The Raven That Refused To Sing (And Other Stories) review by Steven Wilson

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  • Released: Feb 25, 2013
  • Sound: 9
  • Lyrics: 9
  • Overall Impression: 9
  • Reviewer's score: 9 Superb
  • Users' score: 9.6 (177 votes)
Steven Wilson: The Raven That Refused To Sing (And Other Stories)

Sound — 9
Steven Wilson is an interesting character in a lot of ways. He is a personal friend of Robert Fripp from King Crimson, he has something like 5 or 6 side projects he works on not counting his primary band, Porcupine Tree, or his solo career. He has collaborated or worked with in some fashion just about every musician that is currently involved with any type of progressive music, as in addition to being a musician and songwriter, Steven Wilson is also a self taught producer and audio engineer. Pictures of Steven Wilson show him to be equal parts hippy and nerd, using both terms in the most complimentary context. Steven is best known as a guitarist, but he also plays keyboard, bass, flute, hammered dulcimer and harp and he is self taught on every instrument that he plays. Just straight up, Steven Wilson is the Renaissance Man of Prog. I've recently been wowed by his live album with Porcupine Tree, "Octane Twisted", as well as his Storm Corrosion project with Mikael Akerfeldt from Opeth. Those two albums along with his last solo album, "Grace For Drowning" have all three been on heavy rotation on my mp3 player in their entirety. Steven Wilson is the real deal and "The Raven That Refused To Sing" just helps cement his place as possibly the modern spokesman for all things progressive. "The Raven That Refused To Sing" is, for the most part, a melancholy kind of album and maybe just a little bit cerebral. The guitar soloing when it appears on the album is definitely pure Steven Wilson but you can hear some of his influences in his playing. Like his other solo releases, this isn't necessarily a guitar album, with fairly diverse instrumentation used. The first track, "Luminol" seems to be built around a bass riff, and several of the other songs are built around the keys and/or flute with guitar used more as a decorative instrument in the mix. This is in line with what we've come to expect from Steven's solo albums, and he absolutely makes it work and uses it to great effect. There are 6 tracks on the album, but the album runs well over 50 minutes. I don't like it when reviews break down each song and judge them individually, because I think a lot of albums are judged better as a single cohesive piece and so I'll move on to the lyrics from here.

Lyrics — 9
Steven Wilson's voice has always reminded me of the vocals from The Moody Blues, early King Crimson and ELP. It makes it easy to think of his modern releases in line with some of these classic releases by the bands I mentioned. I'm not saying that his voice is generic and sounds exactly like the bands I mentioned, but that there is something undefinable in common. As I stated earlier, this is a fairly melancholy album and his voice is like a melodic whisper running through the songs. His vocal performance is exactly perfect for what he is trying to accomplish musically. Here are some lyrics from "The Holy Drinker": "The holy drinker and his curse/ in constant serfage to unquenchable thirst/ and from his stupor a night gives birth/ a devil rises from right out of the earth/ the shaking hands, blackened hearts/ the glass he pours, this time it's also the last/ in rapt communion with himself/ the holy drinker is going straight into hell/ his coffin was made from a tree/ please hammer a nail in for me/ the bottle slipped right through/ place is now underground/ take me down, down/ to be in chains". My apologies if I got any of these lyrics wrong I tried to verify with some lyrics sites but they all had missing lyrics. These lyrics are spread out on a 10 minute track, with no vocal chorus and no repetition. The songs on the album are all telling a story in Steven Wilson's unique way.

Overall Impression — 9
As a self taught musician and (amateur but learning) audio engineer myself, Steven Wilson is one of my personal heroes. I love when he has a release with any of the bands/projects he is involved in, but especially Porcupine Tree and his solo work. There are a lot of bands that are hook oriented (Halestorm, Nickelback), or riff oriented (Black Sabbath, Lamb Of God), or song oriented (Jack White, Brendan Benson) but Steven Wilson is one of the few musicians who is still active who is more album oriented and is putting together a cohesive collection of songs that are really creating a certain ambiance with the album as the whole. While the individual songs can still be enjoyed as individual songs, and occasionally you'll find hooks and memorable riffs, etc. - they all serve the album itself. If I had to pick a favorite song from the album I would have to say either "The Watchmaker" or "The Holy Drinker". This is an outstanding album and possibly the best progressive album that will be released in 2013.

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27 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Not a single mention of Guthrie Govan or Marco Minneman? Their playing is stellar here, as usual. Anyway, the album is incredible! Definitely my favourite of his solo albums.
    Yeah you guys gave Wilson credit for the soloing when that was mostly done by Govan. Fantastic album though, still hoping for another Porcupine Tree album.
    It actually is really hard to find out which solos were played by Guthrie and which parts were played by Steven. Eitherway, there are several great musicians involved on this album and it turned out great! Everybody involved in it deserves props for their involvement!
    Guthrie Govan played pretty much all the guitar I'm pretty sure, SW wrote almost all of the parts for him though (with the only exception I've read about so far being the solos in Drive Home which were improvised)
    "The guitar soloing when it appears on the album is definitely pure Steven Wilson" ... Well... technically it's not
    In my opinion, this is his best solo album. Guthrie Govan just sweetens the deal.
    The review is more like an article on Steven Wilson rather than focusing on the album itself. I agree with almost everything you wrote anyway, this guy is admirable and the record is awesome. It's like a middle point between the "simplicity" of Insurgentes and the lovely impros that predominate on GDF.
    The title track is one of the greatest songs I've heard in a while. Brought me to tears thinking of my past relatives..
    Damn, this album is amazing. I wonder how 2013 can even top this. Every song on this album, is simply pure brilliance. It relies on simplistic structures, but comes with an awesome improv by the band. I think his past stuff has been boring sometimes, but this time it seems like he had a lot of fun doing it
    I never really got into Steven Wilson's stuff, but after hearing the title track it just made me realise that not listening to this man's music has been a mistake. This is brilliant and that music video just invoked so much emotion!
    Not my usual taste in music, but the lyrics are pure gold. The stories complement the music so well, this has my vote for album of the year at this point.
    Great album.....but i still found myself anxiously awaiting Guthrie's solos. He doesn't disappoint!!!
    Fantastic album, I definitely prefer it over his other two, and having Marco and Guthrie added into the equation just makes it awesome.
    Haven't heard of Steven Wilson before this but I really love what he is doing. Especially how he focuses on the idea of an album portraying a mood, and not just containing a bunch of different songs that he made during that time period. My band is doing something very similar, not trying to promote, but I'll have to look more into Wilson's music
    This has to be my favourite SW solo album. nothing comes across as too "weird" or too drawn out and the band he's gotten together is bloody awesome!
    Pretentious nonsense.
    All music is pretentious, up to and especially whatever it is that you probably listen to. Pretension is the entirety of the reason why good music exists. Pretending otherwise is pure delusional nonsense.