Steven Wilson - The Raven That Refused To Sing (And Other Stories)
Progressive Rock
6 songs (54:03)
Release year: 2013
Steven Wilson , Kscope
Reviewed by Aleksie
Album of the year
Coming in to review the British contemporary prog maestro’s third solo album, I had considerably mixed expectations. Wilson’s solo debut Insurgentes had been and still is a very ho-hum endeavor for me. Not awful, but simply mediocre, at times even boring. It’s solo follow-up Grace for Drowning was comparatively a huge improvement. At times it did run slightly on fumes but there was much to enjoy in the jazz-proggy trickery within. Beyond the solo material, Wilson’s most recent release (the Storm Corrosion-collaboration with Opeth’s Mikael Åkerfeldt) was, sad to say, my biggest disappointment of 2012. No, I didn’t go in expecting any semblance of Opeth, Porcupine Tree, or the like but something that we hadn’t heard from the duo on either side before. Fair enough, that is what Storm Corrosion presented. But did I enjoy that self-titled debut album beyond one song? No. Tedious and just somehow uneventful.

So in a way, I guess I couldn’t have had too lofty expectations going in to The Raven That Refused to Sing (And Other Stories). Whether it has played positively into my experience thus far I can’t say for sure. What I can say for sure is that the upward trajectory of the quality of Steven Wilson’s solo albums continues, in a sky-rocketing manner. This album is fan. friggin. tastic.

The first track, Luminol, storms out of the gates with a thundering bass line that makes me think Geddy Lee is behind that four-stringer. Marco Minneman’s drumming swarms in for additional firepower making for a very rocking overall experience. That vibe runs through the entire album and exemplifies the mood that prevails throughout. That mood is a joy of playing the hell out of those instruments. Not in any self-indulgent, overtly widdly-widdly-masturbation-solo kinda way, but just ecstasy through playing. Luminol itself changes moods on several occasions so it’s not all a straight ahead rockathon. The song is like a microcosm of the different styles displayed throughout the album, from heavy to very atmospheric. The album’s theme of ghost stories made aural is personified powerfully.

The whole album provides the kind of sonic adventure that it even makes me hesitant to spoil things! To not directly refer to the specific qualities of a certain song. I just wanna throw around some elements and let everyone interested find them in the moment of listening. The tasteful ambient parts (on its own a dreadfully boring genre to my ears) fit in remarkably well but don’t take away from the ROCK. The prog parts rule hard! Wilson embraces those old school roots with glee. Organs grind like Keith Emerson was bashing you in the gut with a sturdy Hammond. The horn fills from saxophones and flutes work beautifully. Jethro Tull all up in those flutters. Is Ian Anderson featuring here anonymously? Maybe there’s not enough rasp for that but whoo, I adore those flutes. The Holy Drinker, displaying a drinking contest with the devil – awesomesauce!

When Steven Wilson is concerned, I feel it’s already a given that the production job is stellar. Powerful and clear, but with breathing room. And this Guthrie Govan cat on lead guitar? I already praised the instrumental performances once but holy tasteful shred Batman! Ok, let’s just say the finest of shred in select moments without being the least bit wanky, if you ask me. The solo in Drive Home is insanely delightful. And the singing! Wilson layers the vocals into massive washes, occasionally harmonized. Best vocal work he’s done on any album. Hell, maybe this is simply the best work I’ve heard from him period. From soothing lullaby-style moments to churning riffage, all the trickery in between…I love what is engulfing me. You’re not fond of overtly enthusiastic reviews? Tough beans, mate. Have a lemon and suck on it. Put simply, the bar has been set early for the much coveted Album of the Year-nod and it has been set high.

Quoth the Raven: Wilson, more!

Killing Songs :
All of 'em!
Aleksie quoted 98 / 100
Other albums by Steven Wilson that we have reviewed:
Steven Wilson - Grace For Drowning reviewed by Goat and quoted 90 / 100
Steven Wilson - Insurgentes reviewed by Goat and quoted 87 / 100
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