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Fish - A Feast of Consequences CD (album) cover





3.96 | 442 ratings

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5 stars Fish's solo career after leaving Marillion has had many high points - indeed, just about every studio album of his since Sunsets On Empire has been a credit to his name - but it's never shone quite as brightly as Marillion's.

Part of this is that Fish seemed to take a little longer than Marillion to adjust to the new circumstances - whilst Marillion were able to maintain a lot of momentum with the solid Seasons' End, Fish's early studio albums were decidedly hit and miss affairs, with Fish and his various musical collaborators taking a while to settle on Fish's solo sound (which I'd argue was only finally teased out by the great Steven Wilson on Sunsets On Empire). Although Fish would eventually start producing albums that were every bit as special - even if they did have a different artistic emphasis - than the material his old cohorts in Marillion were producing, it took a good long time for him to start doing that, and by 1997 too many listeners had already written him off. (Sunsets On Empire performed miserably on its initial commercial release.)

But that's not the whole story, of course - you also need to consider that Fish has suffered more than his fair share of bouts of ill fortune and chaotic circumstances in his personal life over the years. Has some of it been self-inflicted? I'm sure the man who gave us the booze- soaked confessional of Clutching At Straws would be the first to admit that. Fish, however, has proved to be a true survivor with a knack for taking his personal experiences and turning them into fuel for his artistic fire - knock him down and he'll just write a song about the experience.

A Feast of Consequences is the perfect example of this. Emerging a full six years after the premier of 13th Star, its predecessor, it comes after a truly rollercoaster half-decade for Fish. 13th Star was a solid effort, and the fifth of an unbroken streak of high quality solo albums (I wouldn't rate a single Fish release after Sunsets On Empire at less than four stars myself), and Fish's career was looking brighter than it had for quite some time. As well as undertaking a successful US tour, he also landed a DJing spot on the UK's Planet Rock - putting him in the company of rock legends such as Alice Cooper - and his solo career finally seemed to be creeping towards the sort of prestige and high profile it deserved.

Then came a devastating rush of ill-fortune. A marriage forged and broken in the space of mere months would be a dramatic incident in anyone's life, but it was put into the shade by a health scare in which doctors had to investigate a growth on Fish's throat. Thankfully, it didn't prove to be cancer and surgery dealt with the problem, but these incidents combined to yet again put a dark cloud over Fish's solo career. This is a release which had to answer big, big questions: namely, could Fish still sing, is he in an emotional state to deliver a high- quality album, and are his musical collaborators up to the task of supporting him?

The answer to all of these is a resounding "Yes"! Anyone expecting the high notes of Script For a Jester's Tear will be disappointed, but they'd be fools to expect such a treat in any case - age happens, after all, but Fish's age-mellowed voice is a delight to listen to this time around. Musically, he's reunited in the studio for the first time since Raingods With Zippos (that I'm aware of) with Robin Boult, a long-time collaborator, and most of the band from 13th Star make a welcome return here. And lyrically, Fish's wit - never exactly dull - is as sharp as I can ever remember it being - take, for instance, All Loved Up, a second look at the themes of Incommunicado for the present generation of celebrity; Fish's lyrics cleverly evoke the naivety and self-deception of the song's narrator, a wannabe celebrity in well over his head.

Fans of Fish's prog past will not be disappointed either, since the album features a multi- part epic - tracks 5 to 9 form the five-part High Wood suite, a meditation on the costs of war. Fish has always had a good relationship with the armed forces, I suspect at least partly because despite his brash reputation he's actually a very thoughtful and considerate lyricist who is one of the few people out there who can write an anti-war song which expresses thorough horror and revulsion at the atrocities of war whilst also shedding a tear for those who've been tasked with fighting it and the emotional, moral, and physical cost war exerts on them - and he's been writing such songs ever since Forgotten Sons on Script. Here, his long-form rumination on fallen soldiers weaves in aspects of the traditional martial music of the British armed forces to create a piece which is at once recognisable as part of the progressive rock epic tradition but equally draws on influences that aren't usually heard in a prog context.

Fish and Marillion aren't ever likely to have a full-blown reunion - Steve Hogarth and Marillion are too tightly bonded as a unit for H to be ejected this late in the game for starters - but with this excellent album coming out a year after Marillion issued their own late career masterpiece in the form of Songs That Can't Be Made, I think it's fair to say that Fish and Marillion are now neck-and-neck in terms of the quality of their output and the power of their artistic vision. We don't know how many five-star albums either party has left in them, but I'm glad Fish was able to get this one out. It's a career peak on a par with and possibly even eclipsing Sunsets On Empire, and proof positive that over two decades after his solo debut Fish is maturing like a fine wine - certainly, there aren't many fish of this vintage who smell this good!

Warthur | 5/5 |


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