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Marillion - Brave CD (album) cover

BRAVE

Marillion

 

Neo-Prog

3.98 | 1036 ratings

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DominicS
5 stars I've only very recently become aware of Marillion's music after listening to Steven Wilson endlessly, but after hearing of Wilson's appreciation of Marillion I decided to delve into 'Brave' - and what a masterpiece of music it is. The album is a glorious attempt at imagining the life of a young woman who was found wandering the Severn bridge, clueless of who she was and why she was there. It is a very dark album, many of the songs being very moody and reflective but that is the beauty of it - Marillion create this emotionally raw narrative that refuses to sugar coat anything. What's more, Hogarth's expressive voice perfectly fits with the mood of this album (Fish's voice is nothing compared to Hogarth's). This has to be the best Marillion album and possibly one of the most powerful gifts ever given to the prog world as I have never been so overwhelmed after a first listen of a piece of music.

'Bridge' is such a powerful start to the album, gifting the listener with these huge chords that are often discordant, reflecting the grand scale of the Severn bridge but also the danger of being up there alone. This then fades into just Hogarth's voice accompanied by a piano - what a perfect way to introduce his gentle but hypnotic voice. 'Living with the Big Lie' begins the story of the young woman being born, carrying on this gentleness which is so suited to the early stages of life. The isolated harmonics on Rothery's guitar are so extremely delicate which is nicely complemented by Hogarth's voice, in which every breath he takes can be clearly heard - it requires the listener's full attention as it could be so easily missed, but it is such an enchanting moment. The song then grows in intensity to symbolise the young woman's growing anger as a teenager; this sort of build similarly happens in 'Runaway Girl', however, to me, this is the darkest song on the album. The main guitar riff is excellent, it's so dark and brooding and suggests that something is about to kick off. My favourite part of this song has got to be Rothery's guitar solo; it is a great example of how a solo should be crafted, with the intention of being able to tug at the listener's heartstrings. I much prefer this sort of soloing rather than the excessive and soulless shredding that some guitarists favour. These first three tracks always greatly impress me but its 'Goodbye to All That'' that I find the most interesting out of all the songs on the album. Firstly, the narrative returns to the scenes on the bridge; this return to the present is mirrored musically by the return of the melody from 'Bridge'. When I first realised this, I was astounded by just how clever this album is, using musical motifs to assist the listener in following the complex narrative - wow! The rest of the song focuses on the young woman's use of drugs which again is intelligently aided by the music. The most intriguing part of the song is 'The Slide' due to how ambiguous it is, there is no structure to it and no main melody - almost quite chaotic. In my opinion, this resembles the effect of drugs on the human body so effectively, it is clear to see just how well organised this album is and how much thought has gone into it.

Songs such as 'Hard as love' and 'Alone Again in the Lap of Luxury' provide light relief from the heavier themes on the album. 'Hard as Love', for example, conveys the struggles of love with the young woman's parents and past boyfriends. It has more of a classic rock feel, is in a major key and is the catchiest on the album which allows a break from the melancholy of the rest of the album. This break, however, is only brief as 'The Hollow Man' takes the listener back into the narrative's darker parts, exploring the emptiness that the young woman feels due to her past experiences. The song itself is bare and empty for the most part, limited to just a piano and heavily reverbed vocals to really emphasise the expansive bareness of the young woman - so simple but also very meaningful. The song 'Brave' is another atmospheric piece that describes the emotional state of the young woman; what touches me most is the drive in Hogarth's voice on the lyrics 'She's Gone' - it's so irrevocably moving. 'The Great Escape', whilst being a great song, is not the strongest on the album in my opinion, contrary to what many may believe. Despite my opinion, this song cleanly wraps up the narrative, revealing the reasons of the young woman's suicidal thoughts. What I do highly admire about this song is the ending, the guitar solo is epic, and the chords make it a highly passionate conclusion. However, it cannot beat 'Made Again', a song that I keep playing over and over again. It works in two parts, the first featuring a quiet fingerpicked guitar and vocals but the second part is where I fall in love. The guitar abruptly begins strumming these harmonically rich chords based on the fingerpicking in the first half and Hogarth sings his heart out in a high range for his voice. These chords stay the same for the rest of the song, but the intensity of the song grows until the end and instils an uplifting feeling into the listener to cheer them up. While it adds nothing new to the narrative, it finishes the album gloriously.

This album truly is a masterpiece in the prog world, it stands out from other concept albums due to how well planned it is and how complex it has been made, both to listen to and understand. Every time I listen to it, I hear something new or I realise something that I had never known before - it is an album that just keeps on giving. I don't think anybody will ever be able to fully comprehend its genius which is why it's so damn good. From the album cover to the music to the narrative - everything about it is awe-inspiring.

DominicS | 5/5 |

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