Albums That Shaped Me: The Raven That Refused To Sing, Steven Wilson

The Raven That Refused To Sing is Steven Wilson’s mature masterpiece. By this point in his career he had already achieved so much as the leader of Porcupine Tree as well working as part of numerous other projects. Whilst his solo ventures prior to The Raven… impressed me it with this album that he really hit his stride as a solo artist.

The musicians who play on this album are all of the highest calibre (Marco Mineman, Guthrie Govan, Nick Beggs, Adam Holzman). What is so impressive about the album is that whilst all of the musicians are strong players with dazzling abilities, they approach the music with maturity and taste, never overplaying and always leaving space for the whole band to shine. No one’s ego is served at the expense of the material.

This album is one of the few examples of a work that draws from a wide variety of influences whilst at the same time remain cohesive. What unites the material is Steven Wilson’s consummate taste at unique compositional style. What is the this style? Wilson has a reputation for writing emotionally dark material. The lyrics speak of murder, loss and despair. Musically Wilson often uses abrupt transitions in songs to shock the listener, the most obvious example of this being the end of Watchmaker were tenderness turns into brutality. He freely mixes simple songs with highly complex structures that are symphonic in scope.

Stylistically there an incredible range and combination of different influences metal, jazz and rock are all present to different degrees. One of the aspects of music that fascinated me was Nick Begg’s playing. He can be considered in his approach and sound the inheritor of Chris Squire’s legacy. For the obvious reason that he plays with a pick and plays with a distorted tone. Less obviously, the bass often takes a very prominent place in the music which was always true of Squire’s band Yes. Further, The Raven… represents the most successful attempt to reinvent and modernize the musical vocabulary that some of the stranger rock bands in the 60s and 70s used. Whilst element of the past can be heard there is a startling freshness to The Raven… which in a genre that is mired in cliché this album stands in a category by itself.

If my house were burning down this CD would have to be saved.