It’s impossible to tell the story of a song, of a record, a band, a genre, without also telling the stories of people. This is due to a mechanical element in the production of art—it is made by people, the packages are designed by people and the bands signed by people, all of whom have lives and personal taste and emotional character that shifts with the sometimes brutal and sometimes comforting events of our lives. Art produced in waves of despair and psychosis, mania and grief, boredom and cynical ploys for more money. This is a valuable annex of the tale of art, and a necessary one to incorporate within the broader ecosystem, both for understanding the problematic and grimy elements of things we once loved as much as to flesh out the human character of things we might otherwise have been indifferent or scornful toward in a manner that can sometimes be redemptive. In the storied case of records such as Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours or Marvin Gaye’s Here My Dear, those human tales behind them can offer a new flesh and contour to a record that otherwise would have been flat, two-dimensional, cryptic, confounding. This human element often helps answer some of the most pernicious and frustrating critics of progressive rock, who often see it as bloated excess and not as real emotional sentiments from its creators, view it as pomp and virtuosity, which is wrong, rather than something from the heart, which is right.
It is also impossible to tell the story of songs and records without telling the stories of the people that it touches. This is a greater importance than the mundane story of its mechanical creation. Art is not the same as pure mechanism; it is by nature experiential, crafted by a creator but created for an audience, an audience which provides boundless and sometimes contradictory flesh to the skeletal framework of the work itself that a creator alone cannot provide. Some skeletons tilt more strongly toward a certain shape than others, but much as the flipper of the dolphin obscures slender bones like that of human fingers, we sometimes can find two seemingly contradictory bodies when comparing the work against the way it shapes and reshapes our lives, the way a song plucked free from context or original intention can wildly reshape our approach to the world, to ourselves, to politics and the people in our lives. The Beatles, after all, were just a silly little pop band that got a bit psychedelic by the end, but it’s hard to quantify the palpable impact they had on, in all likelihood, a billion or more people in uncountable facets of our lives.
The discovery of Yes wasn’t just the moment I fell in love with a record. I fell in love with the entire idea and enterprise of progressive rock. After “Close to the Edge” finished, I flipped the record around, playing all six sides of vinyl in proper order, then all mixed up as I chased those magical moments. It felt like a divine epiphany when it crossed my mind that the songs from Yessongs that comprised Close to the Edge as a studio LP seemed to outline the story of Siddhartha Guatama as portrayed in Herman Hesse’s Siddhartha, a book that had at one point been of unspeakable importance to my young life, an epiphany that was proven true with research. I had grown up in a household of music, from the soul and R&B of Motown to bebop and post-bop jazz heroics to psychedelia and hard rock and proto-metal from my father to the punk and college rock that was the pleasure of my uncle. My mother loved The Who and Thelonious Monk in equal measure; my brother and I had stumbled across death metal and grunge and bands like Radiohead and Tool and Smashing Pumpkins all by our lonesome and found nothing but encouragement from our parents. Yes felt like another one of those magical moments; even then it felt quite immediately like I had not found a singular and atomic record of meaning but a door into a space that threatened me with love.
The next several years of my life were devoted, at least in part, to diving deeper into this space and, secondarily, to evangelize it. I churned through the greats—King Crimson, Gentle Giant, Jethro Tull, Genesis—until I hit the obscurities like Gnigrolog and Dün and Henry Cow and Sammla Mammas Manna and more. Inevitably, I rediscovered a band that I had heard a song by once on one of those genre-sorted radio-by-TV stations, a song called “Shallow” which, even before I discovered what prog was, delivered the kind of artful and lightly cerebral approach to hard rock that I craved as a young teen. The group was Porcupine Tree, fresh off of releasing Deadwing, the second record of what would be four of their more metallic and subsequently final era. I didn’t start with Deadwing though, despite knowing a song off of it already. Instead, this being the era of illegal downloading, I nabbed a sampling, plucking songs from The Sky Moves Sideways, Stupid Dream, Lightbulb Sun and In Absentia. I remember playing guitar for hours to “shesmovedon,” bringing myself to tears first with frustration and then with elation as my young fingers finally were able to shred up a competent solo over that immaculate, transcendent final section, sheeting out progressively higher and higher notes like the guitar heroes I’d loved. This was heaven. This was love.
But as much as I loved this band-oriented material from the group, my completist impulse drove me to pick up more of their records, until eventually I found that floor of the group, the incredible record Signify in all its trip-hop thunder and Pink Floyd darkness, a suicidal hymnal in a truly progressive blend of sonic ideas that were at the time of its release brand fucking new, and then fell through. First the record Voyage 34, unfairly maligned as aimless trance rock but to me, as someone who’d loved more than his fair share of house music and techno records by the time and had even gone through a psytrance phase, it was a powerful and concentrated experience. I checked the liner notes only to find that this one wasn’t a group record, not really. It was functionally entirely made by Steven Wilson, the group’s primary songwriter, produced before he assembled a consistent backing band for recording or touring. These kinds of musical savants aren’t as rare as we sometimes make them out to be; any time spent in the musical underground will uncover one-man groups ranging from extreme metal to funk to electronica and even to prog. Regardless of the debatable rarity of a one-man group, this was top-shelf stuff, another wildly different record in a discography of work that was increasingly demonstrating itself to be consistently different album to album and era to era, maintaining not even so much a tone as a mental/emotional space explored from as many sonic and aesthetic directions as possible, the same center but an infinite number of lines of flight.
So when the band broke up, much to the dismay of me and almost every other contemporary prog fan, I was at least succored by the news that Steven Wilson would still be producing music, albeit this time as a fully solo project. The statement regarding this transition and the subsequent initial solo album Insurgentes were intriguing documents, promising and then delivering a collapsing singularity of musical ideas. Wilson had produced music in multiple venues other than Porcupine Tree, having spent much of the ’90s flitting between multiple mostly solo projects focused on specific genre concepts. Incredible Expanding Mindfuck, for example, focused mostly on krautrock, with Continuum focused on dark and textured drone music, Blackfield (a slightly later group) gestured to alt rock, and No-Man, his earliest collaborative group, was an art pop/rock band. Insurgentes, meanwhile, felt like it contained broken shards of each of these musical ideas and more, justifying this new solo period operating under his barren name, being a compendium of every musical thought he’d ever had.
Steven Wilson had spent years combative against the label of “progressive rock,” reacting in part to the critical lashing the genre received and a kind of fear that, like Marillion, the tag would be used to critically dismiss his work out of hand rather than be a descriptor of its mode and method. His other reason was that, like many operating in the ’90s, the term felt tied to specific sounds and bands and not necessarily a manner of thinking about music and, finding his music did not sound much like Yes or Jethro Tull, felt it unfitting. By the time his solo debut had come out, however, the critical world had begun to soften in its perpetual assault on the nature of prog, a softening aided in large part to gains in the metal world by groups such as Tool and Mastodon, while the world of prog itself had begun to become more accepting that prog can be as much an ethos as a specific, granular sound. Under this softening, it suddenly made sense to fully embrace the term, both to describe what he did within music but also as license to finally blend every last musical idea he had all in one place. There was no longer any reason to place the metal here and the jazz-fusion there, to put harsh noise in one place and psychedelia another, pop through one artist name and drone another. On Insurgentes, it all bled into one, making the record hard to describe in pure genre terms but, retroactively, the most purely and singularly “Steven Wilson” record that he had put out up to that point.
Insurgentes came out when I was a freshman in college. My high school friends and I, like most of the nerdier lot (does it surprise you that I was a bit of a nerd?), were a close-knit bunch. This made the necessary separation of college a mildly traumatic event, the promise of new beginnings and new growth choked near to death by the anxiety of isolation and loss, the real fear that we may lose each other only to find nothing to replace it. This is not an uncommon fear, and one which procession through life normally tends to over time. Dorm rooms and shared classes lead to new friends who take you to parties to meet girls and boys and others, and late nights smoking weed and going to diners and drinking beer, whether legally or not, translates over time to the messy, over-sexualized and under-planned necessary chaos of our collective twenties. This is the typical arc, anyway.
In early December of 2007, as a film-obsessed friend in college showed me and my friend group Cannibal Holocaust, I received a phone call from my friend Owen. “Friend” is perhaps a strong word; we had been friends in high school, but there had always been a tension and, as years passed, it became clearer that we weren’t really friends at all. He was a Christian and, to make the embarrassing malice and cruelty of my youth easier to express, I wasn’t, and I created strife by hectoring him over this in ways that in retrospect are at best groan-inducing and at worst make me want to punch my younger self in the gut until he throws up in the hopes he might learn some fucking decency before the age I inevitably did. To say I wasn’t expecting him to contact me, let alone to call me on the phone, would be a wild understatement. I picked up the phone, half-laughing at the exorbitant but fake violence of that notable Italian cannibal horror film, and said hello. His voice was stark, sober, crackling and quivering.
“Jon’s dead,” he said.
“What?” I replied.
I can replay it in my head even now, nearly a decade and a half later, like a scene from a novel. It’s a classic sign of derealization, something that can happen off the back of any traumatic event from a near-death experience to the sudden loss of a loved one to the physical abuses that can be visited upon us sometimes in cruelty. I was told he jumped from a seventh-story window on his college campus, a narrow window, one not in a dorm and in an odd place, making it incredibly unlikely it was just a dumb accident. Jon had been a prankster. I convinced myself this was a joke, that Owen was in on it, that he was pulling my leg. I had always thought those scenes in movies and novels and TV shows had been hokey, trite and ridiculous growing up. It didn’t seem plausible that someone would receive hard news and immediately react by denying its reality. That wasn’t logical. It made no sense. I remember thinking those critiques of myself even as I accused Owen of telling me a really sick joke, one I didn’t like hearing anymore.
But his voice stayed sharp. He clearly had been crying prior to the call but was holding it together for my sake, to convey to me that no, this was real. He was dead. Our friend was dead. And from suicide.
I excused myself and wandered, aimless and weeping, across the campus, just another disheveled and unkempt overly-emotional freshman boy stumbling without reason across his college campus. The other students in their dorms spying me through their windows probably thought nothing of me.
The next few months of the spring semester passed in a grief-filled haze. I attended a funeral; I wept with friends and was stoic and silent with others. I had dealt with death before, having lost grandparents and extended family, but there is an inoculation against that kind of grief even in its profundity, a unique emotional solvent provided by being young and contemplating the death of the old. It is unpleasant, deeply so, but in some strange way it seems to uphold the natural order, that the old eventually falls away, is replaced, that not every building we see is tens of thousands of years old and not every tree has been standing since before humans crossed the ice bridge over the Bering strait to the Americas that first time. Death of the young, especially when you yourself are young, is a different and more brutal kind of shock, a startling and disquieting memento mori, one only deepened when it is a suicide and not a natural death (as natural as any death can be, in the world of medicine and preventative care). I held together, largely devoid of tears after only a short while, but I was quietly inconsolable. It was apparent to everyone but me.
My friend Bleys preordered Insurgentes for me around the time of my birthday, shortly after the loss of our friend. It was a small gesture, the best he could do from the distance that college had introduced, something that he knew would give me pleasure in times of pain. It took a year for the album to come out and in the months that followed I immersed myself in it tremendously. It became the dense and immutable soundtack to my emotional perspective, at least in part, interpolating with Radiohead’s In Rainbows which had come out a year prior and a burgeoning appreciation of hip-hop and sludge metal. My emotional imprint of Steven Wilson became that of almost a ghastly Victorian ghost, some wailing figure beyond the pale window which knew intimately the contours of my grief even as I fell into starker and starker silence regarding these senses within me I was having great trouble processing in a healthy way.
It came as no surprise to me then that the coming few years brought to me a mental breakdown, where suddenly the scale of time and space pressed upon my small, frail body all at once, making me feel miserable and small and worthless, doomed to be erased, and the lingering unprocessed grief at the young death of my friend came roaring back to clutch me by the throat. This breakdown preceded the death of the family dog, like a bad and overly-obvious novel, the stress of which caused my relationship of four years to fall apart, like an even worse novel. I made an attempt on my life that July, which failed, and in the wake of that attempt entered what would become the plague years of my life as I struggled with the continuing persistent specter of suicidal ideation, a growing drinking problem, the edges of substance abuse, as my college career wasted away into failing grades and isolation. I disappeared into myself, retreating from my friends, returning to live with my parents and drink and drink and drink and get no better. Then my father died. It was so comically overbearing it feels unreal looking back at it, like it’s all the setup of some stupid joke.
In my wasting grief, which had only swelled in the years, I eventually got a job at the local Wal-Mart, being called back for an interview literally the day after my father died. I held that job in quiet isolation for some time. One night while drunk and experiencing a bout of frightful psychosis, one of the nastier side effects of prolonged and unchecked bipolar disorder and substance abuse, I shaved off all my hair, cackling in the mirror; people at work avoided me after and I was relegated to the side registers, away from customers. In retrospect, I probably looked like a run-of-the-mill skinhead racist son of a bitch, something I hadn’t really weighed before making the decision to buzz myself at 3 a.m. A friend of mine took pity on me and took me to an Opeth/Katatonia concert where, as a surprise, they played a Bloodbath set as the encore. On the ride there, he showed me @horse_ebooks and @dril; when I got home, I started a Twitter account. This would be the beginnings of a return to socialization for me, however fraught it was then. The next step was a return to dating sites. I would send people music suggestions based on their listed favorite bands then not check my messages; I felt like a ghost, but at least maybe I could be useful, show people things they might enjoy. I told one person about the immaculate record Primary Colours by The Horrors; she messaged back a day later, having loved it, and demanded a date. I acquiesced.
The romance that followed was brief, lasting only a month, but was impressive in its intensity. She forced me out, to clean myself up, to get new clothes. We drank a lot, often mixing alcohol with Klonopin in what in retrospect was a terrifying concoction. We were pillars for each other in the way that those brief relationships that dot our twenties sometimes can be. And then, in the midst of it, Grace for Drowning came out.
The album is a who’s who of progressive rock past and present. Aside from Steven Wilson himself, it features Dave Stewart of groups such as Egg, Hatfield and the North and Bruford providing string and choir arrangements; King Crimson alums Pat Mastelotto, Trey Gunn and Tony Levin on various tracks; Jordan Rudess of Dream Theater and Liquid Tension Experiment providing some of his most tasteful and restrained and shockingly beautiful piano playing; and sax player Theo Travis who has played with The Tangent, Gong, and David Sylvian’s solo band. There’s also a notable appearance by Steve Hackett, one of rock’s most profoundly underrated guitarists despite Eddie Van Halen citing his playing on Nursery Cryme as inspiration for his own exploration of tapping which would later revolutionize the world of rock guitar, providing guitar for the final track of the first disc, “Remainder the Black Dog.” Notably, this all-star cast is not used in a way that draws attention to itself; Wilson wisely chose not to have highlighted guest solos or anything of the sort but instead used their unique instrumental voices as compositional guides to make group compositions. If you didn’t look at the credits, you wouldn’t imagine the cast was as stacked as it was, not because the performances are sub-par (they are anything but) but because of how well blended and balanced they are, each player focused first on serving the song and second on serving the overall image and aesthetic of the record as a singular hour-and-a-half statement.
It’s fair to say that Steven Wilson’s greatest songs are on other albums, some on followup The Raven That Refused To Sing (And Other Stories) and some of Porcupine Tree records previous, but in my view he’s never produced a greater album-length experience than this (save, perhaps, for a single Porcupine Tree record, which for now shall go unnamed). This is not due to any lack of great album-length statements in his vast body of work. Notably, Signify, Schoolyard Ghosts and even the later solo album Hand. Cannot. Erase. are often underlooked works by Steven Wilson, obscured by his more obvious and also-great works. But Grace for Drowning succeeds in the superlative partly because of how richly it takes the already profound aesthetic singularity of Insurgentes and explodes it outward. If his debut was Wilson finally allowing every musical idea he’s ever had to speak to each other and sit next to one another, then Grace For Drowning is that commingling being cross-pollination and full flowering. He has yet to produce as wide a sonic palette as this in his records since, with his next three solo records each zeroing in on a specific genre palette and even the most recent No-Man album-length song being a keen and specific mixture.
The move away from statements this grandiose makes sense. Grace for Drowning is an emotionally exhaustive journey, opening with two instrumentals that feel like the psyche dragged closer and closer to the precipice of a full nervous breakdown, weighty string hits and and searing ghastly Mellotron in “Sectarian” feeling like hands choking you. The following three lyrical songs seem to chronicle elements of despair and isolation and loneliness in the narrator’s life, a sense of not being enough, failing to be present, failing to make an impact. The gentle clarinets and piano of “Deform to Form a Star” make it feel almost like the soundtrack to a maudlin clay stop-motion children’s animation, a short French film, the kind that breaks your heart, of some strange deformed boy gesturing uselessly to failing friendships and the happy growth of increasingly-distant friends. “No Part of Me” and “Postcard” feel like a diptych elaborating on the particular crooked-smile melancholy of “Deform to Form a Star,” ruminations on failed serious relationships in adulthood that leave you scarred and full of the assumption that you aren’t enough to love, a failure, an absence, a void, a gap in the air. The delicate moments of these three songs, of which there are many, guitars gasping in alternating rich and raw phrases, reach out in a sign that hope has not failed. This, in turn, increases the melancholy; if things were hopeless, then one could surrender fully to it and suffer no more but, hope remaining even if only in flickers, the suffering continues.
“Raider Prelude” is a soft and brief glimpse of darkness, a prefiguring, which opens up into the closing track of the first disc, “Remainder the Black Dog.” This one roars out with black Satanic majesty, feeling darker, starker, more threatening than most black metal. If “No Part of Me” took the metallic riffing concepts Wilson was exploring near the close of Porcupine Tree’s run and pointed them toward a jazzy instrumental palette, then “Remainder” emboldens them with doom, hyper-extending the glowering metallic darkness of King Crimson from the ’70s and then their later 2000s material backward into more jazzy prog territories and textures. The juxtaposition of the instrumental palette versus what Wilson makes them play genre-wise creates a stark and terrifying emotional frisson, like a blanket of darkness covering up the noonday sky. Here the lingering hope of the previous tracks, surviving as a small fire in the dark winter of isolation and loneliness, inverts itself, becomes a furnace for malice and Luciferic terror. It feels like an imagistic reworking of that initial King Crimson material on the first four records of the group which sought at least in part to evoke the character of the Crimson King in regal, corruptive, Satanic glory.
The second disc opens with the instrumental “Belle du Jour,” French for “beauty of the day,” which presents an unnerving image of the emotional state of the primary figure of the record. Here, that cataclysmic darkness torn into the air by “Raider Prelude” and poured out in “Remainder the Black Dog” has cracked the psyche, turned ugly things beautiful and despair into joy; it sounds like some smiling in ashen air. “Index” and “Track One” expand on this narratively, showing the narrator descending into the warped normality of their psychosis in obsessive-compulsive cataloging, radical derealization transforming the world into stark data to be entered into vast databases to make the world perfect and rational and knowable, while the second showcases a Beatlesque opening of the inductive psychosis terror psychedelia licks at only to crash into sour and menace. The first time I heard the track I had headphones on, listening to the music video in the weeks before Grace for Drowning‘s release. When the music faded and trickled away like blood disappearing in a perfect white sink basin drain only to punch back in minor-key terrifying scream, I literally threw my headphones across the room and screamed.
The penultimate track is the 23-minute epic “Raider II,” the final breech of pure elemental darkness the entire record had been threatening toward for its full runtime. It’s based loosely on the American serial killer Dennis Rader, describing him in some of the most profoundly dark jazz-rock, prog, drone and heavy metal put to tape. This is still, by my estimation, one of the darkest songs I’ve ever heard, giving flesh to the terror it seeks to portray in a way that even a great deal of my beloved heavy metal struggles with. “Raider II” pours forth like a doom metal paean of perpetual suffering as we witness the narrator of the emotional arc of this record succumb to the breeching darkness in their gut, opening up like a universe of black and fuschia, a colorless multiverse. It acts as a compendium of the sonic ideas of the album as a whole, recapitulating the overture of “Raider Prelude” as well as interpolating genre and arrangement ideas from previous pieces without directly musically quoting them. “Raider II” is the singularity around which the other tracks are built, placed where it is so that this album, which is not a concept album, can still have the emotional arc and sense of emotional cohesion as if it were. It is not just the song itself that’s a masterclass in songwriting and playing, progressive or not, but also is a profound testament to Steven Wilson’s ability to create a novelesque album-length experience even out of songs that otherwise aren’t connected by narrative. This sense of emotional continuity and logic, a means of creating cohesion, is a key element to a deeper insight and understanding of what progressive music is and what it can be, an insight through which we can begin to see more and more music as connected to the broader prog canon even if it does not strictly cohere to the virtuosic symphonic jazz rock idiom of some of the greats of the genre.
The album closes with the relatively minor “Like Dust I Have Cleared From My Eye,” which also is the subtitle of the second disc. Its ambiguity matched with its genteel folk tone leaves a confounding mixture of relief and despair; it is unclear whether the dust cleared is the murder that occured within “Raider II” and we are witnessing the narrator descend into a new normal or whether the emotional events of the album are some sick, dark daydream which is now discarded after witnessing the brutal and amoral depraved depths it would lead to. In the realm of psychosis, where the walls of reality melt down and the permanent psychedelia of misattributed forms becomes the new shape of the world, it is perhaps both. This element spoke to me tremendously, suffering as I had from fits of psychosis myself in the years where alcohol, substances and mishandled medication would sometimes send me throttling into those terrifying blackened halls, manic fits lengthening into a perpetual shriek, hypersexuality caked in the writhing of insects.
The relationship ended. It was positive for me and my partner, the first steps on a healing road, one of those positive departures where you break up at the right time and remain happy for each other. Grace for Drowning was like a stone of those times, a bezoar, music and art calcifying around the grief and untreated mental illness and unprocessed trauma and compounding elements of my perpetual drunkenness. It felt like a map, a vision of hell, like Wilson was my own personal Virgil. It was a warning. An admonition. In its wake, I had to get my life right, something that would take years of slow, deliberate effort wrought with a seemingly endless procession of self-locking doors, hallways that moved backward and corridors that led to nothing. Grace for Drowning felt like a map, scalded and terrified but true. This kind of hefty emotional insight, the ability to slice like a heated saber through the cold clouds of irreason and illogic that cloud the path to self-betterment, was not something that came in spite of it being a prog album but because of it. Steven Wilson was able with his battalion of prog greats to summon great storms of material imbued with a freedom of motion, whether that motion be of the technical or aesthetic variety, and it was this series of endless permutations of melodic and rhythmic ideas that defines prog that allowed it to, like a liquid, pour so perfectly into the cracks of my psyche broken by grief and collapsing mental health.
This is an aspect of progressive music that I think most gets overlooked by its naysayers. Grace for Drowning wasn’t some nifty record full of technical wizardry and impossible licks to me; it was an emotional truth, a map, a key, a door, a gateway, a psychopomp, a grim omen, an admonition, a seer. We see this kind of language applied to punk records, soul records, rap records, grunge records, pop records, and not unduly; music seems endlessly capable, ironically due to its innate wordlessness, to press deeper into the contours of our shifting psychic sea of maps that pure language does, and the way lyrics drift like clouds over the stony seas and topographic oceans of music are like spires of Deleuzian insight piercing up from the depths. It becomes frustrating to see people refer to progressive music as somehow inherently unemotional, coldly cerebral, when it seems they’re more speaking their truth that it doesn’t speak to them. This is also a fault shared often by certain critics and critical spaces, people who do not earnestly seek to understand and grapple with the material in front of them or to interrogate their own unbridgeable perspective of work, mistaking perception (which we cannot escape!) for some kind of immutable and permanent insight about something’s true nature.
I can’t say anything as flighty as that for Grace for Drowning. What I can say is that it was my favorite album of the year it came out (the top three rounded out by Pain of Salvation’s Road Salt diptych and The Dear Hunter’s The Color Spectrum 9-EP conceptual project). I can say that it spoke to me in profound depth then and now; when I heard songs like “Postcard” or “Remainder the Black Dog,” I can picture the table in my parent’s home I was sitting in when I heard it, where I sat hunched over whiskey and beer as I rattled out words from the depths of my psychosis that were functionally unpublishable, where I began with shaking hands to seek to mend the cracks and and fissures of my profound and unprocessed grief. Grace for Drowning is an emotional event for me, one of healing through terror, like a shamanic initiation, the death of the ego through the unrelenting malice of an unconditionally indifferent darkness of the greater world sweeping away the cruel and stupid misconceptions about my supposed valor and perfection.
This is overblown, maybe; but it’s also a testament to the emotional and experiential value of this music. The story of Grace for Drowning is not just the historical factoids of its gear, the recording console, the lineup, the protracted songwriting process; it is also the story of the people it impacted, shaped and reshaped, of which I am one. This is how it reshaped me.
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Langdon Hickman is listening to progressive rock and death metal. He currently resides in Virginia with his partner and their two pets.