Released: Feb 25, 2013
Genre: Progressive Rock, Jazz Fusion
Number Of Tracks: 6
This is the third solo project Steven Wilson has released under his own name and it is just chocked full of prog goodness.
The Raven That Refused To Sing (And Other Stories)
UG Team, on february 25, 2013 3 of 4 people found this review helpful
Sound: 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. // 9
Lyrics: 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. // 9
Overall Impression: 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.
The Raven That Refused To Sing (And Other Stories)
unregistered, on march 06, 2013 3 of 3 people found this review helpful
Sound: "Grace For Drowning" 2011 was a very important album for Steven Wilson. For the perspective opened, "Was Evident" that comes something even bigger, something more masterful as long as he wished to continue on the same (and newly adopted) direction to improve some details. In which case he made three simple but effective moves.
First he selected permanent musicians - partners with whom even touring as opposed to the concentration of important but alternating musicians who confided two years ago.Moreover, partially leaving the custody of sound from his hands, trusting another, equally experienced ear for engineering.Finally, make his new job more homogeneous and cuddly, and not only because this time this is a single CD. The result fully vindicates him and "The Raven That Refused To Sing (And Other Stories)" is the masterpiece that "Grace For Drowning" implied. The "Luminol" which opens the disc, if we had not already heard from the live DVD "Get All You Deserve" would be a great shock to us all, as it is one of the best songs written by Steven for a long time if not the best. The story begins with "Luminol", a tale of a street busker who plays his guitar for years with no intention of stopping. This track starts immediately with heavy drums leading into a soft flute solo, pushing the opposing styles of music early in the album. With over a minute of solid music before any lyrics the beautiful and lengthy guitar riffs help draw the 12 minute long introductory song to a close after the psychedelic vocals and lyrics work alongside the music to tell the story. The triumphant end of the song leads into the next track "Drive Home", to remind us how quickly atmospheric can make the melancholy this man. Beautifully and tragically telling the story of a couple driving together when the woman mysteriously disappears. We continue with the impressive "Holy Drinker" to be a psychedelic / space / fusion abyss with epic vocals. "Pin Drop" to be heard in places as modernized Pink Floyd only the way that Steven Wilson knows how to make it. "Watchmaker" the third biggest composition is the most comprehensive of all from a melodic standpoint and this confirms that by the time the Wilson decided to play prog clearly no one catches him. And finally, that gave its name to the disc closes with perfect calm one job everything suggests that will be remembered for years. One of the most beautiful songs maybe Steven has ever made. Telling the story of an old man who lost his sister at a young age and is convinced she has come back in the form of a raven to take him with her to the next life. // 10
Lyrics: While the stories in the album are not directly related in any obvious way and lack some continuity, there is no denying the talent of this group and the passionate and thoughtful lyrics from Steven Wilson. Whether you're a long-time fan, or are just looking for a beautiful and soothing album, this is definitely one to grab. Wilson (release date 25th February) will also be releasing a deluxe edition that includes a 128 page hardback book containing lyrics and ghost stories illustrated by Hajo Mueller. But let's see What STEVEN SAYS ABOUT THE STORIES AND LYRICS himself from an interview to Musicradar.
1. "Luminol": This is a story about a street musician, a busker. It was inspired by a guy who plays in my local town says Steven. He's there every single day. It doesn't matter what the weather is like; he's always there, playing his acoustic guitar and singing these songs. Snow, rain, gale force wind nothing will stop him from being in his spot.
2. "Drive Home": The song is based on a story but one that wasn't mine; it was suggested to me by the guy [Hajo Mueller] who was illustrating, doing the artwork and the book. The idea is about a couple driving along in a car at night, very much in love; the guy is driving, and his partner his wife or girlfriend or whoever she is is in the passenger seat, and the next minute she's gone.
3. "Holy Drinker": "This one is kind of tongue in cheek. It's basically about a guy who's very pious, very religious, preachy and self-righteous. I'm thinking of TV evangelist-types guys who are prepared to tell people that they're living their lives wrong and that they're missing something because they don't believe in God or whatever it is.
"He's also an alcoholic, by the way the typical scenario. He'll tell you that your life sucks and that you're bad, that you have all these vices, and meanwhile he has plenty of his own.
"One day, he's in a bar and he challenges the stranger next to him to a drinking competition without realizing that this person is the Devil. Of course, you can't beat the Devil at a drinking competition you can't beat the Devil at anything and so he loses. The great irony is that he's vindicated, in a sense, but in the worst possible way. He gets dragged to Hell.
4. "The Pin Drop": "In some ways, it's one of the simplest pieces on the record, but it was also the hardest to get right. It's all about the dynamics and sustained sense of tension and release. There's really only one or two musical motifs in it, so it's all about the way it's layered and structured. We did the most takes of this song than any other.
"Lyrically, it's one of two songs, consecutively on the record, about marriages or relationships gone wrong The Watchmaker being the other one. They're both songs about the idea of inertia or spaces within marriage; it's the concept that you can be with someone because it's comfortable and convenient, not because there's any love or empathy.
"The song is basically sung by the wife. She's dead, she's been thrown in the river by the husband, and she's floating down in the river while singing this song from beyond death, beyond the grave, as it were. It's quite macabre.
"The idea is that sometimes in a relationship there can be so much tension, so much unspoken resentment and hatred, that the tiniest thing can set off a violent episode, and in this case, one that ends in tragedy. The sound of a pin dropping on a floor can be the thing that instigates the fury.
5. "The Watchmaker": "Another adventure. This is the story of the watchmaker, the guy who is meticulous about his craft, but he never has any kind of emotional outburst, nor does he express violence or any extreme emotions whatsoever.
"It's the idea of a couple who have been together for 50 years or more, purely because it was convenient and comfortable. There's a line that says something like 'You were just meant to be temporary while I waited for gold.' So it's the idea that they got together almost because they didn't want to be in a situation where they weren't dating somebody, and they've ended up together for 50 years, even though there was never a strong feeling of love between them.
"If you allow yourself, life can pass you by. Time is tick, tick, ticking away. If you're not careful, you can find that your whole life has gone by, with this idea of 'Maybe I'll do this one day...' It's a very sad sentiment of regret, of what should have been and what could have been. Sometimes that feeling of comfort can be a real drug.
"The watchmaker ends up killing his wife and burying her under the floorboards of his workshop. But, of course, she comes back, because she's been with him for 50 years; she's not going to leave him now. So again, it's the idea of death not making any difference in a situation. You can kill me, chop me up, bury me, but I'm still not leaving.
"At the very end, it's very dark, and the wife comes back to take him with her, which is another classic ghost story, in a way."
6. "The Raven That Refused To Sing": "It's a very simple song, again about loss and mortality. I think it would be hard for anyone to write about mortality without it being, to some degree, personal.
"Whether we like to admit it to ourselves or not, we're all obsessed with mortality. And we should be, because we know that one day we're going to cease to exist. We're going to die. It's the one thing that all human beings have in common. And possibly, we are the only species on earth that are aware of our own impending mortality. That's such a heavy burden to carry around with you; it does affect everything in life.
"It's about an old man at the end of his life who is waiting to die. He thinks back to a time in his childhood when he was incredibly close to his older sister. She was everything to him, and he was everything to her. Unfortunately, she died when they were both very young. This is not autobiographical; it's fiction in that respect. But the guy is now at the end of his life, and he's never been able to form any other kind of relationships. He's spent his entire life alone, unable to relate to any other human beings.
"A raven begins to visit this man's garden, and the raven begins to represent a symbol or a manifestation of his sister. The thing is, his sister would sing to him whenever he was afraid or insecure, and it was a calming influence on him. In his ignorance, he decides that if he can get the raven to sing to him, it will be the final proof that this is, in fact, his sister who has come back to take him with her to the next life." // 10
Overall Impression: Although oxymoron when you think that he was always the leader of any shape he was a part of. Is the first time I feel that Steven Wilson is more of a mastermind behind a disk that everyone else serves his own vision, rather than a musician who has the responsibility to define the sound and effect. Somewhat like Waters was to Pink Floyd Composer (with uppercase C deliberately) rather than the bassist. This, of course, along with the directions they take the musical preferences of Steven gives me fear for the future of Porcupine Tree, but to say my sin, with records like this, I do not even care...
As a scrupulously crafted, brilliantly sustained emotional experience, "The Raven That Refused To Sing" succeeds massively. But the most marvelous and thrilling thing about it (and the most surprising) is how it comes together inside your head once it's over. Repeated listenings reveal new subtleties and meanings. Wilson, ever the southpaw, doesn't deal in easy, straightforward advances; he creeps up on you invisibly, unhurriedly, ultimately invading your soul. // 10
The Raven That Refused To Sing (And Other Stories)
thenewblack745, on march 06, 2013 1 of 1 people found this review helpful
Sound: "Insurgentes" was released in 2008. At the time I gave the album an overall 10. It was wonderful. The album encompassed all of Mr. Wilson's various projects and threw them all into one glorious basket. And I still enjoy that album greatly. "Grace For Drowning" followed and gave us more of what we asked for, and in an even more epic and jazzy fashion (20-minute pieces of prog-heaven?). But even though I loved that album, something was missing. It was something that I hadn't noticed on "Insurgentes" due to the industrial/shoegaze style of that album. But both albums greatly lacked any real energy.
Not to say that the intense chorus of "Harmony Korine" didn't give me chills or the rather intense ending of "Remainder The Black Dog". Wilson mentioned his inspiration from remixing classic prog artists, convincing him to try to leave behind his completely steady metronome beats and focus on band dynamics. This definitely came into play on "Grace For Drowning". Now, however, I am happy to say that he has perfected it with "The Raven That Refuses To Sing (And Other Stories)".
The album is brought to a whole new level by the wondrous musicians on board (Nick Beggs on bass, Marco Minneman on drums, Adam Holzman on keys, Guthrie Govan on guitar and Theo Travis on literally anything that he can blow on). The compositions feel more energetic and driving, even during the more quiet moments. You can tell that the band had to have practiced together and knew how to bring the pieces together. The "put-a-band-in-room" philosophy works wonders here. // 10
Lyrics: Wilson's lyrics on his past two solo albums have been... Not the greatest to be perfectly honest. There are moments of lyrical genius, but "Insurgentes" didn't seem to depend on what was actually being said, more of just how they sounded. "Grace For Drowning" raised the bar on lyrical content, mostly going with Wilson's obsessions with serial killers and the rather inspired "Postcard".
The Raven, raises the bar to a whole new level. Each song tells a rather grim ghost story, ranging from a busker who never leaves his place even in death ("Luminol"), or a watchmaker killing his wife only to find she continues to stay by him in death ("The Watchmaker"). The lyrics are wonderful and add a dimension to the music that has been missing from Wilson's solo recordings.
Vocally, Wilson continues his relatively lofty standard of vocals. And again, melodically I think he succeeds greatly with this album. Harmonies abound, and some of the most beautiful singing of Wilson's career on the title track. But in the end, Steven Wilson's fans know what to expect out of Wilson's vocals. And they are always top notch. // 10
Overall Impression: As previously stated, I gave "Insurgentes" a 10 back in 2008. Thus I'm already a Steven Wilson fan. But still, having said this, I would like to give this album a higher rating. The Raven ascends much higher than "Insurgentes" ever would have had me believe. The musicianship is the best out of any Wilson solo recording. Govan's guitar solos are absolutely beautiful, exceeding anything Wilson has done himself. The rhythm section is more driving than ever, all thanks to the incredibly high energy duo of Minneman and Beggs. And of course Holzman's keyboard entries and Travis' woodwinds are highlights of every track.
But it goes beyond that. Wilson, in his fever to provide outstanding music for these musicians to play, wrote the most inspired works he has done in years. Each song is multi-faceted and... Soulful. "Drive Home" features melodies near reminiscent of Blackfield's earlier days, but develops on into the most beautiful ending, featuring an astounding guitar solo from Govan. "The Holy Drinker" drives it's intensity into your brain and refuses to leave. "The Watchmaker" moves through so many different sections and styles, but never feels forced or like it wasn't meant to be that way (Oh, let's follow this beautiful piano section with all the force our distorted guitars, basses, saxophones and distorted pianos can muster). And finally, the title track, "The Raven That Refused To Sing", is probably my favorite song by Wilson since Porcupine Tree's "Deadwing". Remaining eternally simple, but I could listen Wilson sing "Sing to me raven, I miss her so much" on loop for eternity.
Thus my key points are as follows. First, Porcupine Tree fans who have hated Wilson's solo work can rejoice. This is not a Porcupine Tree record, but it certainly sounds like Wilson's solo band and Porcupine Tree could share a stage now. Second, "The Raven That Refused To Sing" is the most inspired of Wilson's solo records. Period. Finally, Mr. Wilson has an enormous task at hand, no matter what album he makes with whichever project next. "The Raven" will be a hard act to follow. // 10