Steven Wilson – ‘Hand. Cannot. Erase.’ [Review]
In today’s world of shuffled playlists and single-track cherry picking, there still remain artists firmly committed to the album as valid self-expression format. The progressive rock world is home to a good many of those individuals – and within that world, Steven Wilson’s name carries a lot of weight.
Given Wilson’s status as a prog-rock luminary and the calibre of his backing band (Guthrie Govan on guitar; Nick Beggs on bass; Adam Holzman on keys; Marco Minnemann on drums; and Theo Travis on sax and flute), it goes without saying that the musicianship on display throughout this very-long-player is absolutely stellar. Exposed and vulnerable vocals, thunderous drum barrages, rip-roaring axe work, beautiful Beatles-esque harmonies, assorted and evocative atmospherics, and winning songcraft are all present and correct (and but small pieces of the whole) on Hand. Cannot. Erase. – and some of its tracks are epic in every sense of the word.
Hand. Cannot. Erase. was initially inspired by the true story of Joyce Carol Vincent – a 38-year-old woman who passed away in a London bedsit and whose skeleton was found (alongside unopened Christmas presents and a still-flickering television) almost three years later. From this starting point, Steven Wilson created a harrowing musical journey that explores the concept (and very real reality) of social isolation in a world of social media and alienating urban environments. Taking in none-more-tight epic tracks (First Regret_3 Years Older; Home Invasion_Regret #9; Ancestral), more concise offerings (see the chart-worthy pop hooks of Hand Cannot Erase; Perfect Life‘s haunting monologue; Transience‘s lilting Latin-tinged guitars and guttural synth growls), and those that fall in between (see Routine‘s exposed vocal and finely crafted lyrics, not to mention the gorgeous vibes of closing piece Happy Returns_Ascendant Here On), Hand. Cannot. Erase. is a genuine masterpiece.
This album will do more than satisfy Steven Wilson fans worldwide; it also has the potential to capture the imaginations of musicians looking for inspiration and direction in a cluttered and chaotic industry with an atrophied attention span. Hand. Cannot. Erase. is a crystal clear indicator of just what can be achieved with a little thought, some finely-honed talent, a quality team, and plenty of hard work. Box-negating, limit-ignoring, and utterly fantastic.
TMMP RATING: 97% (Essential Listening!)
Links / Video
Hand. Cannot. Erase. drops on March 2nd, and can be pre-ordered here.
Learn more about the story and concept behind the album here.