This occasionally makes for some rather challenging listening. Grace For Drowning is not an album that is easily digested within just a single listen. But as repeated plays reveal subsequent new discoveries, the payoff does eventually come. For those with the patience to get there, Grace For Drowning is ultimately a very rewarding listening experience.
Dedicated to his father (who passed away earlier this year), Grace For Drowning explores much of the same darker territory Wilson first mined on 2009's Insurgentes. Death and mortality are the two most prevalent themes here. However, these don't begin to surface until three songs in, on the "title track" of disc one, "Deform Is To Form A Star." Instead, the first disc opens with two instrumentals that couldn't be more different from one another.
First up is "Grace For Drowning," a short piano interlude (with lovely playing from Jordan Rudess). This segues into "Sectarian," a fusion-prog workout recalling mid-period King Crimson, complete with abrupt time changes and cacophonous soprano saxes. Perhaps owing to Wilson's recent work on the Crimson remasters, "Sectarian" provides only a hint of the KC influence which later manifests itself more fully on the twenty minute long "Raider II."
"Postcard" is another of this albums many songs drawing on themes of melancholy. But here the somber mood is lightened considerably by a lovely sounding string and choir arrangement by Dave Stewart. This is followed by "Raider Prelude," a short, doomy sounding slice of funeral music that recalls "Light Mass Prayers," the prelude to Porcupine Tree's "Dark Matter" from their Signify album.
This makes for a great segueway into "Remainder The Black Dog," a tour de' force combining swelling mellotron, wildly swirling saxes, flutes and clarinet, and some amazing guitar work from the great Steve Hackett. Hackett's signature sustain is especially gorgeous in the ebb and flow fade that comes towards the end of this beautiful nine minute track.