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


Steven Wilson


Crossover Prog

4.30 | 1605 ratings

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

lazland | 5/5 |


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