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Steven Wilson

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Steven Wilson Hand. Cannot. Erase. album cover
4.29 | 1757 ratings | 59 reviews | 55% 5 stars

Essential: a masterpiece of
progressive rock music

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Studio Album, released in 2015

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. First Regret (2:01)
2. 3 Years Older (10:18)
3. Hand Cannot Erase (4:13)
4. Perfect Life (4:43)
5. Routine (8:58)
6. Home Invasion (6:24)
7. Regret #9 (5:00)
8. Transience (2:43)
9. Ancestral (13:30)
10. Happy Returns (6:00)
11. Ascendant Here on... (1:54)

Total Time 65:44

Line-up / Musicians

- Steven Wilson / vocals, electric (3-7,10) & acoustic (2,4-6,8,10) guitars, banjo (7), keyboards, Mellotron M4000, bass (1,2,5-7), hammered dulcimer (9), shaker, Fx, programming, choir (5,10,11) & strings (9,10) arrangements, producing & mixing

- Leo Blair / vocal solo (5)
- Guthrie Govan / lead guitar (1,2,5-7,9,10)
- Dave Gregory / guitar (2,10) & 12-string guitar (3)
- Adam Holzman / piano, Hammond B3, Fender Rhodes, celesta (3,5,9), Wurlitzer (7), Moog solo (7)
- Theo Travis / baritone saxophone & flute (9)
- Nick Beggs / bass (3,9), Chapman Stick (4,6,10), backing vocals (2,4-6,9,10)
- Marco Minnemann / drums
- Chad Wackerman / drums (10)
- Ninet Tayeb / backing vocals (3,5,9)
- Katherine Jenkins / voice (4)
- Dave Stewart / choir (5) & strings (9) arrangements
- Schola Cantorum of The Cardinal Vaughan Memorial School / chorus vocals (5,10,11)
- London Session Orchestra / strings (9,10)

Releases information

Artwork: Hajo Mueller with Carl Glover (design) and Steven Wilson (concept)

CD Kscope - KSCOPE316 (2015, Europe)
CD+DVD Kscope - KSCOPE315 (2015, Europe)
2CD+DVD+Blu-ray Kscope KSCOPE522 (2015, Europe)

2LP Kscope KSCOPE875 (2015 UK, Europe)

Blu-ray Kscope KSCOPE523 (2015, Europe)

Thanks to ewalcacer for the addition
and to Quinino for the last updates
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STEVEN WILSON Hand. Cannot. Erase. ratings distribution

(1757 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(55%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(28%)
Good, but non-essential (12%)
Collectors/fans only (4%)
Poor. Only for completionists (2%)

STEVEN WILSON Hand. Cannot. Erase. reviews

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Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by admireArt
4 stars STEVEN WILSON, - Hand. Cannot. Erase. 2015.

Song by song perceptions-

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Song 11, the closure song, is exactly that.

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

Review by Conor Fynes
4 stars 'Hand. Cannot. Erase.' - Steven Wilson (81/100)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Review by LearsFool
2 stars Do I have to be the one to rain on the parade? Well, I remember the run up to the album's release, when some singles were released and most gulped; none of what was being shown sounded inspired. The promised concept and electronic rock sounded tasty, but we weren't getting anything that lived up to expectations of the great Steven Wilson making a prog stew out of those ingredients.

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

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

Review by rdtprog
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Heavy / RPI / Symphonic Prog Team
5 stars Steven Wilson takes us back on a another journey of his progressive rock adventure, and the expectation were high because of the quality of his music with Porcupine Tree, Blackfield and his solo albums. The music here has this atmospheric feel, almost cinematic with different moods and sounds, from melancholy, to dreamy and to explosive. From the first song "3 Years Older", there is a short reference to "Watcher of the Skies" intro, then it goes on a Rush a like sound. Sometimes we can feel the light atmosphere with the piano and the flute and at others times, the heavy blast of guitars. All this music back up with the beautiful vocals of Steven and the female singer Nibet Tayeb in some songs. "Happy Returns" and "Perfect Life" are simple songs, but the latter especially is very well done with his airy melody and melancholic feel that takes us back to the sensibility of the first Blackfield album. It also contains some modern electro beat throughout. "Regret" contains some exquisite keyboards/guitar parts. "Ancestral" has a nice crescendo with intense and heavy guitar parts that are not unlike Opeth. There's some songs that didn't do it as much for me like "Routine" with his Dire Strait guitar passage and "Happy Returns". "Home Invasion" has some nice instrumental section and cool guitar effect. This album combined the quality of songwriting and musicianship with refine arrangements. It's got a overall sound that is new and old, melancholic and modern. It's a natural evolution of the man's career that his marked by his originality and creativity.
Review by Second Life Syndrome
4 stars Anytime a Steven Wilson album releases, the progressive world goes into a panic. I've lost count of the number of album selfies I've seen in social media since this album released. Well, at least the artwork is stunning and sure to be one of my favorites. Anyways, those that follow me on my prog page The PROG Mind know that I have mixed feelings about this prog legend. Like it or not, Steven Wilson is now a legend, and we honestly might owe him the entirety of the current prog revival. Yet, I don't always connect with his music. After hearing "Hand.Cannot.Erase.", however, I feel I can endorse this new recording from the new face of prog.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4.5 ears cannot erase

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

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

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

Now to the music!

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

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

Review by Tony R
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
5 stars Hand. Cannot. Do. Justice.

This is quite simply put one of the best albums I've ever heard! It's Steven Wilson. It's Guthrie and Marco, Nick Beggs and Adam Holzman and is every bit as good as you would expect from such a stellar cast. It's a concept album based on a film about real events surrounding the sad and lonely death of Joyce Carol Vincent was dead in her flat for three years before anyone noticed. You know, the usual upbeat stuff from Mr Wilson. I love every last second of this but if there is one "Desert Island Disc" moment it's the gorgeous Moog solo in Regret #9 that's worth the £50 special edition price on its own - there's two nights at the Royal Albert Hall in September 2015 to look forward to and I simply cannot wait.

Stunning. A masterpiece.

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

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

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

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

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

Review by Slartibartfast
COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator / In Memoriam
4 stars I missed out on the preorder for the deluxe version of this album so I wll focus on the surround sound DVD and talk about on on a more personal level as there are already many detailed reviews of the music itself.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Review by Mellotron Storm
5 stars Steven Wilson's latest endeavor takes us to a more "song" oriented album but with plenty of adventerous and innovative instrumental excursions to keep most Prog fans happy. I really think his other job in re-mixing seventies classics has had a very big influence on the way he made this album. The common factor with the classics by GENESIS, YES, KING CRIMSON etc. was the ability of these bands to make accessible and melodic tunes but at the same time veer off into experimental and complex instrumental passages. I feel that same connection with "Hand.Cannot.Erase". This is the first solo album from Wilson that made me think of PORCUPINE TREE quite often, yet it still has that aspect that made me think of some of his earlier solo stuff.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Review by Wicket
5 stars Oh happy days, now I can finally get to review some Steven Wilson, surely one of, if not the most polarizing figure in prog these days.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Review by lazland
5 stars How do you follow up the sheer brilliance of The Raven That Refused To Sing? How on earth do you give us a rich and satisfying work based upon the impossibly tragic story of a lady who lay dead for three whole years, utterly unnoticed, and not, apparently, missed at all?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Review by Prog Leviathan
5 stars Steven Wilson has been one of the most important figures in my musical journey throughout much of adulthood. Porcupine Tree was a big deal for me. In Absentia was one of the first modern art-rock albums I ever purchased, and I credit it for helping me jump all-in to the world of progressive music.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Review by Meltdowner
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars After the flood of raving reviews and my own excitement for the new album and concert last year, I think I have a much clearer impression of the album now. I didn't find it particularly great before and my appreciation of it lessened since.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3 stars.

Review by Magnum Vaeltaja
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars I'm a bit late to the game in terms of listening to this album but modern prog is hardly something I've been making an effort to keep caught up with.

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

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

Review by DamoXt7942
FORUM & SITE ADMIN GROUP Avant/Cross/Neo/Post Teams
3 stars Looks like Steven WILSON be one of prolific musicians and honorable creators in the progressive rock scene. Wonder what he means to do via lots of his productions.

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

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

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

Review by The Crow
5 stars I thought the great quality of The Raven that Refused to Sing was hard to achieve. But Steven Wilson proved me wrong!

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

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

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

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

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

My rating: *****

Review by SoundsofSeasons
5 stars The true last Porcupine Tree album. No PT required.

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

Review by Warthur
5 stars Steven Wilson would probably be flattered by comparisons to Marillion - he was, in fact, an attendee at one of their first ever live shows - so let's go for it: Hand. Cannot. Erase. is to his solo discography what Brave is to Marillion's. (In fact, I swear I can hear some of the sinister samples from Brave buried deep in the ominous opening track of this album, First Regret.)

In a conceptual sense, you have the parallel where both are very loosely inspired by stories from the news about lost women - Brave was about a young lady found standing on a bridge refusing to speak to emergency services, Wilson's album is about a woman who was found dead in her flat after nobody realised she was missing for three years. Lyrically, both albums veer away from telling a linear story, instead trying to adopt the perspective of the women in question and offering a voice for their stories, or rather the stories of their fictional equivalents in the context of the album.

Musically, just like Brave found Marillion forming an interesting fusion of their prog inclinations and more modern sounds, Hand. Cannot. Erase. finds Steven Wilson applying his songwriting prowess and style to a different sonic palette from those he'd focused on in his solo career to date. There's a bit more classic rock, a little more The Who in some of the guitar lines, and less of the spacey Porcupine Tree murk which is usual stock in trade; though there's long tracks on here too, Wilson less shy of admitting some poppier influences here and there than he has perhaps been on previous solo albums under his own name.

The end result sits on the borderline between full-fledged prog and art rock, shifting between the two worlds adeptly.

Latest members reviews

3 stars If The Raven that Refused to Sing was Steven Wilson embracing many tropes of classic progressive rock, then his fourth solo album, 2015's Hand. Cannot. Erase. is him wallowing in them. The nods to giants of the genre are blatant enough to be distracting. This album is Wilson's first release since th ... (read more)

Report this review (#2904197) | Posted by TheEliteExtremophile | Monday, April 3, 2023 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Masterpiece! One of my favorite records by Steven Wilson. An eight-track concept album about a popular and attractive girl that suddenly disappears, and gets forgotten. It has influences from classic experimental progressive rock from the 70s and alternative electronic music from our more modern tim ... (read more)

Report this review (#2598028) | Posted by Ian McGregor | Thursday, September 30, 2021 | Review Permanlink

3 stars What can I say? A solid release, although not spectacular. Following the excellent The Raven That Refused To Sing, Steven Wilson followed up with the highly praised Hand. Cannot. Erase. a record that merges alternative rock with progressive rock, and at some points, jazz fusion, considerably well. I ... (read more)

Report this review (#2548227) | Posted by Gorgut Muncher | Friday, June 4, 2021 | Review Permanlink

2 stars - Review #6 - I suppose I'm against the grain this time. I discovered Steven Wilson around the 2000s with his masterful album 'Fear Of A Blank Planet'. It became a true wonderland for me! Tons of undiscovered amazing music were in front of me so suddenly. The thing is that I've become a prett ... (read more)

Report this review (#2538995) | Posted by King Brimstone | Thursday, April 29, 2021 | Review Permanlink

2 stars Steven Wilson's Hand. Cannot. Erase. is his fifth solo studio album and it became a pretty popular and known album within the modern prog world. It has a foot in prog music and another one in alternative music. This work is presented in the form a concept album, which explains why one track flows ... (read more)

Report this review (#2489493) | Posted by Isaac Peretz | Friday, January 1, 2021 | Review Permanlink

5 stars "The Dark Side Of The Moon" level album. To date, the pinnacle of Steven Wilson's tremendous creative journey. Unfortunately, the last album leaves much to be desired, and the freshest opuses are hardly worthy of any attention at all. Heavy, airy, powerful, energetic, dirty, crystal-clear, rough ... (read more)

Report this review (#2479332) | Posted by Devolvator | Monday, November 23, 2020 | Review Permanlink

5 stars I consider this album the pinnacle of Wilson's artistic vision. As many observed, the concept for this album weaves each song into a multi-layered, poignant narrative of alienation, nostalgia, and hauntology. Even when listeners do not delve deep into the details of the concept, however, each song w ... (read more)

Report this review (#2315491) | Posted by graceuc31 | Tuesday, February 11, 2020 | Review Permanlink

5 stars WILSON or how a giant of my age can still make us dream!! 1. First Regret for the prog intro, cutscene before time; sounds, an atmosphere, samples, bass ... high, a piano that flows, games, cries of children ... and 2. 3 Years Older tumbles, a sound, an acoustic guitar, a riff, energy, a melody ... (read more)

Report this review (#2310817) | Posted by alainPP | Thursday, January 30, 2020 | Review Permanlink

5 stars HAND. CANNOT. ERASE. is the most complete and fully-realised musical achievement by prolific prog artist Steven Wilson - widely regarded as the king of modern progressive music. This album has been described as "The Wall for the Facebook generation", however I'd like to make it clear that this co ... (read more)

Report this review (#1953787) | Posted by ElliotYork | Wednesday, August 1, 2018 | Review Permanlink

4 stars The consistency Steven Wilson manages to maintain from record to record is pretty staggering, and Hand Cannot Erase (periods omitted on purpose) is no exception; it's another stellar effort from the man. I like the mixture on this album, as you kind of get a little bit of every kind of music he ... (read more)

Report this review (#1668316) | Posted by Biff Tannen | Friday, December 16, 2016 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Steven Wilson's 'Hand. Cannot. Erase.' is probably the finest piece of progressive art so-far released in the 21st century. Quite a statement, in fact I'd go as far as to say it rivals even some of the timeless epics from the 1970's. Steven Wilson of course needs no introduction to readers of P ... (read more)

Report this review (#1537289) | Posted by AndyJ | Tuesday, March 8, 2016 | Review Permanlink

2 stars Steven Wilson's latest full studio outut (not counting '4/2') is in my view one of the most overrated albums of 2015. It actually starts off quite nicely with subte playing by Adam Holzman and the first song blends electronic and acoustic sounds successfully and sets the tone for an album very mu ... (read more)

Report this review (#1534526) | Posted by arschiparschi | Wednesday, March 2, 2016 | Review Permanlink

5 stars 'Hand. Cannot. Erase.' is one of the greatest triumphs of Mr. Wilson in several respects. First and foremost, this album shows that Wilson succeeded in assembling his electronic and ambient textures and virtuoso performance in brilliant forms. Clearly, he could make records that were supposed to ... (read more)

Report this review (#1528874) | Posted by raven31 | Saturday, February 13, 2016 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Much has been said about Steven Wilson and his genius. I remember when I first heard Luminol, the first track from "The Raven that refused to sing " I remained speechless. I understood that the creativity of this man had no limit. Steven Wilson master so many genres like psychedelic prog, pop m ... (read more)

Report this review (#1463346) | Posted by ToNy06 | Monday, September 14, 2015 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Steven Wilson continues to blow me away with each new solo album. I thought that it would be difficult to top the masterpiece that is "The Raven Who Would Not Sing"; But I was wrong! "Hand. Cannot. Erase." is equally masterful if not better. It has all of the Prog elements which never fail to str ... (read more)

Report this review (#1462939) | Posted by BostonMike | Sunday, September 13, 2015 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Hand. Cannot. Erase. A brilliant album title, is it not? Genesis once tilted an album with similar lackluster words called We Can't Dance. But Genesis were never the geniuses that Steven Wilson is. They would never had the creative intelligence to concoct a title that's punctuated with perio ... (read more)

Report this review (#1458350) | Posted by SteveG | Tuesday, September 1, 2015 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Wilson and T introduced me to progressive rock. I really like Steve Wilson's way of creating atmosphere a lot. On the other hand, sometimes a few more breaks and twists would be required to maintain interest for the whole duration. But sure this is criticism on a high high level. The production ... (read more)

Report this review (#1458044) | Posted by Sweetheart | Monday, August 31, 2015 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Without a doubt, Steven Wilson is the modern standard bearer for progressive rock. Over the course of four solo albums since putting Porcupine Tree on hiatus, Wilson has reached a standard of success other proggers just dream of. All right, he's not Katy Perry, but his new album, Hand. Cannot. ... (read more)

Report this review (#1453696) | Posted by RaelWV | Sunday, August 16, 2015 | Review Permanlink

5 stars This album is the story of our generation. I am a 15 year old and this album exactly represents my life. It shows a lot about our generation, if we were to disappear we wouldn't run away but instead just lock ourselves in our homes and sadly no one cares, this is what the story tells us. When I hear ... (read more)

Report this review (#1451282) | Posted by Progkid | Tuesday, August 11, 2015 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Every year he's published something SW has amazed us. Every record is different and unique in its own way, but they all carry that vibe, that sound, that masterful production, that genius... SW has yet to disappoint. Hand.Cannot.Erase is not what you'd expect but is flawless anyway. More pop ori ... (read more)

Report this review (#1422748) | Posted by Blackwater Floyd | Tuesday, June 2, 2015 | Review Permanlink

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