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10-04-2011, 08:14 AM
Picked up both of these 2 CDs this week. So far I like the Steve Wilson better. Sounds more Porcupine Tree than his last solo album, although the tracks are shorter. Jordan Rudess plays piano on a number of tracks. Well done.

The Opeth is dark in tone and lyrics, with lots of instrumental passages. Produced by Steve Wilson. Great playing and an interesting direction, but it won't get your blood rushing. I know this won't please the death metal audience, but fans of Steve Wilson and Porcupine Tree should like it.

Both need more time.

10-04-2011, 10:28 AM
I have both. I like the new Steven Wilson more than his last solo outing, Insurgentes. He seems to be embracing '70s style space rock on this one. It reminds a lot of The Incident from a few years ago. I had Insurgentes for about 6 months and traded it. This one is a little more song oriented, but does get jammy in spots. Wilson likes taking his time when advancing an idea and that sort of style is hit and miss for me. Over 80 minutes of music that could have easily (should have) been pared down to about 50 or 60 minutes and still get enough textural exploration to call it prog.

The new Opeth, Heritage, is the second CMV-less album from these guys (the last one being Damnation from '03). Parts of it are reminiscent of Damnation, parts of it remind me of the latest wave of stoner rock from bands like Black Mountain. Its got Steve Wilson's touch all over it production-wise, but this isn't as strong a collection of songs as Damnation, and it just isn't as dynamic as their "regular" albums, the ones with the CMVs (cookie monster vocals). The absence of CMV does seem to tame the presentation, taking away the air of menace they bring. Its nowhere as near as epic in feel as Ghost Reveries or Watershed. And yes, death metal fans hate it.

Mr MidFi
10-05-2011, 06:18 AM
I still haven't picked up Grace for Drowning, but it's on my buy list already. I'm one of the few who actually sorta liked Insurgentes, although I admit that it took some getting used to. Thanks for the mini-review!

10-05-2011, 07:34 AM
Yep, Heritage is pretty laid back for a metal band. But if you want to sell more albums and grow your audience, you have to go where the audience is, which isn't death metal. I think the move is right to focus on their musicianship talent more than their image. Just as Anathema shifted, so too will Opeth. But I agree they haven't found the balance yet. They need more mean guitar to really rock the audience. That's something that Steve Wilson does have, funny enough.

Finch Platte
10-19-2011, 09:07 AM
Wow, Grace For Drowning is really knocking my my mountain bike-themed socks off. Thanks for mentioning it, I had no clue that he had a new one out.

I actually delayed picking it up, thinking it was just going to be another Porcupine Tree knockoff, and was pleasantly surprised that it isn't. I'm a little tired of PT, and they can languish even longer as far as I'm concerned if Wilson continues to put out releases like this.

Gone is Gavin Harrison- while tremendously talented, he has a way of playing that's a little jarring to me. The guy SW has playing here (sorry, I don't have the disc in front of me Edit: Nic France), while very good as well, keeps the flow of the music going (while he's playing that is, there are many segments where there aren't any drums).

It's very good background music, and then it will break you from your reverie as the tempos & volumes pick up. Me likey, thanks again for the tip.

Edit: Found this.

Steven Wilson
Grace For Drowning

Is it really only three years since Steven Wilsonís solo debut Insurgentes? While other artists might have been slowly gathering momentum for their next big thing, Wilson has maintained his famously workaholic pace which, aside from working with Opeth, Blackfield, Pendulum, and Anathema, has also seen him remix just about every significant prog album from the 1970s.

After his revelatory reworking of King Crimsonís back catalogue, Wilson says that heís acquired a keener appreciation of the detail going into Robert Frippís creative decision making processes. The knock-on effect of that prolonged exposure has resulted in Wilsonís second solo outing being suffused with the eclectic depth and diversity that's such a commanding feature of those early recordings.

Perhaps the most obvious example of this is the 23-minute epic Raider II. Featuring some Keith Tippett-like turns from Dream Theaterís Jordan Rudess, and wind player Theo Travis channelling his inner Mel Collins, itís impossible to ignore the Mellotron-infested echoes of KCís Battle Of Glass Tears from Lizard in terms of breadth and ambition that's been hallmarked into the piece.

Delving into the rich seam of Ď70s-related invention doesnít only extend to King Crimson. Remainder The Black Dog takes Karl Jenkinsí Soft Machine serpentine opus, Tale Of Taliesin as a jumping-off point for another extended construction built around a jazz-rock facade. As with Raider II, thereís a series of terse encounters that include oblique electric piano interludes, metallic blow-outs and fretful acoustic passages. Slyly oozing beneath it all is this meandering but oddly powerful acoustic piano motif which winds along like an insistent and implacable double-helix, surfacing malevolently in an ominous reprise toward the end.

Across his career, and with Porcupine Tree in particular, Wilson has always exercised an uncanny ability to empathise with, and articulate the view from the terminal outsider. These mediumistic skills are wryly deployed on Index, a creepy account of what happens when the collecting bug is taken to its darker and dangerous extremes.

Though boasting useful and telling appearances from some well known names such as Steve Hackett, Tony Levin, Pat Mastelotto, Trey Gunn, etc., a particular highlight of the record is Nic Franceís drumming. His jazzier inclinations add subtle bite and swing to Wilsonís compositions providing imaginative velocity on the big set pieces. A word of praise should also be set aside for Dave Stewart, whose sumptuous string and choral arrangements embellish Wilsonís yearning romanticism with a soaring, impassioned overtones.

Grace For Drowning shows an artist who is unafraid to let the music take its time to make a point. Allowing the resonances and internal references build and accrue across both albums presented in this package, Wilson scores some shiver-inducing successes without ever having to make a dash towards anything as vulgar as a quick-buck pay-off. The welcome by-product of this kind of confidence means the listener is provided with a wealth of entry-points to go deeper into Wilsonís strange but intriguing domain.

Sid Smith's Postcards From The Yellow Room: Steven Wilson Grace For Drowning (