Sounds That Can't Be Heard
added: 23 Sep 2012
// release date: 17 Sep 2012 // label: Ear Music
reviewer: David Spencer
On this new album’s penultimate track (Lucky Man) lead singer Steve Hogarth sings of “having everything that I want” in a proud beating of his chest that seems to sum up the existence of Marillion and their loyal fanbase. The model to which they have stuck over the last twelve years is both an intriguing and admirable one. Well known for using fans’ support to directly fund their records, without the backing of a record company’s chequebook, the band have continued to survive and thrive to reach this, their 17th studio album.
The plusses and minuses of such a business model in the music industry are too complex to discuss in one review, but the band’s operation is surely a perfect model for others to explore, as the industry continues to streamline and the number of labels reduces year by year. Also admirable is the longevity of the band during a period of nostalgic reunions, break-ups and re-reunions! Since removing themselves from the record label chains and restrictions, the band has developed a unique sound and firmly pushed against all that is fashionable.
Such freedom can aid creativity but it can also mean a lack of quality control if you are not careful. Both are evident here. Across the 70 or more minutes, Marillion can sound plodding and ponderous (the politically scarred Gaza and the ballad Pour My Love for example) but they can also produce rock that is a match for anyone out there, such as on the startling Power and Invisible Ink, which begins with a chill-out feel before a soaring chorus.
Marillion’s sound since 1989 has been dominated by two main factors. The vocals of Steve Hogarth, and the seering guitar of Steve Rothery. Here the former once again proves to be one of British rock’s finest vocalists, with an ability to combine tender balladry and angst in equal measure. He can portray emotion at both ends of the scale beautifully and effectively, as on the opening epic Gaza and the aforementioned Lucky Man.
Steve Rothery’s guitar is sounding more and more like David Gilmour’s and here it lifts a number of the tracks from the mundane, such as on the sprawling travelogue Montreal and the closing Sky Above the Rain. The band says the album took longer to record because the process was more disjointed, with touring and travelling. In a way that disjointed feel seeps through to the tracks, with no set style or flow. Nevertheless, the moments of magic just outweigh the negative.
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