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Steven Wilson - Grace For Drowning CD (album) cover

GRACE FOR DROWNING

Steven Wilson

 

Crossover Prog

4.21 | 1641 ratings

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Prog Leviathan
Prog Reviewer
3 stars Grace for Drowning stands out as among Steven Wilson's most challenging and experimental work to date. This is an album unencumbered by structure or appeals to the average listener's expectations; Wilson unashamedly crafts songs that drift between openendedness and improvisation to dark, bottom-heavy chugging that assaults the ear. The mood is one of falling asleep, with the songs becoming the the dreams and nightmares that stick with you until clearing the dust from your eye the next morning.

First thing to note, this is a double-album. In my experience, this leads to very good, or mediocre work. It takes a lot of ideas to sustain this much music. Wilson himself has said in interviews that he discourages people from listening to the two discs back-to-back, because the mental fortitude it would take to remain engaged is just beyond most listeners. I tend to agree with him in this case; the music on Grace for Drowning is often beautiful, but it is very hard to actively enjoy for extended periods... and this album would make for very schizophrenic background music.

The two sides of this album are complementary, but somewhat different in feel.The first side contains more of the "normal" music we'd expect to hear from Wilson: a combination of hot/cold tones artfully composed and excellently performed. I imagine this as Grace for Drowning's "waking" side; it's like a soundtrack that accompanies you through a sucky, depressing day at work and then at home as you "drown" through the day-to-day. The second half is more dreamy, almost ambient at times. To me, this is like falling asleep and letting the subconscious take over. Unfortunately for the sleeper - Wilson pretty much only creates nightmares. This is dark music, challenging music, that lacks memorable hooks, riffs, and even melodies. It's all about tones and emotion, like an expressionist painting that uses mostly dreary colors. Beautiful sounds shine through the dark at times, but you'll be left with mixed feelings by the end.

Both sides are exceptionally performed, with a host of guest musicians adding a lot to the palette of sounds we're given.

If you're coming to Wilson's solo work from Porcupine Tree or more accessible solo works like Hand Cannot Erase, be warned! You won't be tapping your foot or feeling those emotional surges get with "Trains" or "Three Years Older." If you're not much for Wilson's output because of the metal or crossover feel, then Grace for Drowning may be one for you.

For me, it's a fine album but too distant from my sensibilities to be one of my favorites.

Songwriting: 3 - Instrumental Performances: 4 - Lyrics/Vocals: 3 - Style/Emotion/Replay: 2

Prog Leviathan | 3/5 |

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