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Marillion - An Hour Before It's Dark CD (album) cover





4.00 | 243 ratings

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4 stars As I was starting to delve into the world of progressive rock, my dad recommended me to listen to an album called 'Misplaced Childhood' by some band named Marillion. Reluctantly, I listened to the album. From the first note of "Pseudo Silk Kimono," I was hooked and became a Marillion fan in 2018. That means that 'An Hour Before It's Dark' was the first Marillion album I listened to on the day of release. Not only that, but I pre-ordered the album. I received a special edition, signed digipack. This included the CD, a booklet full of magnificent artwork, and a making of DVD. But my favorite thing about pre-ordering the album was that when it arrived, I searched through all the names of the people who pre-ordered the album (because Marillion are cool like that) and contemplated mine once I spotted it. Even though it was minuscule, I felt like I contributed to the album in some way and was "credited." That was a very special moment for me.

'An Hour Before It's Dark' is the 20th studio album from Marillion, released on 4 March 2022. The band have expressed before that they didn't want 'An Hour Before It's Dark' to be another COVID record, which would date the album. However, Steve Hogarth has also said that it was nearly impossible for the affects of the pandemic to not creep into his lyrics, given its relevance to his personal life and the world as a whole.

'An Hour Before It's Dark' contains seven tracks, four of which are suites. The first suite and opening track, "Be Hard On Yourself," consists of three sections: i. The Tear in the Big Picture, ii. Lust for Luxury, and iii. You Can Learn. The second suite, "Reprogram the Gene," also consists of three sections: i. Invincible, ii. Trouble-Free Life, and iii. A Cure for Us? The penultimate track, "Sierra Leone," consists of five sections: i. Chance in a Million, ii. The White Sand, iii. The Diamond, iv. The Blue Warm Air, and v. More Than a Treasure. The closing track, "Care," consists of four sections: i. Maintenance Drugs, ii. An Hour Before It's Dark, iii. Every Cell, and iv. Angels on Earth.

Before I heard 'An Hour Before It's Dark,' I wasn't sure what to expect. The previous record, 'FEAR,' was a massive disappointment for me and is probably my least favorite Marillion record. Nevertheless, 'FEAR' was released six years before the release of 'An Hour Before It's Dark.' Not only has a decent amount of time passed, but a lot has happened within those six years. The tracklist of this album reflects that of 'FEAR' due to the multipart suite format, which was worrisome. However, all of my doubts dissipated the moment I heard the opening track, "Be Hard On Yourself."

Finally, we're back into the heaviness and grandiosity that was last seen on 'Sounds That Can't Be Made.' The urgency of the lyrics are reflected in the accompaniment well. "Be Hard On Yourself" is more cohesive than any of the suites from 'FEAR.' The following track, "Reprogram the Gene," is my least favorite song on 'An Hour Before It's Dark." In my opinion, the music doesn't flow well. This is especially apparent when hearing the abrupt shift between "Invincible" and "Trouble-Free Life." I also dislike the constant references to Greta Thunberg, or Greta "T," which take me out of the music slightly.

"Only a Kiss" is a 40-second instrumental prelude to "Murder Machines." I like the espionage atmosphere created in this brief interlude which bleeds seamlessly into "Murder Machines." This is a beautifully crafted rock song with a melancholic undertone. The Choir Noir and the In Praise of Folly String Quartet are featured on the ethereal "The Crow and the Nightingale." This song sounds enormous with the vast instrumentation, almost like it could be used in a soundtrack. Steve Rothery's guitar solo on "The Crow and the Nightingale" is one of his absolute best.

"Sierra Leone" is an extended piece that's driven by Mark Kelly's piano and acts as a foil to the climactic track that preceded it. Ten minutes might be a bit long for a mellow piece such as this, but I do enjoy parts of it. The 15-minute closing track, "Care," is similar to "The Leavers" in the sense that everything leading up to the final section (in this case, "Angels on Earth") is somewhat forgettable, but the final section is excellent.

In conclusion, Marillion prove that they still have a lot of creativity left in them with the release of 'An Hour Before It's Dark.' Despite the heavy subject matter that's explored on this album, the music is surprisingly upbeat. For a band that has been around as long as Marillion, I am truly astonished with how they can continue to release wonderful music that moves me. I am also pleased to hear that Marillion didn't continue going down the 'FEAR' path and produced something that was different, while still containing elements of past works. There are some minor criticisms I have that are found throughout the album, such as lack of cohesiveness in most of the suites. The biased side of me wants to rate 'An Hour Before It's Dark' five stars. However, I must give this album four stars, for reasons previously mentioned.

Magog2112 | 4/5 |


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