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Marillion - Radiation CD (album) cover

RADIATION

Marillion

 

Neo-Prog

2.71 | 548 ratings

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SteveG
4 stars "Radiation 2013" or "Radiation Remixed", as it's come to be known, is never a welcoming salvo for a rock music fan. But it gets us to the heart of the matter. Radiation, first released in it's original sound mix album form in 1998, despite it's incendiary cover art, was not a Marillion album that set the world on fire. The album, like the band, were going independent. Well, at least as far as record labels were concerned after splitting from the massive EMI label after Afraid Of Sunlight.

The band soon began trying to find their feet, first with excellent but heavily acoustic album This Strange Engine before trying again with Radiation. This Strange Engine featured some excellent prog songs, with different song presentations and style, and was given a pass as being Marillion's "This Strange Album." Something akin to a prog group doing the unplugged thing, but not taking the music that far into the world of acoustic. That would happen on the group's album Less Is More some ten years later.

However, Radiation definitely showed growing pains as the songs were less progressively epic and seemed to lack drama, which is saying quite a lot for a Marillion album. Of course, excellent songs like The Three Minute Boy, These Chains, and A Few Words For The Dead have drama in spades, but somehow seemed incapable of conveying it. The problem? The sound mix, naturally, as as the band could not possibly do any wrong, so they thought. "It's the mix! Let's fix it!"

Well, it's not that simple as the original mix, a bit cluttered and noisy, was not a disaster. The 2013 remix, for the sake of simplicity, generally adds greater clarity and detail, especially to the rhythm section. With the removal of "backing vocals probably by H, Pete and Mark" as well as removing Hogarth's ghost vocals and overdubs, this helps the instruments to come more to the fore and become the backing voices of the songs, and places Hogarth as more of a single narrator of the songs. A simple trick, but not really the cure. But as I said, it's an admission that the group somehow dropped the ball. And that's sad as Radiation, both the original and remixed versions have their virtues and fine moments, with Cathedral Wall and A Few Words For The Dead (with it's lush middle eastern vibe that seems to predate the song Gaza from Sounds That Can't Be Made) are wonderfully heavy keyboard and guitar based songs that display a rare interplay between Mark Kelly and Steve Rothery. Steve Hogarth's vocals are as always earnest, if not as precious this time around, and the usual call and response bass and drum playing by Pete Trewavas and Ian Mosley are in full display.

So what was wrong? Perhaps people just expected too much. Radiation is not Marillion's best album nor their worst. It's good and deserves a listen without any preconceptions or unreasonable expectations. Personally, I love all the members of Marillion for giving me a wealth of music to enjoy for the last 30 years. I just never considered them to be infallible, which is probably why I can enjoy this album on it's own terms. 3.5 stars rounded up to 4.

SteveG | 4/5 |

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