Steven Wilson - 4½Steven Wilson is one of music’s best producers and, as I ranted and raved last year, quickly becoming one of progressive music’s best songwriters, as well. Hand. Cannot. Erase. was, as I’ve just recently written again, a triumph. However, like all triumphs—yes, all of them—part of honing in on the “triumphant” is knowing when to edit. That doesn’t always mean that what was cut was bad, of course, and is Steven Wilson and his trusty (and ridiculously talented) band knocking out 37 minutes of excellent leftovers.

Turns out that Steven Wilson‘s slop is better than most writers’ best shot. The record—maybe EP, but it feels a little long for that at roughly 37 minutes—is made up of six great songs that don’t reinvent Wilson’s sound, but rather revisit his previous work. is made up of four leftover tracks from Hand. Cannot. Erase., one from The Raven That Refused to Sing (and Other Stories) and a stunning live duet between Ninet Tayeb and Steven Wilson of an old Porcupine Tree song (“Don’t Hate Me”). , essentially, proffers 6 reasons to be excited for Wilson and co.’s forthcoming 5th album and then drops the mic.

The first four songs here sound pretty clearly like the leftovers from the Hand. Cannot. Erase. sessions. “My Book of Regrets” offers the brittle guitar tone and driving, catchy chorus that could have placed early on in the 2015 full length. “Happiness III” strikes a similar tone, while also featuring a chorus that sounds like The Beatles as interpreted by REM. These are interspersed by “Year of the Plague” and “Sunday Rain Sets In,” both are atmospheric, bittersweet instrumentals. The latter features a jazzy and, at times, dissonant tone which reminds me of some of Opeth‘s later material, but neither stray far from Wilson’s propensity for sad, sweet songs.

Steven Wilson - 2016The track I’m fairly certain came from the Raven sessions is “Vermillioncore,” which features a “Luminol”-like bass line and has the feel of a jam track that was edited into shape. [EDIT: Turns out I was wrong, this track is from the HCE sessions and “Year of the Plague” was from the Raven sessions. Is my face red…] The musicianship on here—it goes without saying at this stage—is exquisite, with all the guys Wilson works with delivering excellent performances. However, it’s Nick Beggs’ virtuoso execution on  that gets the most love here, with the bass guitar taking center stage in the mix and as a performance. The production being balanced, spacey and light, Wilson cedes Beggs’ bass a lot of room and the end result is a fat, gorgeous sound that drives the whole record forward.

EPs don’t usually get reviews around here, but 4½ is just too good to ignore—and 37 minutes is basically a full length anyway. While this record doesn’t even try to conceptually live up to Hand. Cannot. Erase., each song stands on its own, and the whole is a well-paced and delectable nibble that will hold fans over until the next album.

[PS: the video is from Hand. Cannot. Erase., not .]


Rating: Worth it
DR: N/A | Media Reviewed: Stream
Label: Kscope
Websites: stevenwilsonhq.com | facebook.com/StevenWilsonHQ
Out Worldwide: January 22nd, 2016

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  • Tardsmat

    That Video is pretty great.

    • It’s really good. I just watched it and wow.

      • André Snyde Lopes

        It doesn’t hurt that the middle third of that song is absolutely fantastic.

        • The whole song is fantastic. So goddamned good.

          • André Snyde Lopes

            I really hate Wilson singing in the end. So much so that I made a remix where the song fades out after the scream.

          • Wow. Really? Huh.

          • André Snyde Lopes

            Yeah, man. It doesn’t fit at all in the context of the rest of the song. It’s an saccharine cop-out end to a bitter, dark, frustrated tune. I seriously despise it. Which is mostly telling of how much I love and connect with the rest of the song…

    • Name’s Dalton

      That video is achingly sad. What a masterful job and that’s the first Steven Wilson song I’ve heard. The way it unfolds reminds me of Slint, who were the masters of protracted songs and epic – and sad – storytelling.

      • Nagash

        You should watch the video for Drive Home from the Raven album. It’s made the same way with puppets and stop motion, and it’s just as sad and heartaching.

  • robpal

    Oh, I envy you so badly…

    On the other hand, news just dropped that new REDEMPTION will see the daylight on February 26 (same day as new Votum and Headspace) and they have released a single. Week earlier we have Hypno5e, Omnium Gatherum and Myrath releasing their albums… February will be THE month.

    • Hadn’t heard about Myrath or Hypno5e, but I don’t review records by bands that put numbers in their names.

      Votum and Headspace are in house and getting reviews, however.

      • San Eutocio

        Myrath is great prog cheese metal (specially the amazing last album “tales of the sand”, the first two not that cheese), witj a very strong arab influence, nobetheless they come from Tunicia.

        They will be supporting Symphony X in their upcoming European tour, and did support orphaned land a few years back too.

        • sir_c

          Yeah Myrath is quite enjoyable at the right moments. They deserve some AMG love n care

      • robpal

        You heard the Votum album already? I’m very curious about it, especially given they have a new singer…
        Headspace can’t disappoint me, Wakeman is a genius, Wilson is an amazing singer ang the song they shared today sounds just great.

        Myrath is definitely worth checking out. A bit like Symphony X with Arabic influences, as San Eutocio remarked. There are good Blind Guardian clones (Savage Circus, Judicator) and good Symphony X clones (Myrath, Suspyre) ;)

        • What label is Myrath on? I know their music, but haven’t heard that they had a new album coming.

          It’s funny, Druhm and I just talked about Headspace and neither of I are big fans. I need to give this new one a shot. Votum sounds improved on what I’d heard from them earlier.

          • robpal

            Verycords in Europe and Nightmare Records in the USA.

  • Diabolus_in_Muzaka

    “Vermillioncore” sounds like what someone should call a song that sounds like a whiny yet edgy Slipknot style nu-metal power ballad.

    • Turns out it doesn’t suck at all.

    • sir_c

      Slipknot wish to be in that league.

  • You wot m8?

    Given the rampant Wilson fanboyisim in the room, have you considered doing one of your occasional band interviews with him? Seems like he would be an interesting guy to talk to.

    • I tried. Have been declined twice. Kscope apparently thinks I’m a guy who runs a black metal blogspot.

      • Diego Molero

        Well you can’t really blame them, you have that name and the photo doesn’t help much, but yeah it’s stupid they dont let you

      • André Snyde Lopes

        You’re definitely a guy so they are at least half way right.

      • These are times that you should re-activate “Happy Metal Guy”. Maybe they’d reconsider.

  • WalrusKing

    You missed the opportunity to rate this at 4.5 :)

  • Oscar Albretsen

    After Hand.Cannot.Erase and the Raven it would feel almost criminal to not get something Wilson releases. Gonna have to order it on Feb. 1st. Can’t WAIT for February now.

  • AlphaBetaFoxface

    I’m fairly sure Steven Wilson exists purely to remind you that no matter how good you think your latest, prog epic is, it really isn’t very good.

    • sir_c

      Wilson is a unit to express galaxy sizes in understandable figures

      • arrow2010

        Steven Wilson did the Kessel Run in under 2 parsecs.

  • Diego Molero

    Ohh come on! No rating? How about 4½/5.0? :)

    • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

      HA! The rating is right there in the release’s title!

    • kornspring

      Solid 5/7

  • Hey guys. Ratings are dumb. It’s an EP made up of cut material from previous records. Any rating I could give this would be wildly inappropriate, because ratings are wildly subjective and totally unnecessary.

  • Danny Becker

    Ratings are wildly subjective and totally unnecessary? Elitism and Snobbery notwithstanding, your claim leaves me askance Mr. Angry

    • They are. This is a case where I really feel wrong about rating. If I give it a 3/5 (it’s good, it’s not world shaking or anything) then it’s a 3/5 and everyone’s like “omg, only 3/5?!?!?” and the label doesn’t share it and so on. If I give a 4 or a 4.5 then it feels insulting to bands who release full length records of that level. Hand. Cannot. Erase. was a 4.5 on this site .And that album is a masterpiece.

      I’d do away with ratings altogether if I could.

      • Alex Benedict

        People look to scores as a be all end all, but you just have to listen to it and decide if you enjoy it or not. A 4/5 or maybe even a 3.5/5 can be on someone’s year end list.

  • MelbCro

    Steven Wilson has consistently released discs of cut material from Porcupine Tree over the years which have been of incredible quality. Stuff like Staircase Infinities, Recordings and Nil Recurring. So I have no doubt that this will be awesome as well.

    • sir_c

      Yeah i really like the old stuff too like Signify and Staircase moving sideways. But his evolution is admirable

  • RilesBell

    Excited for this one. I heard a few tracks on a BBC radio stream the other day, all sounded great. His next album is highly anticipated!

  • Carlos Marrickvillian

    I’ll look forward to hearing this, which at 39 mins is an album IMO

    While I love ‘Routine’, it’s ‘Happy Returns’ that just destroys me every time…it is a perfect song.

    • André Snyde Lopes

      He probably doesn’t want it to be recognized as such because it’s only a bunch of leftovers.

      More ridiculously, Spectral Lore released the Gnosis ‘EP’ last year and that was 50 minutes long…

    • kornspring

      Title track and Perfect Life… those are the bee’s knees for me.

      Though Happy Returns is a solid 5/7.

  • Luke_22

    Can’t wait for this. I’m getting to scary fanboy levels of admiration for Wilson’s work. Looking forward to hearing Don’t Hate Me. It was never a favourite PT song of mine but interested to hear the interpretation with Ninet. I thought it was a studio recording based on the recent live version though. Is it actually a live recording?

  • Dethjesta

    I’m going to see Wilson live (again) later this month. Apparently, Act 1 is going to be the whole of Hand, Cannot, Erase with Act 2 being a mixture of 4 1/2 and older stuff (seems very civilized to have an intermission).

    To put it lightly, I cannot wait.

    • Nagash

      You mean “I. Cannot. Wait.” :D

  • MoveAlongHome

    Great review. Can’t wait to hear this! Hand.Cannot.Erase was easily album of the year for me last year.

    An important recommendation to mention is Big Big Train’s The Underfall Yard and English Electric Part 1. If you’re into prog, you must check out these albums. There’s a pathetically scarce amount of reviews for these albums online – they deserve more recognition.

  • brutal_sushi

    Man this is fucking fantastic. “My Book of Regrets” sounds like an alternative version of “Time Flies” and im VERY ok with that.