Review Summary: Progressive rock in 2011
Steven Wilson, the mastermind best known for fronting the iconic prog rock band, Porcupine Tree is always keeping busy. Whether its remixing and remastering the legendary King Crimson back catalog to perfection, collaborating with Israeli artist, Aviv Geffen in Blackfield or assisting in creating Opeth’s latest “observation”, he somehow manages to have a little time for some self-indulgence. Wilson’s passion for album oriented rock is a strong and fervent one and thus, through the midst of all these projects gives birth to the stunning and grandiose, Grace For Drowning.
Grace for Drowning is the bulk of two albums put in one, Volume I. Deform to Form A Star, and Volume II. Like Dust I Have Cleared From My Eye. Using the same approach that Robert Fripp used to assemble his cast of musicians for Lizard, Steven Wilson gathered up and ensemble of England’s prominent jazz musicians as well as some already well known musicians like Jordan Rudess and Steve Hackett to participate in his latest offering. The result is a quite amazing. Lush soundscapes evoke themes of nostalgia and times of autumn as present in the one of the album’s somber numbers, Postcard. Chaos ensues in the eerie, and cryptically titled midsection of Remainder the Black Dog as an earsplitting saxophone yowls its siren only to be silenced by wailing guitars and jazzy keys leaving listeners excited to hear what comes next after each creative turn the musical piece takes. The power that this album seems to have is the ability to entice with its instrumental precision. Steven Wilson engages his artistic freedom in Track One where an almost poppy hook turns into a scene of musical pandemonium where thundering drums and ghostly keys completely turn the mood of the song around. Index, one of the albums most engaging tracks, should be remembered as some of Wilson’s best material lyrically and musically. Beautiful string work provided by the London Session Orchestra and amazing production techniques really offer a unique look into all of the countless work and brilliance that went to this piece. Raider II, Grace for Drowning’s epic 23 minute opus has every single aspect that this record features condensed into one gigantic memorable monster. From clarinets to saxes and even a choir, Raider II is sure to make a longlasting impression on its listeners. The song effortless shifts from many different musical genres stemming from jazz to progressive rock, electronica, ambient, psychedelic, hard rock and everything in between. Its absolutely stunning work.
Grace For Drowning is as ambitious as an album gets. All of the previous elements of Wilson’s work are present such as amazing sound production and vibrant musicianship. However, with his second output of solo material, Steven Wilson really takes a giant leap in terms of creativity with this masterpiece and it proves to show as one of his most memorable and best albums of his prolific career and likewise a rewarding and pleasurable listen.