Being a musical artist in the modern world comes with many more challenges than it did in the twentieth century. One of these challenges is the risk of over-comparison to other artists, just look at Greta Van Fleet and some of the hate they receive. The concept of creating “your own sound” is hardly possible any more.
The reality of Steven Wilson’s 2013 release, The Raven That Refused To Sing (And Other Stories), is that some of the influences are very prominent, such as the flutes being very Jethro Tull-esque, or the bass sounding much like Chris Squire of Yes. Although much of the album is largely jazz-fusion based, there are parts that cover most other corners of progressive rock at some point.
All that being said, the former Porcupine Tree front-man really has done some remarkable and impressive work on this album. Some parts may sound like other artists, but also have a unique feel that could only be brought by Wilson. He has not only made an amazing piece of work, but one that will someday be held among the other progressive classics. Simply put, the album is a masterpiece.
The opening track, “Luminol,” begins with some cool instrumentation and a killer bass line from Nick Beggs . The harmonies and song structure are very reminiscent of Yes, or more specifically, their 1971 epic “Heart of the Sunrise.” “Luminol” is one of the tracks on the album more based around jazz fusion than anything else, but is the best song on the album by far.
Another fusion song, “The Holy Drinker,” features some great playing from all band members, especially drummer Marco Minnemann. The time signature flips between 6/8, 4/4, and 7/4 several times, but it doesn’t take away from the music at all. The chunks in 6/8 also have a great, eerie feel to them.
A huge highlight on the album is “The Watchmaker.” If you took “Stairway to Heaven” and slapped it together with some fusion, this is the song you’d get. It nearly reaches twelve minutes in length but feels much shorter due to the memorable performances from each band members.
Two of the more relaxed songs on the tracklist are “Drive Home” and the title track. “Drive Home” is beautifully produced, especially with the string section and the relaxed guitar work. The whole of the song is great, but the guitar solo from Guthrie Govan at the end is what really highlights it — the solo could easily be up there as one of the all-time best. The title track is one of the saddest things you will ever hear in your life, giving a very melancholy yet enjoyable ending to the album.
The Raven That Refused To Sing could very well be the best prog album of the 2010’s — it’s at the same level as work like King Crimson’s In the Court of the Crimson King (1969) or Rush’s Hemispheres (1978). Steven Wilson has cemented his name in progressive rock fame and will not be leaving any time soon.
Overall rating: 9/10