Steven Wilson - The Raven That Refused To Sing (And Other Stories)
There's been much to admire about Steven Wilson's output over the years, whether it be the proggy Porcupine Tree, the melancholic No-Man, or especially the drones and tones of Bass Communion. But try as I might, the first two records under his own name have left me somewhat cold, despite the odd moment of brilliance ('Salvaging', 'Track One'). So we approach The Raven That Refused To Sing (And Other Stories) with a certain amount of trepidation, but hope too for a work that stands beside his best. Alas trepidation wins out.
The odd thing, which is even more prevalent on this record, is how derivative and backward-looking these albums have been. The Raven ... is an almost direct transplant from the 1970s prog scene, with the likes of King Crimson and Genesis very heavily referenced throughout. For a musician who has for the best part of two decades created a slew of unique and original projects, this lack of inspiration is very disappointing.
Nevertheless, there are occasions of real class scattered throughout. Both opener 'Luminol' and 'The Watchmaker' – easily the standout track from this collection – have sections that pack a real punch. Often the heavier parts of the songs, it is these moments that jump you out of a stupor, make you sit up and take notice with their sheer power and beautiful melodiousness.
The problem though is the clinical, soulless nature with which these six stories are stitched together. The sections theoretically make sense together, but even with the whole album recorded almost live in the studio, there is no emotion or organic life within the music. This band of hugely talented musicians are working to a plan – a Steven Wilson master plan no less – and with the times they are allowed to wander off few and far between, The Raven ... proves to be a sterile and ultimately dull affair.