Steven Wilson's third – and best – solo album since putting his much better known band Porcupine Tree on indefinite hiatus, is also his most ambitious to date.
Although there are only six new songs on the album, three of them clock in at over 10 minutes, and each are based on original paranormal stories written either by Wilson himself, or with help from Hajo Mueller (who co-wrote the novella length "title" story "The Raven That Refused To Sing"). On the deluxe edition of the CD package, there is even a 128 page hardbound book containing all of the complete, accompanying stories, as well as original drawings by Mueller, in addition to the four discs housed inside.
The good news for any doubters, fearful that Wilson might have gone a reach too far this time, is that The Raven That Refused To Sing (And Other Stories) is an album that works on numerous levels in spite of itself.
Much of the credit for this has to go to legendary producer Alan Parsons, who was apparently coaxed out of semi-retirement to serve as co-producer (along with Wilson) and engineer for this album.
Parsons unique trademark of recording densely layered music in such a way that you still hear everything from the deepest bass tones to the lightest, most subtle nuance has rarely been better served than it is on this recording. The sound here is absolutely pristine, making for a worthy companion piece to Parsons work on classics like Abbey Road and The Dark Side Of The Moon.
But while Alan Parsons production work compliments Wilson's songs quite nicely, it never overshadows it. Perhaps the biggest reason that The Raven That Refused To Sing (And Other Stories) is such a great record, is Wilson's renewed focus on songwriting.
While both 2009's Insurgentes and particularly 2011's Grace For Drowning certainly had their moments, each also had an uneven feel to them – sometimes wildly so. Where the virtuoso-level playing heard on those albums was occasionally dazzling, it just as often fell into the jazz-rock/fusion trap of musicians sounding too much like they are just trying to out-impress one another with their chops.