the song) is as haunting as Wilson's music gets. An eerie, filmscore-sounding piano piece plays under pensive vocals and ghostly synths. By the end of the song, it has built itself up to a thunder that hits the heart in a place only the best sort of music can hope to reach. To make it better, a fantastic music video was made for it that fits its ghostly subject matter wonderfully- well worth checking out, if you ask me.

With the legendary Alan Parsons (whom you may know as the engineer for "Dark Side of the Moon") coming onboard to help on the production side of things, it's little surprise that "Raven..." is about as close tor recording perfection as one can get. Even during the album's most harrowing moments, every instrument comes through in full dimension, and are balanced with a mix that gods might praise. Despite this refined sense of calibration, the album retains a warmth and organic appeal that echoes many of the very same artists Steven Wilson has been influenced by on the record. While the classics of progressive rock are present in spirit here (with King Crimson taking the front seat on most occasions), many passages on "The Raven That Refused To Sing" sound very much like Wilson is also paying tribute to some of the more contemporary progressive artists he loves. There are many times on the album- particularly on the fiery groove of "Luminol"- where Steven Wilson sounds as if he's conjuring the style and scope of The Mars Volta. The lush title track begins as were it a Radiohead piece, but it eventually bursts into a life-affirming climax that instantly brings Anathema to mind. This mix of the old and new feels very natural given Wilson's tastes, and though the homages are often noticeable, no one influence ever takes over completely. With this being said, "The Raven That Refused To Sing" is widely defined by this sense of 'tribute' to other artists. In the past, many of Steven Wilson's bands and albums have had a staunch sense of personal identity and style. Here, Steven's voice is as distinctive as ever, but the instrumentation lacks that uniqueness and personal style that first made him part of the prog rock elite. Don't get me wrong; the music is excellent, but it keeps the album from having that life-altering 'wow' effect that struck me so much on "Grace for Drowning" and some of his Porcupine Tree albums.

Steven Wilson's solo material has proven itself worthy to the point where I may be more excited for another album under his own name than something by his flagship band. Like Mikael Akerfeldt should have done when releasing "Heritage", the distancing from the name and style Wilson is largely known for has opened up so many new doors. With "The Raven That Refused To Sing", Steven has tried out something new and unexpected, fusing many of his favourite artists into something intelligent, classic and as musically proficient as a listener could hope for. Although it may not be the career-topping opus that "Grace for Drowning" turned out to be, this latest outing from Wilson doesn't show any signs of the multi-instrumentalist showing down. As a lifelong fan of Wilson's music, I can only hope for more of the same quality in the future.

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Send comments to Conor Fynes (BETA) | Report this review (#939041) | Review Permalink
Posted Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Review by Tony R
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
5 stars A Masterpiece Of Modern Progressive Music

Steven Wilson put Porcupine Tree on what seemed like permanent hiatus in 2011 and many fans were upset at the prospect of Steven's diversion into the solo path he started with Insurgentes. That album and Grace For Drowning were stirling efforts, with Wilson honing his prog chops steadily and absorbing the influences gained from re-mastering some classic Crimson and Tull albums.

Then along comes The Raven That Refused To Sing (and other stories) brim full of the kind of confidence that critical success and fan worship brings. A settled band in place, Wilson reaches for the stars and delivers a masterpiece that deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as the classics of the genre. Every one of the six tracks on this album delivers, melding consumate musicianship with beautifully judged songwriting.

I'm not going to analyse each track because they are all a tour-de-force in their own way. Beggs, Minnemann, Holzman, Travis and especially Govan bring Wilson's artistry to life with ensemble playing that matches any Prog could muster since its inception. Truly a spellbinding experience all kept together by the master conductor, Wilson. If he keeps creating masterpieces like this Porcupine Tree will be just a pleasant memory, the hors d'oevres to a stellar career.

I'm astonished at some of the negativety directed towards this album, and Wilson himself. This is a genuine top class modern piece of progessive music setting the bar against which others must now be measured. Quite possibly the best progressive music album in the last 40 years. Yeah, it's that good!

Highly recommended. 10/10

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Send comments to Tony R (BETA) | Report this review (#942007) | Review Permalink
Posted Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Review by kev rowland
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Crossover Team
4 stars If I go through my music collection there are numerous albums by Porcupine Tree, No-Man (even a compilation with a song by No Man Is An Island Except The Isle of Man), Blackfield etc., so it can be said with some confidence that I am no stranger to the music of Steven Wilson, and it could even be argued that I am a fan. I also love many of the albums he has been involved with remastering, so why do I feel so strangely indifferent to this? There is no doubt at all that there are some fine moments on here, and it opens with some superb bass from Nick Beggs (who I like to think of as ex-Iona as opposed to ex-Kajagoogoo), yet for all its' complexity and cleverness it somehow leaves me strangely cold.

As I write this it is the number one album of the year to date according to PMA, yet I would much rather play number 2 (Big Big Train), 4 (Comedy of Errors) or 5 (Riverside), but why? I have puzzled over this and the only conclusion I can come to is that for some reason this feels false. It is as if Steven is writing a prog album because he can, and knows all the buttons to press to ensure that it is raved over by fans and critics alike. There are wonderful harmonies, great swathes of keyboards, flute and mellotron, all being brought together to produce some wonderfully complex yet flowing prog but to my ears it all sounds somewhat contrived. Having read numerous reviews I have found it interesting to see that I am not the only who feels this way, although it is obvious that we are very much in the minority.

What really irks me is that although I haven't enjoyed the album nearly as much as I wanted to, I can't bring myself to award it any less than 4 stars as it is such a clever piece of work. If only it contained a prog heart and soul it could have been so much better; although I am fully aware that most progheads will welcome this with open arms I'm just not one of them.

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Send comments to kev rowland (BETA) | Report this review (#965378) | Review Permalink
Posted Sunday, May 26, 2013

Review by Gatot
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Unique music and a masterpiece! ...

Everytime I plan to write my views about this album I always refrain myself as I wanted to be ensured by myself that what I am writing is really representing the truth, ie. what I do really feel about the album. And to tell you the truth it's hard for me to do so as I was not certain about my views as it was quite contaminated with how I felt with his debut album "Insurgentes" that I did not consider as a good album in some ways. But then I was impressed with his second "Grace for Drowning" which for me was an excellent one knowing his debut was so and so. But with this "The Raven" I put many doubts about it despite my first positive impression especially the first time I heard "Luminol" that really struck my head heavily. But now .. I am ready to write my views having spun more than eight times in its entirety. and I have to admit that this album has become my regular playlist.

The overall album represents good memorable tagline melodies for every song it contains. I can relate the melodies lean themselves from the music of Porcupine Tree (Steven's band). It also has some sorts of complexities from the musical segments it has from start to end complete with change of styles as well as tempo and also some excellent transition pieces in silent segments among the tracks. The harmonies the album produces are really great and sometimes I feel like I am in the middle of something that I enjoy and suddenly it changes to a different nature. Amidst different styles and tempos of the tracks or in fact within the track itself there are many changes in style, the album has solid structural integrity from start to end.

"Luminol" (12:10) blast off the opening experience with powerful and solid basslines by Nick Beggs and brings the music into dynamic and upbeat tempo at start. It's like listening to a kind of progressive metal music with no guitar riffs but it moves excellently from one segment to another. The inclusion of flute work by Theo Travis makes the music is richer in textures. It's really a great and masterpiece track especially when it has changes of styles and temo as the music slows down into silent parts where vocal starts to enter. Oh man ... this is really great opening track! It's not an exaggeration when I say that I have never the kind of music like this Luminol. It's wonderful, really!

"Drive Home" (7:37) is melancholic in style featuring ambient vocal line by Steven that makes the music is interesting to enjoy. The guitar that accompanies the singing line is excellent. It moves straight forward with the kind of Porcupine Tree music, I think. "The Holy Drinker" (10:13) is another energetic and interesting track and it has become my personal favorite as well together with Luminol. Time signatures that Steven plays with his vocal is excellent! There are silent segments that were made to create the rich textures of the music. It reminds me to the Porcupine Tree style.

"The Pin Drop" (5:03) starts solo and melancholic with unique vocal quality of Steven Wilson. It again reminds me to Porcupine Tree. "The Watchmaker" (11:43) starts beautifully with acoustic guitar that later accompanies Steven Wilson vocal. I really enjoy the melody that Steven sings throughout the song. It serves like a musical break until the acoustic guitar fills play differently backed with flute and keyboards. Somewhat I feel like in the vein of early Genesis even though it's different and ...here they go ...!!! Theo Travis plays his flute wonderfully continued with stunning guitar solo. Oh my God ... this is really great! The song moves in crescendo wonderfully! It moves through changes of styles as well as tempo. The end of the track is a dynamic music combining bass guitar and guitar in the vein of King Crimson (a bit).

"The Raven That Refused To Sing" (7:57) is like a requiem at the end of the album indicating ambient vocal line of Steven with piano work played softly. His singing style is really great. At approximately minute 5 the drumming enters the music but the tempo is still mellow and dark, maintaining the nuance of the first five minutes of the song. The mellotron-like sound also demonstrated at the end of the track altogether with piano.

Overall this is a perfect album that deserves five star rating. Despite the musical excellence like I describe above, the performance of the musicians is also great. I love the bass playing by Nick Beggs and also drumming by Marco Minnemann. Theo Travis also plays wonderfully. It's highly recommended whether or not you love Porcupine Tree / Steven Wilson. Sonic quality of the record is also top notch! .... Keep on proggin' ...!

Peace on earth and mercy mild - GW

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Send comments to Gatot (BETA) | Report this review (#1067133) | Review Permalink
Posted Sunday, October 27, 2013

Review by frippism
COLLABORATOR RIO/Avant/Zeuhl Team
2 stars I guess I'll have to be the one to say it?

For me, reviewing album's I don't like has always been an absolute uphill struggle. It very hard for me to review album's as it is, mostly because I feel I need to know them back to front before I can review them. What I'm trying to say is that I usually quite like the albums I review.

Sometimes though I feel I need to write a review for an album I don't like in order to expose more light on albums which I bought and didn't enjoy them much, so that people who do consider buying an album can at least hear the naysayers. I belong to the naysayer camp. "The Raven That Refused to Sing" is a not a bad album but one that puts me in such a state of apathy and boredom I have almost come to hate it (saucyyyyy).

So yes, I have never been a fan of Steven Wilson, or Porcupine Tree, or Blackfield, or anything he has made other than half of "Fear of a Blank Planet" and his beautiful cover of Cardiacs's "Stoneage Dinosaurs". I feel that his work is many times solid, but almost never remotely interesting, or refreshing and unique enough for me to actually give it more than two listens. I was tempted to buy the album, for pretty much one dumb reason alone. The album cover is one of the most beautiful I have ever seen. If it wasn't such a mediocre album I would've probably stared at it all day. That gothic-y :O face gives me the creeps and can bring up many thoughts.

The album itself, as you probably understand, isn't worth the purchase though. It starts very positively with the awesome intro to "Luminol"- the intro is a ridiculously tight and groovy bass and drum thing and it's pretty sick. It's when the synth comes in which I was starting to re-evaluate my thoughts, but still had hope. It was when the quiet section came and then the mellotrons and Fripp sounding guitars started was when I started burning my own house. OK those parts are alright but then a really average and not really needed guitar solo comes in and kind of spoils the song for me. Things don't get much better with "Drive Home". It is an alright ballad with some pretty keyboards but the production on Wilson's voice is overbearing and not really needed in my opinion. On the other hand, "The Holy Drinker" opens with a pretty awesome fusion King Crimson style jam that's alright, but the hard rock verses are terrible, but are salvaged by their beautiful second part where the aural keyboards add a really nice touch. The jams are a deal breaker for me. I generally don't like solos, maybe because I'm a bassist and pay close attention to the rhythm section and feel that if they're just there to support some other guy's noodling I stop paying attention. "The Pin Drop" in my opinion the worst song on the album. The melodies don't really do anything for me, and the lyrics are awful ("It was not meant to be like this/ Drifting off without a kiss"?????.).

Luckily "The Watchmaker" has some very strong instrumental parts with great drum fills that make the song very enjoyable, though it is too long. The final ballad "The Raven That Refused to Sing" is actually a very touching song. With powerful lyrics and a strong harmony, I can enjoy it as a good ballad. On the other hand, it is plagued like most of the album with pretty hallow production- something I didn't expect from Wilson. The piano is really weak and lacked I certain oomph I would've wanted.

Well, as you can see, this is review doesn't much beyond skin deep. It is because I feel it impossible to dig beneath this albums fairly shallow surface, my apathy constantly pushing me away. Wilson continues to be irrelevant while being undeniably a very able musician and producer. He has not reached out of his or anyone's comfort zone instead creating a horrifically solid old-school progressive rock album. It isn't nearly enough for it to be worthwhile.

I do hope that one day Wilson will take his very much existent talents to new and interesting places because I think he has the ability to create some truly mind-bending music. Currently though, he's pretty comfortable making albums prog-heads will bob their heads too.

P.S.: Enough with the goddamn flutes already, I've had more than enough of them.

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Send comments to frippism (BETA) | Report this review (#1100870) | Review Permalink
Posted Friday, December 27, 2013

Review by Ivan_Melgar_M
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Symphonic Prog Specialist
3 stars Nice but not great

Before I start my review, must say that I don't care for STEVEN WILSON'S music, so would had never bought the album but it was a gift from a friend and decided to listen it before I threw it to the box of albums that I won't listen again?.But I was positively impressed, the album is quite good, not the masterpiece that most people talk about, but a cute release from the modest 2013.

I can't honestly say what's my problem with Mr. Wilson, because the musicianship is impeccable and the composition pretty decent, but it leaves me cold, there's nothing that moves me, as a fact reminds me of SQUACKET, I knew it was good, I knew that I was supposed to love it, but there's no emotional connection with the songs.

The album is opened by Luminol, a jazzy, electronic track that took me by surprise due to the excellent bass keyboard interplay that reminds me of early MAHAVISHNU, everything seems to work perfectly until we reach the 4:30 minutes mark, when an anti-climatic gap makes me sleepy. Around the eighth minute the band tries to retake the frantic and powerful entrance, but the magic is lost and the song ruined.

Drive Home is a shorter song, but seems to last forever. God it really bored me to the point of wanting to press the skip button. Again, the performance is excellent (except for the vocals), but there's no life, no strength and what is worst, no originality, a tedious ballad that repeats itself during seven endless minutes.

The Holy Drinker retakes the excellent bass ? keyboards interplay with a strong KING CRIMSON influence that keeps me at the edge of the sit until the seventh minute when STEVEN WILSON loses it again with another tedious interlude that invites the listener to bed. The closing section is better, but not enough to reach the excellent level of the first seven minutes.

Most of the reviews I read seem to dismiss The Pin Drop, but in my opinion, it's one of the highest moments of the album. The oneiric and mysterious atmosphere is really captivating, and the vocals don't annoy me. The percussion and guitar performances are simply delightful. A wonderful song that captivates me from start to end.

The Watchmaker is a hit and miss, great ideas, some vibrant moments, but others pretty forgettable and tedious, especially when the singing begins. Not much to comment, I take it as a filler and a prelude for the amazing The Raven That Refused To Sing, a magnificent track with a brilliant structure that goes in crescendo from a sweet intro to a powerful ending...A great closer for a good album.

Rating The Raven That Refused To Sing (and Other Stories) is a real nightmare, because some passages are really good, while others can only be defined as boring, the musicianship and production are brilliant but the composition has too many weak moments that really bored me, so I had to go with three stars, an average qualification for an album that could had been outstanding.

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Send comments to Ivan_Melgar_M (BETA) | Report this review (#1129104) | Review Permalink
Posted Sunday, February 09, 2014

Review by lazland
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars There was once an album called The Incident, by a band called Porcupine Tree, a band above all others I regarded as being at the vanguard of the latest wave of quality progressive rock, taking the genre into the new millennium and beyond. It was an album that I loathed, and felt, well, pretty let down. It was derivative, and one long tangled mess, in my opinion. The love affair was at an end.

As it happened, this was the last PT album released. I purchased Wilson's Insurgentes, the debut solo release, and found it quite excellentat the time, although, tellingly, it has not been played for a long time. I did not bother with the follow up. The love affair was most certainly at an end.

However, when some pretty respected people on this site rated this as a masterpiece, with Tony R stating it was the best prog album of the past 40 years, and when more than a couple of friends whose opinions I rate highly, mailed me to insist that I got The Raven........simply because it was awesome, well I could not resist. This is the joy of this site, that sharing of opinion and influencing buying patterns.

I took my time. This album was released in 2013, and made several critic's album of that year. The accolades are well and truly deserved, and, in fact, the only confusion I have over reading the myriad reviews are those questioning Wilson's motivations in making this album. Aside from being sweet nothing to do with us mere hacks, I believe the answer is fairly straightforward. The motive was to make a fantastic album which not only sounded rich, took his band forward, but also took into consideration the number of influences garnered from being deeply involved in remastering classic prog albums, and blending them with the modern rock movement of which Wilson is such an important part of.

Opener Luminol is a track that has those influences right there in your face. It is so Crimson that it even utilises the Mark II Mellotron that belonged to Uncle Bob and cohorts. It is a track that features sumptuous use of said cranky old machine, and delicious flutes, sax, and clarinet from Theo Travis, who would surely have recognised the Fripp influence from his work with the great man. Also, a special mention here to the thumping bass par excellence by Nick Beggs, who excels throughout. Here, surely, is a man who, above all others, has well and truly escaped from his musical beginnings.

Luminol sets the scene for all else that follows. Not in the influences, per se, but in the sheer breathtaking excellence of a group of musicians who lovingly back their leader's vision of a collective of clever, intricate, and sumptuous musical pieces. Take the second track, Drive Home, staggeringly described as boring by another reviewer. Well, if a delicious ballad, featuring wicked guitar lines and sympathetic vocals delivering a song of redemption is boring, then give me boring any day. I regard it as being quite exceptional, a word, by the way, which amply describes the incredible guitar contribution of Guthrie Govan.

Those are the opening delights. I am not going to deconstruct each and every track, because to do so would, I feel, really take away the whole point of this album, a collection of interesting, really rather introspective, and, above all, intelligent songs that demand listening to as a whole, and burying yourself in the wonder of sounds that range from the symphonic, lush, early Crimson period, through to the jazzy, hard fusion of later Crimson, to some of the rather lush melodic PT sounds which drew me to that band in the first instance, and thence to very classy, and pounding, heavier passages. Most of all, though, this is the vision of a unique talent, one Steven Wilson. No two tracks sound alike. Contained within each track are passages which utilise the vision and myriad influences at play, and, it is fair to say, make this an album which demands careful listening, and repeated listening which brings its own reward. Naturally, of course, the production is top notch. Simply listening to the beautiful, Mellotron soaked, lush feel of the marvellous The Watchmaker's early instrumental passages on my brand new sound system, and every single note from every single instrument is so crystal clear.

This is an album which should be in the collection of every single reader of this review who considers him or her self to be a progressive rock fan, because this album, quite simply, is the epitome of how this genre should sound in the second decade of the 21st century. A fusion of the best of the old and new, but tellingly unique, and a collective of great individuals at the top of their game.

I love it. A masterpiece, fully deserving the full five star review. The love affair is back on, with a vengeance.

Now, then. What was the name of that bloody album I really did not like too much.......?

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Send comments to lazland (BETA) | Report this review (#1165131) | Review Permalink
Posted Friday, April 25, 2014

Latest members reviews

2 stars This is vastly over-rated in my opinion. As of 15th August 2014 59% of reviewers have given this 5 stars. That has me dumbfounded!! Luminol opens the album with some nice bass playing from Nick Beggs. But apart from that it is nothing exceptional. Drive Home is very heavily influenced by early ... (read more)

Report this review (#1249304) | Posted by FXM | Friday, August 15, 2014 | Review Permanlink

5 stars This album is so well-written all the way through. Every track sounds so great, both in context of the album, and they even do very well as stand-alone songs. The best tracks for me are "Drive Home", "The Watchmaker", and "Luminol". I know it's half the album. There are many oddities about th ... (read more)

Report this review (#1226650) | Posted by JCDenton | Wednesday, July 30, 2014 | Review Permanlink

1 stars Am I the only person who thinks Steven Wilson owes a fat royalty cheque to King Crimson? I first got into Porcupine Tree at the Fear of a Blank Planet disc and have been an avid follower of all things PT and SW's solo discs up to this one (In Absentia ranking highest). SW has carefully craft ... (read more)

Report this review (#1201496) | Posted by key_of_eh | Tuesday, July 01, 2014 | Review Permanlink

5 stars A collection of some of the most beautiful songs you will hear in life! I don't know why I didn't see the beauty in this album the first time! Probably because its so different from Grace before drowning, which is the kind of album you expect the first time you hear it. Instead of the instant ... (read more)

Report this review (#1158938) | Posted by BatBacon | Tuesday, April 08, 2014 | Review Permanlink

5 stars You are warned when wanting to vote 5 stars. A good idea that: Do you REALLY think this particular album is an "essential masterpiece"? the site's robot asks. But the answer for this album is simple and clear: Yes. And why? Yes, well, that is of course always difficult to pinpoint. What i ... (read more)

Report this review (#1152574) | Posted by TheBear | Sunday, March 23, 2014 | Review Permanlink

4 stars The Raven that Refused to Sing is the latest solo release from the iconic Mr. Wilson, whose leverage and influence seem to be increasing with every passing year. This album is a miracle of brevity: exactly as long as it should be with barely a wasted note or idea. Intense, technically superb, a s ... (read more)

Report this review (#1113393) | Posted by ergaster | Sunday, January 12, 2014 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Pure art, an all time masterpiece Well its been a long time since i don't write a review, and i consider this wonderful piece of music as the appropriate way to come back. As a starting point, Steven referred this album to be directly involved in supernatural events, ghosts stories, based on ori ... (read more)

Report this review (#1057922) | Posted by Nash | Thursday, October 10, 2013 | Review Permanlink

5 stars 5.0 Stars. The Album that Refused to Leave my Playlist As a new member of the site I have dedicated my first 3 reviews to my top 3 albums of all time. My first 2 reviews were on Genesis Foxtrot and Yes Relayer, so it may be a surprise to some that I am giving such a high honour to this very pop ... (read more)

Report this review (#1047390) | Posted by LakeGlade12 | Sunday, September 29, 2013 | Review Permanlink

3 stars Wilson's attempts at retro-prog have changed focus in recent years. He started as a Pink Floyd fan, then invented his own sound for Porcupine Tree and recently has gone the King Crimson early 70's route with his solo releases. This one is also heavily inspired by the early British classics, but it d ... (read more)

Report this review (#1036706) | Posted by uribreitman | Tuesday, September 17, 2013 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Steven Wilson strikes with his modern album "The Raven That Refused To Sing (and Other Stories)" and brings all the magic that the progressive music as to give... Not only this album touch my heart, as well it became a "lifestyle" for me, this was undoubtedly my favorite "winter album" and as I ... (read more)

Report this review (#1027004) | Posted by Rodrigo Andrade7 | Monday, September 02, 2013 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Impressive work by Steven Wilson, "The Raven That Refused to Sing (And Other Stories)" is an album which sounds more like a work inspired in Edgar Allan Poe (maybe that is why he chose to work with engineer and classic producer Alan Parsons). All the songs are full of excellent progressive mov ... (read more)

Report this review (#1025155) | Posted by Memo_anathemo | Wednesday, August 28, 2013 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Steven Wilson / The raven that refused to sing (And Other Stories) (2013) In the last eight years I have been a regular visitor to Progarchives, site which opened me the door to endless good music hard to get in my country, Chile. Today, finally, I decided to become a member of the site. Th ... (read more)

Report this review (#1007693) | Posted by Olape | Sunday, July 28, 2013 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Steven Wilson may have finally done it: He may have created an album that will stand, years from now, among the classic prog masterpieces of the 1970s. Though extracting many, many sounds, riffs, stylings, and themes from past masters, M. Wilson has woven together quite a tapestry of mature, ... (read more)

Report this review (#999339) | Posted by BrufordFreak | Tuesday, July 16, 2013 | Review Permanlink

2 stars 2.5 stars. I will say this, I am definitely not a fan Steven Wilson work, but this was a better album than I expected. Overall though, the album seemed generic to me. There are some cool jams here and there, but nothing especially unique or that I haven't heard in other prog albums hundreds ... (read more)

Report this review (#998724) | Posted by pfloyd | Monday, July 15, 2013 | Review Permanlink

5 stars PROG-album of the year .... of the decade? A t the beginning, Steven Wilson didn`t start my fire. I was spoiled of my favourite Porcupine Tree records. But after a while you understand the music and the intention. The raven that refused to sing... now is my favourite. The best song is "lumi ... (read more)

Report this review (#987194) | Posted by rattamahatta17 | Thursday, June 27, 2013 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Steven Wilson is a pure product of a tale, a story of well-played music, a family tree that it'll never dry. In his last work, for me an excellent album but not a masterpiece as i've seen on previous comments (but not a majority), he tried to find a little place outside of the monothony of the ... (read more)

Report this review (#985053) | Posted by fred84 | Monday, June 24, 2013 | Review Permanlink

3 stars Steven Wilson's "The Raven" is a decent attempt of a 70s/retro-prog with a bit of a twist, but overall the whole package is unexciting. Like the cover, the best part of the music on there seems dreary and grey (not helped by the repetitive use of meaningful themes about death and the supernatural). ... (read more)

Report this review (#984546) | Posted by Xonty | Sunday, June 23, 2013 | Review Permanlink

5 stars I am a deep follower and admirer of Steven Wilson's career since I discovered his great creative potential more than 10 years ago, and I think without a doubt that "The Raven That Refused To Sing (And Other Stories)" symbolizes the most height of his creative career, because in the whole, this is a ... (read more)

Report this review (#976510) | Posted by Transmission | Wednesday, June 12, 2013 | Review Permanlink

5 stars The Raven That Refused to Sing is the third solo album by musician Steven Wilson and was released just two years following his previous solo outing, Grace for Drowning. Given the extremely favourable reception that Grace for Drowning received from the progressive rock community, expectations were ... (read more)

Report this review (#971354) | Posted by RBlak054 | Wednesday, June 05, 2013 | Review Permanlink

4 stars WOW, this album became really popular. I'll start by saying: we are in 2013, the 70's are way back, and making good and innovative music these days is very hard because there is so much history in progressive rock... buuut... Steven Wilson deserves 4 stars for this album in my opinion. Thi ... (read more)

Report this review (#966605) | Posted by marcobrusa | Wednesday, May 29, 2013 | Review Permanlink

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