Not sure if super group or solo project
Never would you have ever dreamed of a lineup consisting of Guthrie Govan (The Aristocrats, Asia), Marco Minnemann (also The Aristocrats, ex-Necrophagist) and Steven Wilson (Porcupine Tree, Blackfield) coming together to belt tunes out, all to be mixed and produced by Alan Parsons (of Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of The Moon fame). But heck, no one expected us to survive the Mayan Apocalypse of December 2012 either. So here we are, in 2013, with arguably one of the most anticipated releases of the year.
There are a lot of things this album does right. Simple yet elegant riff-work. Drum parts that just fit in. Basslines that ooze pizzazz. The first track of the album (also released as a single) ‘Luminol’ incorporates all of these factors in from the get-go and the song hits you in the face with it’s sheer class. While I generally overlook the lyrical content of any band and concentrate purely on the musicianship, Steven Wilson does really well in that department as he aims to tell a story of the supernatural. The physical release of the album includes a booklet of illustrated stories and images, which aim to take that experience forward. While this is a review of only the digital content, going by the feedback online, the physical copy is highly recommended.
Coming to the musicianship, all the tracks have a surreal, melancholic feel to them. Be it with ambient pads played on the keyboard or sudden, odd, minor chords that show up unexpectedly (as is the case with the outro of The Holy Drinker). There is a very ‘jam’ oriented buildup for the most part of the album, where everyone follows one basic riff and improvise over it after a couple of bars, which is highlighted by the opening track ‘Luminol’ (which in my opinion is the best track off the album). As the track list progresses, the music becomes more somber and dark, with the last track (being the title track) being the most mellow song of all.
Overall, it is a good album. Steven Wilson (or Porcupine Tree?) fans would love every second of it. Even the average progressive fan would find it hard to dislike it, for it is remarkably well produced (no surprises why), written well and is made by a line-up that would interest even the most mundane fans of music you know. Sadly, that’s where I feel let down.
For something made by the talents of Guthrie Govan and Marco Minnemann, this is an okayish album. There are no trademark solo wars from the likes of Erotic Cakes, no mindblowing drum parts that you’d expect from someone who has jammed with Mohamad Suicmez to come up with. It is extremely subdued in that respect. Which is when I tend to remember that it is a Steven Wilson solo album, not a supergroup collaboration project. Wilson has himself said in an interview that for the first time, he is writing music in a project that includes people beyond his playing capabilities (loosely paraphrased). I was left disappointed in that regard, as the album sounded like a very safe bet compared to the technical capabilities of the band lineup itself.
Having said that, I remind myself that it is, indeed, a solo project. And an epic one at that. Leaving aside my qualms about lack of display of technical prowess (as elitist as it sounds, unintended), it is a good album and definitely worth listening to. If it were just a little more technical though, it would be a perfect album.