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Marillion - F E A R (F*** Everyone And Run) CD (album) cover





3.77 | 444 ratings

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4 stars A new Marillion album is always something of an `event' or cause for great celebration in the progressive rock community. The legendary late-Seventies group who completely transcended their Fish-era Neo-Prog origins and morphed into a contemporary-sounding crossover band went on to scale even greater heights with the arrival of vocalist Steve Hogarth, and it is this version of the band over twenty-five years later that remains stronger, more vital and more divisive amongst listeners than ever. Their eighteenth studio album `F.E.A.R' may not be a huge leap into unexpected territory for the group, but all the trademark moody and unhurried compositions, tender singing, cryptic lyrics and subtle instrumentation are there, as well as the disc being less concerned about including some of the catchier, more single-aimed pieces this time around - this one seems especially made for Marillion's loyal fanbase that have supported them making their distinctive type of music over the years, and it is those followers who will be the most rewarded.

`F*ck Everyone and Run' is an appropriate title for the frequently heavy lyrics and creeping dread of the themes that permeate the entire disc, although little traces of light and hope filter through here and there, and Steve Hogarth's smooth yet weary voice perfectly conveys the sadness of his words. Despite him dominating much of the sixty-eight minute disc, as always the first-rate musicians around him play with great subtlety, only rising up when more power is needed to lift the music in the more dramatic moments, which the band do with an exemplary skill like no other group. Four of the six compositions (although indexed into 17 separate tracks, so keep the CD booklet handy!) on offer present Marillion at their most measured and uncompromising, with only a couple of shorter pieces in between the longer works offering more direct tunes, although never close to being simplistic or radio-friendly.

Marillion are a textbook example of a band that can rarely be enjoyed instantly on a surface level and first listen, instead constant replays are needed to allow for the many meticulous and carefully arranged pieces to unveil their intricacies. Sure enough, risky five-part opener `El Dorado' is very slow to reveal itself and initially comes across as five fragments strung together, but a careful build and cohesive sense of flow gradually emerges after numerous listens. Soft acoustic guitar opens the disc over Hogarth's reflective words, a final twist bringing a sense of foreboding. Mark Kelly's icy synths (and yes, there are traces throughout this track that remind of their Neo sound of old!) and haunting electric piano rise in prominence, Pete Trewavas' bass grumbles along in the backdrop beside Ian Mosley's steady beat as Steve Rothery's majestic and perfectly executed slow-burn electric guitar soloing takes flight. Slinking electronics take a darker turn with the frequently melancholic lyric, with a growing heaviness that twists into the band building up a stormy air of desperation before a delicate, almost hopeful ending.

The first shorter piece, `Living in Fear' is a more compact pop/rocker that never aims to be radio-catchy, but it's still more straight-forward and instantly melodic than what came before, with the song holding a defiant air in amongst shimmering guitars and warm Hammond organ.

Nineteen-minute opus `The Leavers', compared to the fairly gloomy opener, is more optimistic and beautiful. Twinkling electronics glisten brightly and dreamy guitars chime sweetly before the piece suddenly bursts to life with a confident up- tempo beat, thick insistent grooving bass and a freed vocal swoon that turns chest-beating from Hogarth to instantly give the album a rush of energy. Pristine ambient passages, ruminative piano interludes with weeping guitar strains and grand orchestral symphonic synths all feature in amongst powerful bombastic blasts, and the victorious pomp in the climax all help to leave the impression that this is an anthem-like modern Marillion classic full of warmth and great hope, one their fans are sure to go crazy for.

`White Paper' is the next shorter break, an emotional ballad with energetic little poppy spots to fire up the stark piano, all driven by Hogarth's sombre and achingly personal vocal that always remains dignified and sympathetic.

Then it's back for one more lengthy workout, and the near-seventeen minute `The New Kings' sees Marillion at their most heavy and inspired. It's especially a superb showcase for both Rothery, who's guitar weaves in and out of the piece with great power and the effortless skill that only a master guitarist can deliver (and he's frequently proudly `proggy' with lengthy soloing spots too!) and the powerhouse drumming of Ian Mosley, who's given so much to do on this track, offering plenty of expertly delivered variety. A damning political lyric is given life by stirring orchestration, doomed organ, snarling guitar and pounding drums, often set to Hogarth's deceptively tragic sweetly purred falsetto vocal. The extended instrumental build and haunting female chorus vocal of the middle passage `Russia's Locked Doors' is simply sublime, leading to a ferocious and breathless ending of runaway piano and cinematic synths. `Tomorrow's New Country' is then simply a sparse and haunting two-minute coda to close on.

Despite Hogarth being such a charismatic singer, the disc is very lyric/vocal heavy and could have done with more purely instrumental passages, which completely make the album take flight and grab the attention when they do show up. But it's hugely satisfying when the band deliver dense and challenging works like this in comparison to their more straight-forward `song'-based albums such as `Somewhere Else', and they constantly remind why they're such prog-rock icons when they're at their most complex, confident and personally self-indulgent as they are here.

It takes years and later perspective to figure out which Marillion works are their defining releases, but for now, `F.E.A.R' is the kind of album that connects with the most intelligent and patient of progressive music listeners, and it's another smart and carefully considered artistic success for this prog-rock institution.

Four stars.

Aussie-Byrd-Brother | 4/5 |


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