Steven Wilson’s Raven: Haunting and Brilliant

17 Mar

Album-cover-with-titlePorcupine Tree frontman Steven Wilson has a long history of surprising music releases, blurring genre boundaries and showing fans sides of him they’ve never seen before.  Just when it seemed like there was nothing new left for him to do, Wilson has released The Raven that Refused to Sing, a collection so mysterious and beautiful that it nearly defies description.

The haunting stuff doesn’t come right at the beginning, though.  To say that Raven takes the listener on a journey would be an understatement.  It starts out as a straight-up heavy prog album, with hints of Yes and King Crimson in there, but by the time you get to the sixth and final track, you’ll wonder how you were carried so seamlessly into Radiohead territory, and marvel over the steps that got you there.

And big steps they are, too.  As you might expect from a progressive rock album, Raven is light on track numbers but heavy on track duration.  The shortest track comes in at just over five minutes, while the longest (“Luminol,” the album’s opener) comes in at just over twelve.  This means that there’s plenty of space in each song to explore and experiment, which is where Wilson excels.  What may come across as aimless wandering in the hands of any other musician appears as a clearly articulated path when Wilson is the one leading the way.

Although the first five tracks are certainly essential components in the overall picture, there’s no doubt that they also serve as a framework to support and highlight the brilliance of the sixth track.  It’s no accident that Wilson saved the title track for last, and from the first dissonant strains of strings punctuated by unusual piano chords and floating vocals, it’s obvious why this song couldn’t have played any role other than finale.

There’s so much near the end of the album that’s reminiscent of Radiohead right after they shifted gears in 2000, but in a timeless rather than a dated way.  Melodies that are as passionate as they are sad are combined with rich musical arrangements and lyrics tinged with despair.  It sounds depressing, and it is somewhat, but there’s also a strange sense of hope that the future holds something brighter.

All in all, this is a beautiful album, and worth buying the special edition simply for the gorgeous work of artist Hajo Mueller, who lent his talents to the album design.  This is definitely one of Steven Wilson’s finest releases, if not the finest, and any rock fans will find something here to love.

-This article was written by BJ

When she’s not busy seeking out new music and artists, BJ spreads her love for music across the web as a blogger and small business marketer.

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