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Steven Wilson - The Raven That Refused To Sing (And Other Stories) CD (album) cover


Steven Wilson


Crossover Prog

4.29 | 2031 ratings

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Prog Leviathan
Prog Reviewer
4 stars This lauded release by one of modern prog's best artists currently has almost 60% 5-star ratings here on Prog Archives. That's a lot of stars, and should tell you right away that The Raven That Refused to Sing should be taken seriously. This album is a focused collection of very strong compositions, stellar musicianship, ultra-high production values, and some surprisingly divisive opinions despite its high rating. I don't think that anyone can justifiably argue against the first-rate musicianship and craftsmanship that's on display by Wilson and company, but after listening again and again, now some years after it's release, I'm left with the same emotions I did when I first experienced it at launch: a sort of appreciation tinged with emptiness.

For me this record is like an album that one may listen to in a music appreciate course: significant for a variety of reasons and very interesting, but with an obligatory feel that makes it difficult to resonate with.

The album starts very heavy and complex with the largely instrumental "Luminol," which is a bombastic showcase of the band's virtuosity. The execution is one of crisp professionalism, energetic dexterity, and a balls-to-the-wall attitude that throws down a prog rock gauntlet for the rest of the album to live up to. Wilson's band is so good that it almost makes me feel bad for the gang from Porcupine Tree. This song makes you go wow, and want to listen again and again in the same way that Rush's "YYZ" does.

"Drive Home" is a down-tempo, dynamic, and lush ballad that builds to a shrieking and emotive guitar solo by Govan; a great moment. The lyrics are poignant and melancholy - typical Wilson fair, and effective if not approachable.

"Holy Drinker" transitions to a dark, ominous, a disjointed place that again shows off the band playing very well and with a threatening tone. Even Theo Travis' flute solo comes off as sounding sort of menacing. The conclusion comes off curiously though, with a noisy build that doesn't seem to finish its idea.

The next two songs are examples of where things seem to misfire for me. "Pin Drop" feels like an outtake from Fear of a Blank Planet. Using hot/cold dynamics interchangeably and without direction. The discrete textures and melodies are nice, but don't work when put together. "Watchmaker" is the standout extended track, which opens well with subtlety and restraint. We move from soft, lamentful textures and vocals into upbeat, jazzy passages that interchange melodies... then get to the final fourth of the song which sounds like something out of a horror movie. The juxtaposition doesn't feel genuine, and sort of spoils the tone the proceeded it.

The closing title song combines slow builds, lush instrumentation, and sweeping sensations to great effect. A satisfying conclusion.

By the end of The Raven That Refused to Sing I could probably count on one hand the number of times I felt touched or engaged emotionally, but couldn't possibly count the number of times that I could objectively appreciate the skill and composition of Wilson and his band. This is an odd conclusion to come to, to find so much to like about an album... but in the end not really love it. For me, this release couldn't be judged any lower than a 4- star release, because it's simply so excellent technically, but it could never be a 5-star release, because it didn't connect with me on a deeper level. The overall tone is one that modernizes many of the prog-rock sounds from the great '70's releases, helping make the album a worthy purchase for fans and newcomers alike. However, I think that there is a fair-bit of fanboyism in the reviews.

Songwriting: 4 - Instrumental Performances: 5 - Lyrics/Vocals: 3 - Style/Emotion/Replay: 3

Prog Leviathan | 4/5 |


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