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Marillion - Brave CD (album) cover





3.97 | 1001 ratings

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4 stars Superb, beautiful album

While not the biggest Neo-prog fan you'll find at PA, I have to join the side of those who proclaim "Brave" to be a great album. Oddly enough I don't consider it to be "sad" or "depressing" as many do-but then I don't consider "The Wall" depressing either. What I hear in Brave is uplifting musically and without a question one of the most beautifully and delicately constructed albums of the 90s. Gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous. The story may be a sad tale but the music parts are often so beautiful that they lift me up rather than make for a melancholic album.

Brave is one of those subtle albums that take many plays to truly reveal all the intricacies of its hand. It is a long conceptual feast of ambient and moody landscapes telling the story of a troubled young woman, but I actually believe it is meant to be a more sweeping social commentary on our fading humanity, life priorities, etc. I love the fact that besides the fairly obvious rock of "Hard as Love" the band has made a very uncompromising album, placing texture and detail above crowd pleasing. It is definitely a more Floydian work than anything Genesis influenced, it sounds almost like taking the slow, brooding portions of "Shine On Your Crazy Diamond" and melting it into the lyrical short story style of "The Final Cut." You have Hogarth telling the story but doing so between these long delicious instrumental sections that are all about sound and atmosphere.some of the sections rock but most are just content to ooze melody and emotion. Pure music that takes time to appreciate but rewards tenfold once the connection is made. I find all of the performances to be exceptional across the board, dramatic, full of life and conviction. "Runaway" is a highlight with guitar work that grabs my head and my heart, a great solo but also dramatic buildup throughout, and these lovely drop-offs at the end of the build-ups. The only problem I have is the same one I have with The Final Cut. In the chasm between the soft and loud portions of the album it is really obnoxious dealing with the volume extremes. The soft portions can be very quiet and so I turn them up quite a bit because I want to hear everything.then you get absolutely pummeled when the rock kicks in, and that does drive me crazy.but I'll deal with it. The album's weakest moments without question fall into the 14 minutes devoted to "The Lap of Luxury thru Paper Lies" where you get some standard, rather boring sing-along rock. Given the length of the album it would have been perfect to condense this section way down-keep enough of the better parts to advance the narrative but perhaps cut down the repetitive parts. "Hollow Man" features some great lyrics about those who are essentially already dead as they slumber through work-a-day existences with "lies behind their eyes." In the finale of the final three tracks the band nicely wraps the album while going out with a bit of sunlight and hope.

"Brave is all about the spiritual aspect of life dominated by the non-spiritual, so we filled the songs with as many sounds and pictures as we could dream up-I sent out sound engineer out at dawn one morning to record silence for the beginning of the album!...I think of Brave like a Christmas cake full of hidden ingredients which only reveal themselves gradually. I can still listen to it and discover moments I don't remember being there before." [Hogarth] He also says that they had mikes set up everywhere in the Chateau Marouatte in the hopes of picking up "ghosts" and that he can feel them throughout the album. His advice is to play the album alone, in one sitting, loudly, and in the dark for maximum results. Hopefully you will hear some passing ghosts. There certainly is a presence, something hard to articulate, that hangs in the air throughout Brave. It is an achievement to package that kind of feeling into music that is entertaining.

This is my first Hogarth-era studio album but if it is representative of the quality of the era, then Marillion is miles ahead of the other bands I've heard from their genre. I look forward to hearing some of their other titles. It is a real shame they blew the film version of Brave, this music deserved so much better. Brave is a fantastic album that I would recommend to anyone into concept albums.

Finnforest | 4/5 |


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