Steven Wilson – “The Raven That Refused To Sing (and other stories)” (2013 KSCOPE 241)

Emerson, Lake & Metal? Golden boy Wilson, everything he touches turns to Gold. His new solo CD came in like 4 or 5 formats, and I went for the CD/DVD version. I like it right off the bat, just like the previous solo stuff, be it studio or live, I tend to like it better than his current Porcupine Tree material. He uses EMS and Mellotrons here, with a HEAVY nod towards ELP (a derided band he might make a tad more likeable for me, as ELP are my LEAST favorite Prog band… I call them Orchestral Woo Woo music with no soul but a few strange stoned moments like Brain Salad Surgery, which is not Progressive, its Orchestral Woo Woo music, well that track may pass as “good” Prog if Prog was all about doing things the Wrong Way). Well, Steven Wilson has re-mastered the early Crimson, Tull and ELP works nicely, he has struck it rich. Back in the 90’s he produced Fish and Marillion albums, as well. Progdoms Most Wanted, Progdoms bespectacled blonde Saviour. I say this half seriously, the man is Jesus, he could be bigger than Lennon. Enough trying to define the genius Steven Wilson and his fat bank account.

This is an album for diehard musicians, people who pick out notes, scales, chords, tap their fingers to Tarkus or A Sailor’s Tale, maybe to pick up their guitar and play it as best they can. There is alot of Crimson and ELP going on here, gone metal, much like Voïvod did as young experimentalists in the 80’s. The lyrics are desperate, dark, almost deriding to his array of strange nightly characters he chronicles on this album. The album opens with a heavy rocker, imagine ELP with alot of airy flutes, as played by a thrashmetal band like Voïvod. Most of the songs go wildly astray and back again, with their progressive twists and turns, it is wondrous to listen all the way through. It is not as low key, Van Der Graaf Generator-stylistic or floating Floydian as the previous SW albums, more chunky ELP-symfo and Crimson-odd time signature style. But I like it. The sound on this CD is so hi-fidelity and clear, it sounds amazing. Wilson & crew know what they are doing here, folks.

Theo Travis plays wonderful flute and sax and clarinet, Wilson himself plays guitars, mellotron, keys and bass on one track. Nick Beggs handles bass. Guthrie Govan lead guitar, Adam Holzman Fender Rhodes, Hammond, Piano, mini Moog, and Marco Minnemann does drums & percussion on the album.

If you liked (like I did) Insurgentes thru Grace For Drowning, and the live Get All You Deserve, then you will fall flat on your ass in amazement on this album. It really is an amazing piece of prog, that is “mock-dated” even in a sick pimply stoned ELP way I love. Maybe I am sick. Maybe SW is sick. Maybe we are all sick. But we can be sick together, and overcome. A solid 9 out of 10 points for this monster album from muso SW. Buy with confidence.

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Reviewed by Christian Eric Mumford

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