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105 of 112 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Masterful.
Grace for Drowning eclipses Steven Wilson's first solo album both in scope and composition. It covers a broader spectrum of sounds. While Insurgentes was heavily inspired by Wilson's love for 80s new-wave music, borrowing musical traits from Talking Heads, Joy Division, and The Cure, this album harkens back to the early 70s, with songs being highly experimental, much...
Published on September 27, 2011 by Murat Batmaz

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Very mixed feelings.
I have been trying to follow Steven Wilson's career as much as I can since I learned of him shortly after Porcupine Tree's 'In Absentia' was released. Like many people that was, unfortunately, my first encounter with Porcupine Tree or Steven Wilson; I felt a bit cheated for not having heard them sooner. So now ai try to keep up with Wilson's various projects...
Published 22 months ago by Nathan Hatton

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105 of 112 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Masterful., September 27, 2011
Murat Batmaz (Istanbul, Turkey) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Grace for Drowning (Audio CD)
Grace for Drowning eclipses Steven Wilson's first solo album both in scope and composition. It covers a broader spectrum of sounds. While Insurgentes was heavily inspired by Wilson's love for 80s new-wave music, borrowing musical traits from Talking Heads, Joy Division, and The Cure, this album harkens back to the early 70s, with songs being highly experimental, much darker, and a lot more progressive.

Having worked on a lot of early King Crimson material lately, there is no denying that some of the influence has crept into Steven Wilson's songwriting vision. This album is more daring in its approach to melody construction and flow. There are a lot of jazzy elements with extended passages for improvised instrumental bliss. Thanks to the jazz-inflicted drumming, there is plenty of dialogue between the soloists, but the Steven Wilson sound is fully intact. The compositions are characterized by dense soundscapes, but each piece is fragmented with lush, easier-to-digest instrumentation. The tension-filled "Sectarian" involves utterly dark acoustic guitars underscored by eerie percussion, tense silences, weird stop-start riffing at once bringing to mind a strange marriage between Univers Zero and Thinking Plague, but the second half is very accessible due to the sudden shift of mood highlighting the blend of the jazzy piano and Mellotron swells.

Some tracks start and end abruptly while others serve as shorter pieces that tie them together. Wilson sets melting pianos and rising synth modulations against melodic constructs. However, the tracks lack tonal centres, and there is a vast array of electric and acoustic beats with shades of texture placed into sparse arrangements. There is no hierarchy of pitches focusing on a central note. Rather, the notes function independently of each other without adhering to tonal principles. This obviously makes some of the songs a more demanding yet at the same time more rewarding listen.

At face value, some fans may write the album off as meandering, too slow, or too long, but this album seems very defined beneath the surface. Yes, it is long, but Steven Wilson chose to spread it over two 40-minute discs, rather than cramming it all onto a single CD. He hopes fans will tackle each album independently instead of trying to take all of it in at one sitting. The first disc is a little more song-oriented while the second one is darker and more experimental. That said, there are songs on each disc that are coterminous with each other. The short two-minute instrumental "Raider Prelude" on the first disc is actually just a foreshadowing of the 20-plus-minute progressive epic "Raider II" from the second CD. This monstrous composition recalls Lizard-era King Crimson in terms of ambition and breadth. Replete with Jordan Rudess' electric piano interludes and Mellotron-infested sound manipulations, it boasts cascades of guitars resolving with odd-time signatures under hypnotic, trance-like passages. All the while, Theo Travis' coiling flute and sax lines weave in and out of the dissonant composition, deconstructing it to its calm finale.

Do not listen to this album in hopes of figuring out in which tunes the stunning list of guest musicians play. Jordan Rudess' contribution to the album is very uncharacteristic for him. His Grand piano on "Deform to Form a Star" sounds nothing like he's done in Dream Theater, perhaps because the song puts the piano in the back in favour of Wilson's stunning vocals following a silvery guitar solo. Similarly, Tony Levin's bass is utilized for a strong low-end here. Unless you're a crazy fan of King Crimson's criminally underrated album The ConstruKction of Light and the dazzling The Power to Believe, you won't notice it's Pat Mastolotto playing on the Blackfield-like "No Part of Me," whose instrumental break is punctuated by Trey Gunn's heavier-than-everything Warr guitar.

The only song that will give away its guest is probably "Remainder the Black Dog" with Steve Hackett providing his unique, gorgeous fretwork. Hackett is easy to distinguish because of his tone and phrasing: he juxtaposes fusion-inflicted notes with dissonant melodies before allowing a groove-locked bass solo to shake the very grounds you stand on. It's a killer song that evokes Wilson's work on No-Man's Returning Jesus in places, but this one is more chaotic and heavier.

Also, there is the beautifully crafted, chilling dark pop of "Postcard" which sounds like Blackfield crossed with Steven Wilson's 'daily life' lyrics delivered over a haunting piano-acoustic guitar theme and the more modern-sounding "Index" where Wilson emotes spoken vocals with narcotic melodies and Mastelotto's rolling drum beat accompaniment. All throughout, the mix and production are ingenious, possibly Wilson's best.

Lyrically, the album is inspired by stories of people who have had near death experiences, particularly with drowning. It is about the state of calm one gets into after the struggling, but the title may also be a metaphor for 'drowning' in the stress and speed of modern city life, which has been the subject matter of many of Wilson's recent songs.

If I were forced to make a choice for a single album in the experimental progressive genre, I would be torn between this album and Garden Wall's Assurdo. Grace for Drowning is some of the most beautiful music I have heard this year. Beautiful in a strange way.

(This is also a very personal album for Steven Wilson. In the liner notes, he dedicates it to his father, who he lost earlier this year.)
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28 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An astonishing work of art, an oasis in the desert, September 28, 2011
This review is from: Grace for Drowning (Audio CD)
I was a little underwhelmed with the recent Blackfield release, so I came to this new solo work with my expectations somewhat dampened. Happily, this album is a masterpiece, a veritable smorgasbord of rich musical ideas, dazzling musicianship and wonderful sound engineering. This is truly music as art in a world where the majority of music has become cheap filler (quite literally unfortunately, gotta have something to fill up those gaping empty gigabytes on your brand new iPod, right?). My one small quibble with the existing reviews on this site is that the track Raider II needs time to sit and mature before you pass judgement on it, I too was a little overwhelmed by it initially, but having returned to it many times, it's now a standout track that takes my breath away. Mr. Wilson, with this work you have joined a very exclusive club of artistic genii, and I applaud you for your staunch determination in sticking with a high quality approach to everything you do.
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37 of 42 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Album of the year?, September 27, 2011
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Grace for Drowning (Audio CD)
Perhaps calling this latest work from unofficial Prog scene director Steven Wilson "Album of the Year" is perhaps fanboyism. However, it's clear that this album received more time and attention from it's creator in order to produce a complete work, a complete and cohesive album that still transcends genere's and musical styles.

Insurgentes, Steven Wilson's first solo record and the work that precedes Grace For Drowning, had some incredible songs on it. But Insurgentes seemed to have more "mood" or noise pieces that after 2.5 dozen listens tend to get skipped by even the most avid Steven Wilson listener. Grace For Drowning however, provides so much more content, so many more complete songs that are beautifully arranged and sequenced on the album that you can easily pass the one hour and 22 min listening to the whole work from top to bottom without really getting bored. Each song is interesting and complete here.

I will agree with the first reviewer that posted here in that Raider II, the 24 min long epic track on Disc 2 ends up being a little bit of an outlier for this record. It's actually quite a fantastic piece of work and a tremendous adaptation of the early King Crimson 'sound' from the late 60's and early 70's. However, it's long for the sake of being long and perhaps a 12 min long edit of the song would sit better with the listener as what is recorded. After the song seems to end for the 3rd time and you look at the time remaining finding another 10 min, it's extremely tempting to skip to the next track.

But Raider II's over indulgence is just like of those long, gentle speedbumps that are so easy to drive over on an otherwise beautifully paved stretch of musical highway. That highway also goes through some sweet mountains. In the fall with the leaves looking cool. During a super awesome sunset. In the Magic Schoolbus but with that weird, evil horned and hooded M. Knight Shyamalan-type character that Wilson has all those pictures of on the website sitting in the back making you uncomfortable and making your hair stand on end when you go through tunnels on that same highway. Mainly because you're afraid he's going to light that flare of his and make things look scary.

If you don't know what I'm talking about, watch the video for the song "Track One" on youtube.

I'll also add that Wilson suggests in some recent interviews that Grace For Drowning is the "sister" album to Opeth's recent release "Heritage" Having listened extensively to both, GFD starkly different from Opeth's release but much of the inspiration for both albums come from the great progressive works from the early 70's and I can agree with that.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Huge Achievement, October 5, 2011
This review is from: Grace for Drowning (Audio CD)
In Steven Wilson's second full solo offering, we are treated to the work of a man who may well be at the height of his musical powers. Grace for Drowning is a massive work of astonishing inspiration and musicality; it clocks in at somewhere over 80 minutes, and sprawls over two 40-minute-give-or-take CDs of similar structure but rather different moods. Anyone who expects to get the hang of it and be singing along after a couple of listens had best look elsewhere.

The several layers of Wilson genius are on full display here: His uncanny ability to assimilate and reformulate diverse influences and present them as something fresh, his apparently limitless melodic instinct, and an unerring sense of song sequence. The familiar tricks and tropes are recognizable, but offered up with a level of accomplishment and assurance that elevates Grace for Drowning above even the brilliant Insurgentes, his first solo album. While the main influence is the jazz-fusion prog-rock of Lizard-era King Crimson, and his guest musicians are a thoroughbred mix of jazz and rock artists who play as if this album were their very own, the work is without question Steven Wilson's: melody is never forgotten, the dark themes predominate, and even during the most free-form of the improve-like sequences there is a sense of tight control over the entire enterprise.

There are rare lapses of judgment on this album, the conventional and Blackfieldesque "Postcard" being one of them. The highlights of the album include the achingly beautiful "Deform to form a Star" and the terrifying "Index". And towering above it all is the massive, 23-minute "Raider II", a monster of a piece, the dark and brutal soul of the entire album. If there is anyone left who is unsure of Wilson's unsurpassed command of the "prog epic", this piece alone will remove all doubt.

Grace for Drowning is a remarkable achievement, a huge, complex, and sophisticated album that demands and rewards careful and repeated listens. Long anticipated by fans, it does not disappoint, in fact it surpasses expectations. If you need to be challenged by your music, don't pass it up.

Four and a half stars, rounded to five.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Timeless, October 5, 2011
This review is from: Grace for Drowning (Audio CD)
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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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dark, Cool, Breath Taking, Stark, September 29, 2011
K. Brown (Denver, CO United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Grace for Drowning (Audio CD)
Gives me chills. ... Hyperbole? No. Listen to this album loud in the dark. You'll see.

Great song writing. Virtuoso guest musicians that left their egos at the door and played to the songs. Has a depth that even Insurgentes didn't quite reach.

Look to the other reviews for a track by track critique. This review is about the feel. Get the album and you'll feel it too. There are a few notes of interest about the album though. There aren't any of SW's fellow Porcupine Tree members on this album, but some of the guests include Steve Hackett, Jordan Rudess, Nick Beggs, Tony Levin, Pat Mastelotto, Trey Gunn. The drummer on many of the tracks is named Nic France, whom I've never heard of before now, but I want to hear more!

For you fans of Kevin Gilbert (and you really should be a fan) there is a connection! Dave Kerzner, who played "the mighty Wurlitzer" on KG's Thud is credited on this album for sound designs. Dave Kerzner is the founder of Sonic Reality, which is one of the premier sampled sound library producers. It seems his nickname is also "Squids", so he must be cool ... right?

A final note about the album. The dedication reads:
"Dedicated to my father, Michael George Wilson - 1935-2011, without whom..."

My condolences to Steven and his family. I have to wonder what influence the passing of Steven's father had on the feel of this album. We listeners are lucky for the music, but I wish only happier days for SW.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Masterful, Creative, Experimental and A Fantastic Voyage, September 28, 2011
This review is from: Grace For Drowning (Blu-ray)
If you are a very serious listener for creative, experimental music or just a Steven Wilson fan from his previous solo album called "Insurgentes" or just a fan of his Porcupine Tree, Blackfield, No Man, Bass Communion projects you should hear some song or songs in this album that you will simply love in this album.

Yes, also if you like old King Crimson the song called "Raider 2" is the most King Crimson sounding piece on this album.

Some of the beautiful songs on this album are "Deform To Form A Star" it just gives me chills and so does "No Part Of Me" and "Postcard" with other beautiful songs called "Belle De Jour" and "Like Dust I Have Cleared From My Eye"

This is simply a artist who is reaching for new musical heights and was able to put together in this beautifully crafted album called "Grace For Drowning" and I highly recommend buying this Blu-ray like I did which has exceptional 5.1 DTS surround sound and please do not forget to buy the Cd for car or itune use.

This album should get better and better with each listen, so please enjoy this great album and exceptional artist!
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent album after it grew on me, October 7, 2011
This review is from: Grace for Drowning (Audio CD)
This is quite a different album from Insurgentes. Go in with the expectation that you will not get something as loud or relentless as that album. If you are familiar with Steven Wilson's work, you will hear bits and pieces of past things mixed here and there, but the overall effort is a step beyond what has come before.

To me, this wasn't an easy album to like at first. I am not a natural fan of the type of jazz blended in on the album, and everything seemed a bit random and without focus. But once I forced myself to be educated by it over the space of about a week and it eventually "clicked", I am hearing all kinds of things I never even knew where there on my first listens. It's well worth the effort to invest some time in this if it doesn't strike you as much to get worked up over at first.

Even after you reach that stage, you can discover even more by listening to it on a good sound system, where all kinds of textures and hidden sounds reveal themselves. The snare drum will connect with your ear drums, and the album as a whole preserves a good amount of dynamic range and makes good use of it. You will miss half the album by listening to it on your earbuds.

If I had rated this on first listen, I would have given it a 3/5. One week later, I rate it as one of the best albums I've ever heard (though I am not that familiar with his stated influences for this album), and a step above Insurgentes which was excellent in itself.

One final comment... I can't believe some people are suggesting that he could have left "Raider II" off the album and put the album on one CD instead of two. "Raider II" seems to me to be the centerpiece and a culmination of everything that goes on on the album and it's hard to imagine the album without it. Likewise, I don't understand the suggestions that it could be edited down to half the length. It is a 23-minute track that uses the advantage of length to add elements that would overstay their welcome on a shorter track. I agree that not much would be lost if maybe the last 2 minutes of the track were left off (the last 2 minutes are a Bass Communion-esque ending after what seems like the real ending), but halving it in length doesn't seem justifiable to me.

Excellent album, overall. I'm pretty sure I won't be hearing anything else as good as this this year. And get both the CD and the Blu-Ray because the CD is a derivative of the full surround mix on the Blu-Ray! The album is so good and the price of each is so affordable that this in no way feels like a rip-off or double-dipping.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars How he does it, I know not., December 9, 2011
This review is from: Grace for Drowning (Audio CD)
Fans of King Crimson, Emerson Lake and Palmer, and their ilk will certainly find plenty to love. I don't even know what more to say, other than that this album is amazing. Steven Wilson is a genius.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Even better than I expected, October 7, 2011
This review is from: Grace For Drowning (MP3 Music)
I already know there are more than enough five star reviews for this album, but having had a week and a half to digest it, I feel like I can safely rate this.

The height of my interest in Steven Wilson/Porcupine Tree occurred four years ago, when Fear of a Blank Planet was released, and then when Insurgentes came out. At this time, I felt Wilson couldn't possibly do any better, and indeed, The Incident was disappointing. So, the last two years, I've been listening to primarily acoustic music, and only keeping select progressive rock/metal bands in the corner of my eye.

When Grace For Drowning was announced months ago, I figured I'd like it, but I was very open to the possibility of being disappointed. This was especially true after hearing Remainder the Black Dog, Track One, Index, and Like Dust I Have Cleared From My Eye before the release date. These tracks all had pieces I liked, but they struck me as a little too abstract and unfocused.

When I received the vinyl edition in the mail, I immediately spun it. The tracks that didn't really grab me on Youtube really spoke to me when coming from vinyl, and through my stereo system. At that point, I knew this was a good record. How good remained to be seen.

Three days later (a week ago), I got the deluxe edition in the mail. That night, I listened to the 5.1 surround sound blu ray, and the quality of the sound had me in awe. This is the best sounding music I've ever heard. It sounds like Steven is in the room with you when Like Dust begins.

Now that I'm getting more of a feel for the structure, I'm finding that the music is brilliant. It is abstract, but it flows perfectly. I love the way the first disc starts especially, with no lyrics until the third track...And when those lyrics start, it sounds all the more surreal.

What makes this album truly great is the fact that it is a complete artistic package. Besides the excellent music, and perfect sound, the Lasse Hoile-directed artwork, photography, and videos are just as important a part of this album. There is just so much to explore here. Usually when I see a deluxe edition of an album selling for $80+, I think it looks cool, but is ultimately overpriced. This deluxe package, friends, is worth the $80 plus shipping. (link to some pictures in comments.)

I will say, this is not good driving music. The dynamic range is so vibrant that you miss all the quiet parts, and on this album, the quiet parts are the most important.

Steven Wilson has outdone himself... again. Even though I'm listening to more Punch Brothers, Neil Young, Josh Ritter, Trampled By Turtles, et al. than anyone else, I just can't help but keep coming back to Mr. Wilson's work.
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Grace for Drowning
Grace for Drowning by Steve Wilson (Audio CD - 2011)
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