As modern progressive rock’s undisputed figurehead and chief workaholic, Steven Wilson has little to prove, and yet his fourth solo album is anything but a cosy reassertion of values. In contrast to his much-lauded Victorian ghost-stories set The Raven that Refused to Sing from 2013, Hand. Cannot. Erase. is an album rooted in sonic and spiritual modernity, largely eschewing early prog tropes in favour of an inventive blend of bleak and brooding industrial soundscapes and rugged, muscular ensemble performances from Wilson’s virtuoso henchmen. Inspired by the strange real-life story of young and vital Joyce Carol Vincent, who lay dead in her apartment for nearly three years before being discovered, this is a rich musical journey with numerous moments of vivid melodic simplicity, but weighed down by thoughts of urban alienation and societal detachment. Wilson’s refined skill as a songwriter and studio guru combine to fashion songs that deserve a much wider audience than one that views his work as a modern equivalent of Pink Floyd and Genesis. For them, Guthrie Govan’s sky-scorching guitar solos will seal the deal; for everyone else, this is a smart, soulful and immersive work of art.
Steven Wilson: Hand. Cannot. Erase review – sonic and spiritual modernity
Writer. Musician. Metalhead. Dad. Twitter: @Dom_Lawson