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39 of 39 people found the following review helpful
on 4 October 2011
Steven Wilson never does things by halves. And Grace For Drowning is no exception. With this being one of my most anticipated releases this year (along with Opeth's Heritage) I was hoping that it wouldn't disappoint, and I can happily say that it doesn't.

Broken up into two discrete albums, Grace for Drowning starts with the beautifully mellow title track which leads into the thumping instrumental Sectarian. It's a driving, energetic piece which shows it's roots in seventies Prog and also alludes to the more jazzier sections which will appear on the album later on. Sectarians leads into the 'title track' of the first album, which is Deform to Form a Star. Now this to me embodies everything that Steven Wilson is all about. A beautiful ballad, incredibly well constructed and performed. Lush harmonies make up the sublime chorus, and to me, one of the best songs on the entire record (sorry, showing my age there). No Part of Me is up next, and this feels a lot more laid back - a light and airy track laid on a bed of soft electronica which leads into a heavier closing section. If anything, this track highlights the level of diversity which appears on the album as a whole - it would be impossible to label this album, or to pigeon-hole it into any one category, as there are bits of everything in here - and that is a good thing believe me. As the glitchy electronica fades, the soft piano of Postcard kicks in - and again, another one of Wilson's masterstrokes. An impossibly sad song, which climaxes in strings and choirs - magical stuff. Raider Prelude is exactly what it says, a short instrumental piece which prepares the listener for the second album's centrepiece. A short number, but it doesn't need to much more than it is. The final track on "Deform" is Remainder the Black Dog - an unusually titled piece which drifts from Jazz to Rock and back again. This track feels darker than the rest and is a good closer, as it paves the way for disc two.

Like Dust I have Cleared from my Eye is the second disc of the album and opens with Belle De Jour, a pretty little instrumental which lightens the mood a little after the closing strains of Remainder, but the mood isn't lightened for long, as the listener is then taken into the dark side of Wilson's imagination with Index - a dark and brooding piece where Fender Rhodes and electronic beats are the foundation for some of Wilson's darkest words - this track swings from minimalistic to frenetic and the ending could be described as epic as it builds into a crescendo of strings and electronica. Immediately crashing down from Index, the listener is taken into the quiet Track One, which has a few twists and turns of it's own to offer. The opening notes of Raider II really set the scene - this is the centrepiece of the entire record, clocking in at over 23 minutes. This track has everything - dark and mysterious, wild, rocky, jazzy, slow, epic, electronic - all under one roof - it really is a special piece of music. If there was one track to showcase the wonderful musicianship which went into making this album, this would be it. Absolutely wonderful. The second disc closes with it's title track which is a melancholy ballad set over electric guitar, and fades out to the tones of a hammond organ.

This is wonderful listening experience. The whole offering takes the listener on a wild ride of ups and downs, and is everything that you would expect, and probably lots that you wouldn't expect from a Steven Wilson project. This is not Porcupine Tree, it's not Blackfield or No-Man - but you can hear their influences - this is Steven Wilson doing exactly what he wants without the constraints of anyone else, and the result is incredible. Buy it now, you won't be disappointed.
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
on 28 September 2011
I am well impressed with this album. Steven has made remarkable things in the past but never as eclectic in style. If you like long musical passages with layers of sound, composed and produced with a great attention to detail, you will find it all here. I believe this album will appeal to a wide spectrum of fans, including those yet not familiar with Steven's great talent. There is something for rock, jazz and even classical music fans. I find the album more mature and in many ways better than his debut. It is hard to say if any of the songs can become potential classics, perhaps there are no hit songs, but the album seems to have good odds to become a classic as a whole. I rarely hear albums so elaborated, still interesting and enjoyable after a few careful listens. If you already are a Porcupine Tree/Steven Wilson's fan this album is simply a must. I could as easily recommend it to anyone with a taste for a high quality progressive rock, certainly too demanding to reach the so called mass audience. Thanks to Amazon for a quick download.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 4 October 2011
I have been listening to progressive rock music for over 30 years and until a few years ago, I was convinced that the progression had stopped. My favourite band through the seventies and right up to today were/are King Crimson. It was when I first heard PT, that I found another band of the same high standard... and now they are both closely linked. Steven Wilson, whether solo, in PT,Blackfield, No-Man, or any of his other guises has shown that talent still exists and he must rank very highly as one of the finest composer/players around today. He also manages to find the best musicians to accompany him.
His latest release is a wonderful mix of different styles, tempos and emotions, yet still retains his own unique imprint.
Like the best albums, you won't fully appreciate it until you've given it several listens. Then, it will stay with you and never sound dated.
Steven has taken his influences and what he's learned from his recent collaborations and put together a stunning selection of music, which will one moment, wash over you, then blow your brains out, without any warning.
Some of the influence is obvious. Steve Hackett appears on the album and Steven appears to have "borrowed" from A Tower struck down, but with his own subtle twists. The highlight for me is Remainder the black dog. Every musical style in one song, starting with a piano riff that Eric Satie would be proud of.
All I can say is, buy it. You will be repaid a thousand fold.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 20 October 2011
It's very rare to find an album, let alone musician whose music is a timeless piece of art and creativity. With the second solo release from Steven Wilson, I am nothing less than impressed with his ability to create and layer sounds that I would never expect, or have ever heard before on an album. He has a unique skill to be able to put emotions in to each chord, and each note that comprises a song and album as a whole. This album can be listened to countless times over and what makes it most special and separates it from most music today is that it can be listened to as a whole without having to skip a song, or just play your favorites. Greatness does not even begin to describe how well put together and what pure genius this album is. Buy it. Enjoy it. Share it with everyone you know!!!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 6 October 2011
With Grace For Drowning, Steven Wilson achieves musical apex.

Grace For Drowning seems a long time coming for Mr. Wilson. The range of influences in this album are incredible, and manage to create an amazing listening experience. Dark, experimental, jazzy, lonely, and erratic are some ways to describe Grace For Drowning... but the only way to really "describe" the album has to be done through careful listening. GFD gets only better and better with each listen. The production value, as always, is extremely good. Steven's main collaborator on this record is obviously Swede Lasse Hoile, and his artwork is a great companion to the music.

Without a doubt certainly one of Steven Wilson's greatest works. If you're a fan of experimental, dark, or jazz music, please do yourself a favor and purchase this LP. You will not regret it. Bravo, Mr. Wilson, you have once again surpassed all expectations!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 1 January 2012
Steven Wilson is best known as the leader of Porcupine Tree, but over the years he has built up a huge discography (through many collaborations with the likes of Aviv Geffen and Tim Burgess), and has also became a Grammy nominated producer and mixer (with clients including Opeth, King Crimson, Anathema, Jethro Tull etc...).

With this in mind, it's unsurprising that this is only his second solo album (his first being 2008's Insurgentes). Recorded from January 2010 through to June 2011, Steven was busy remixing and re-mastering King Crimson's landmark In the Court of the Crimson King, and the influence definitely shows (not least because the album features Crimson members Tony Levin, Trey Gunn and Pat Mastelotto).

The album begins with the title track, a subdued piano/ vocal track featuring Dream Theater's Jordan Rudess, which segues nicely into the "Sectarian" (think Red-era Crimson meets Opeth). While both are stunning tracks, it can be said they are very typical of Wilsons' usual writing style and a little underwhelming (after Steven described this disc as "more eclectic" than his past work). The same can be said of the beautiful "Deform to Form a Star", which I will admit at nearly eight minutes long does drag somewhat around the five minute mark.
So far, so middling then, right? Along comes "No Part of Me", an electronic, middle-eastern infused track featuring an outstanding solo from one-man woodwind section Theo Travis. This is what I personally think of when it comes to "eclectic" music; genre bending, strange and featuring unusual experimentation (i.e. distorted saxophone solos).
The highlight of the first disc is most definitely "Remainder the Black Dog". This song is progressive rock personified. Featuring the amazing Steve Hackett on guitar, the song is based around a eerie 7/8 piano riff, gradually building to a tense, loud crescendo (featuring yet another squealing distorted saxophone solo) before settling back down to the opening piano. It also features one of the most disturbing videos I've seen in a long time[...]. Where the first disc started so typically (and therefore slightly disappointingly), its' ending is so fantastic it lifts the entire disc to a higher level.

So onto the second disc and its' opening instrumental "Belle de Jour". The first thing you'll notice is the Ennio Morricone-style atmosphere Wilson builds with the track; he describes it as a "film theme", and it very well could be (nay, should be!).
Following this we have "Index", which mixes down tempo "Mezzanine" era Massive Attack with Steven's own Porcupine Tree-esque delivery.
"Track One" provides somewhat of a breather in the song cycle, favoring stripped down, mellow acoustic guitar and vocal instead of experimentation, which fits well after the grinding "Index".
But the standout track of the second disc has to be the twenty three minute "Raider II". Powerful yet subtle, this song is more Crimson than anything Crimson has done since the early eighties. Featuring beautiful flute and piano instrumentation, with gracious free-form style drums and layered harmonies, it packs a lot of scope within its frame.

So scores are (each out of ten):

Instrumentation: 10
Songwriting: 8
Production: 9
Mastering: 9
Overall: 36/40

An immense journey from start to finish, and while it can be paint-by-numbers at times, it is never boring, and when we're talking about a modern progressive rock album, that's really saying something.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 22 October 2011
I am a relative recent fan of Steven Wilson.I got into Porcupine Tree about 3 odd years ago and therefore am more familier with his PT catalogue, this is my first experience of his solo work and I must say I'm completely blown by it.

I will not give detials on songs as most of the reviews have covered the songs pretty well. I will give an over all feel of the album from the perspective of a PT fan listening to Steven's solo work for the first time.

Though not as mainstream as the PT albums in respect to the riffs or the vocal consistency there are elements in this album that reminds one of PT (the slower ballads). That said, this album is far greater in breadth and depth and though a casual listener may not be able to appreciate this album much any investment of multiple listens will give the listener pleasure as great if not greater than the more popular PT releases. The intricacies and depth of some of the songs is mind boggling. Small twists and build ups with classic melody and instrumental passages at times slow that work towards atmosphere creation with keys, Synths (not being a musician I may be a bit off track here) guitar and background vocals and at other times jazz/70's influenced passages.

As indicated in other reviews the first CD is more mainstream, the second is darker and far more experimental with the exceptionally brilliant 23 minute 'Raiders II', a slow snail paced start to a fantastic instrumental build up with flute (or flute sounding instrument) and quite a few twists and turns. If you are willing to put the effort and give time to this song it will more than repay you with many listens with ever changing favourite parts for you. I disagree with some posts stating this song is too long and would have been better if shortened. To me this could be amongst the real great 20 minuters ever.

All in all this album needs a few listens to grow on you as any good progressive album should. Steven Wilson has not disappointed and has made a gem, the production of the album is fantastic a forgone conclusion given that Steven is at the helm. Opeth's 'Heritage' is also a great record to come out at this time and comparissons between the two is bound to happen considering the close association of Steven with Opeth. I personally feel that this album is more fulfilling than 'Heritage' as it is keeps the listener guessing all the time and flows better.

Overall wonderfull stuff, very rare to get mainstream musicians bringing albums of this quality on personal releases. I feel this will be a classic in the days to come. A fantastic effort by Mr. Wilson.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 11 October 2011
Nowadays, it seems that `albums' are actually a collection of singles, with some extra songs thrown in there in order to put the running time up to around 40-50 minutes. Steven Wilson's new album, `Grace for Drowning' is not a collection of singles, and it wasn't intended to be either. It's an epic musical journey, that lasts much longer than your average record. At just over eighty minutes in length, `Grace for Drowning' is an incredible amount of music to take in, hence why it's taken me so long to make my mind up about it. The record is divided into two sections, or individual `albums', the first called `Deform to Form a Star', and the second called `Like Dust I Have Cleared From My Eye'.

The first disc opens with the album's title track, a beautiful combination of Wilson's vocal harmonies and Jordan Rudess's piano. It`s only a short introductory piece, but it gives you a good idea of what is to come - an epic progressive soundscape. `Sectarian' is mostly a throwback to the darker side of 70's progressive rock (a theme which is dominant throughout the entire record) whilst `Deform to Form a Star' is the complete opposite, because it sounds like a track that wouldn't have looked out of place on Porcupine Tree's `Lightbulb Sun' album.

My favourite track on the first disc has to be the album's first single,`Postcard'. It's an incredibly sad and emotive song, but it's got some sort of unnerving beauty that sets it apart from the other tracks on the disc. `Remainder the Black Dog' an oddly titled long progressive jazz piece closes out the first disc nicely. The second disc begins with `Belle De Jour' another introductory piece that made me feel a little happier after coming out of the long dark passages of `Remainder the Black Dog' over on disc 1. Steven shows his electronic influence in `Index' a dark and disturbing track based on `The Collector' a short story about a man who killed butterflies, and put them in glass containers. The music video for this song actually depicts Steven playing the role of `the collector', and it has several shots of butterflies and insects stored in containers, so you can clearly see the influence. The song slowly builds into an epic crescendo of electronic beats and orchestral strings, to great effect.`Track One', another oddly titled song follows, and it starts out as a quiet guitar/vocal piece before delving abruptly into a loud soundscape.

However, the best of the second disc is to be found within `Raider II', `Grace for Drowning's epic 23 minute track, which is filled with just about everything. It's the center piece of the entire record, and it's clearly the track that Steven took the most time over making perfect. The second disc closes out with it's title track `Like Dust I Have Cleared From My Eye'. It's another ballad, akin to `Deform to Form a Star' but it's a little bit more melancholic, and it slowly closes out the record with a long, ambient section towards the end.

I purchased the deluxe edition of the record, which came with a Blu-ray disc with the album in 5.1 surround sound, plus music videos for five of the tracks, plus a third CD containing bonus tracks and a demo of `Raider II'.`Fluid Tap' and `Home in Negative' are the only bonus tracks to actually have lyrics, with `The Map' being a dark electronic instrumental, and `Black Dog Throwbacks' and `Raider Acceleration' just being alternate versions of `Remainder the Black Dog' and `Raider II' from the standard album. `Raider Acceleration' is actually a section that was originally intended to be featured in `Raider II', but then replaced with a different section. You can hear how the song sounded originally in the demo version of `Raider II'.

Overall, Steven Wilson has created a very unique record that won't appeal to everyone, but it rewards the listener more and more with each and every playback.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 11 October 2011
Steven Wilson's second released-under-his-own-name solo record Grace for Drowning comes with beautiful packaging in the usual style of Carl Glover and Lasse Hoile. While the dark, surreal aesthetics might not be everyone's cup of tea, they certainly link the album to 2009's Insurgentes.

On first impression the album appears less structured and more eclectic than usual, even for Wilson, but beautiful and very appealing on an instinctive, emotional level. In terms of style, Grace for Drowning fuses the jazz-influences of early progressive rock (someone's been remixing King Crimson for years) with neo-romantic choir arrangements, delicate art rock and Wilsons fascination with industrial sounds and noise that so strongly influenced The Incident and Insurgentes. Partly, the instrumental passages are reminiscent of representatives of classical minimal music, e.g.Arvo Pärt and Philip Glass.

After a few listenings, the album becomes more comprehensive and appears more clearly structured. Wilson's talent for long, slow arcs of suspense seems to clash with his love of stark contrast and a huge dynamic range, but Grace for Drowning combines the three exceptionally well. The result surprises in its artistic unity and combines apparently contradictory genres with the majestic melodies and beautiful soundscapes that make it sound essentially like Steven Wilson. Grace for Drowning derives its coherence from a complex sound design, stylised textures and the editing of vocals and guitars typical of Wilson's work.

In terms of lyrics, the album moves from the intuitive writing of Insurgentes (and IMO rightly so) towards a more concise and palpable imagery.

The record demands persistence and a little work from the listener and may not be easily accessible to each and every Wilson fan, but it is worth the while. I personally thought it made the most sense when juxtaposed to Opeth's Heritage.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 5 October 2011
If looking for a quick and summarizing review - you owe it to yourself, whether you are familiar with Steven Wilson or a complete newcomer, to buy this album and experience it for yourself. It is timeless.

Coming from a fan of a wide range of music, ranging from jazz, to classic and progressive rock, to extreme metal, etc...This an album for anyone who loves music and the complete merging of passion and emotion with sound. There are some of the most soothing, beautiful, well written melodies I've ever heard throughout the album. Yes, I do mean ever. From the opening title track, to Deform to Form a Star, Postcard, and the absolutely beautiful closing track Like Dust I have Cleared from my is song writing at a level that few reach in their career. Timeless perfect melodies without the need for complexity or arrogance. Just...pure.

The album itself must, without doubt, be viewed as the piece that it is. The beauty of the album is how the aforementioned melody and beauty is intertwined seamlessly with dark, jazzy, unconventional at times songs as well. The song track 1 itself is representative of that contrast blending a smooth and beautiful acoustic/vocal with a heavy, brooding, dark sound. There are moments on the album I only can think to describe as dark jazz....I've really heard nothing like it. The album is absolutely heavy at times...but not in the traditional loud guitar way. It's a heavy, brooding bass that drives home the heaviness in a much more cerebral way. Sectarian and Raider II (which itself could have a review written of it - a complete epic journey of a song representing SW's mastery of his influences) are good examples...Every song, without sparing a second, is top notch and a perfect small piece of the whole that is Grace for Drowning.

Timeless song writing, perfect production (the concepts/art work of Lasse Hoile are as wonderful as ever), and an album with just an absolutely gorgeous blend of emotions on every level. I really could not ask for more in a record. That is what makes those albums throughout time that hang around and always have something to offer you, no matter how many spins, or how many years its been since the first experience. A true five star album.
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