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Marillion - Afraid Of Sunlight CD (album) cover





3.80 | 713 ratings

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3 stars the burnout...

I know that this album nowadays is ranking as the most popular amongst hardcore-fans of the Hogarth-Era, and several times it has been cited as band member's personal favorite ( including Hogie himself ), too. And though it's full of beautiful sounding music again - to me, it definitely cannot be... so my personal opinion ( and taste ) may be one of the ( minor ) reasons that led to "Afraid of Sunlight" being "underrated" - as I have read that it would be several times. Sorry. It's fine with me if you like it - I never said it was bad. Some say it's underrated because it's been overshadowed by its predecessor - and I'm sure that "Brave" really is a main reason for AOS to have become the far lesser album that, at least to me, it really is ( and has remained from 1995 to this day ). Why ?

It's not really a bad album, but I have to struggle with myself to call it a good one. It's probably the best album the band was able to do in 1995 - so I gladly grace it with a third star - but in 1995 they were so exhausted from having made ( and toured ) their absolute masterpiece that, giving AOS one more spin ( I'm doing it far more often than you may think, if only to get a grip on why anybody can truly say it was better than "Brave" ), all I can say is they should have taken a breather, cause they needed time to recover, gather new power and refocus themselves before making another album... they were sort of burned out and this is what is coming through on AOS, from the first note to the last. Well, a "burnt out Marillion" is still better than lots of other bands at their peak, but it's still a disappointment cause they have to live up to the quality of... well, not Brave, this I did not expect, but let's say "Seasons end", okay ? They had set the stake that high. And they surely can reach it - if only they are in good shape, not at the end of their nerves. But that's what they were - and, if you read the booklet of the remastered double-disc, they don't deny.

They can be proud of that album because they managed to come up with it in spite of that - but I don't exactly know why they decided to, cause it would have been wiser to wait and not "knock it out" in that short amount of time ( "short", here, is a relative thing concerning Marillion, yep, I have read that, too ). But they did it as their final output for EMI, who, after the rather disappointing sales of "Brave", would not renew their contract. We're all glad that AOS did only become Marillion's swansong for that label and not for themselves... and I'm sure that what saved it from being a complete disaster was the assistance of Dave Meegan, who, by this time, had been handed over more and more control over the final product ( well, that's more like a producer then ) than anyone ever got from this band, because they themselves were simply... ahem... a little indisposed if not unable. No wonder when you're as powered-out as can be and walking on your own nerve-endings, innit ? And nothing to be ashamed of. As Dave Meegan had proved to be the perfect partner with "Brave" this faithful act surely helped to make AOS a bearable affair, cause he managed to make it sound. And, good chap he is, he did not take the soul out of it. What you hear is where they were. And how they must felt. Emotional indeed... with what's left of whatever emotions there were and what the musicians were able to wrench ( squeeze ? ) out of themselves. Fragments the most. Nice fragments. Beautiful fragments. Fragments linked together. And a few ones that made the grade and really became songs.

But only a few ones. It works best with the title-track. Standing alone - it's a killer, it really is. Even the feel of exhaustion fits to it perfectly, as Hogie bears his wounded soul out to great effect and with - for once - a great melody. It's followed by "Out of this World". Actually, "Out of this World" is no coherent song at all. It's 4 of the most beautiful fragments they had linked together. And because they are so beautiful - and complement each other very well without making it a song - "Out of this world" is another outstanding piece on this album. Other tunes, which are rather songs to me, sadly sound a bit unfinished in their arrangement ( "Beautiful" - less would have been more, as its gorgeous "unplugged"-versions so delictately demonstrate ) or as a composition ( "Cannibal Surf Babe" - great arrangement ! ), or simply could have needed a bit more power in their execution ( "Gazpacho" - i quite like all its basic ideas, but even Mark Kelly's trademark-keyboards do not save it from sounding tired - a typical example for a song that just wasn't recorded at the right time ). The others ( fragments again ) deal with repetitive singing-lines under-layed by changing chord-structures without developing a melody ( "Beyond you", "King" ) and, in charge of the same melodical absence, "Afraid of Sunrise" has its chord-structure remaining the same ( and very simple ) one from start to finish, so it must get a mention for being the very low point of the album, a bore ( sorry ).

No, that's not enough... and, sorry Steve H, you've been outvoted for good with "Icon", though... okay, it's a little more interesting than "Afraid of Sunrise". It's a nice pastiche, no more. I'm still surprised how great finally "King" came to be on "Anorak in the UK", full of tension and power, while here it sounds like a whimsical cry ending in useless, empty thunder ( cacophony as a solution when inspiration is absent ), but on the other hand it proves that, in good shape, those guys are able to turn even lesser musical ideas into blistering strokes of music, so I'm waiting for the versions of "Beyond you" and "Afraid of Sunrise" that can make me change my mind about their originals. "Cannibal Surf Babe", ashamedly hidden on "Less is more", has already been executed to my full satisfaction. Here you can hear those great musicians struggle to give and give and give but the way it's coming out is below par. You may even get caught by where they wanted to go with the music ( and, on the way, mistake loudness for power, sparkless soundscapes for beauty etc. ) but this does not change the audible truth that, by then, they had not arrived yet.

There can be no doubt that "Afraid of Sunlight" could have been as great as some fans claim it to be, but "Brave" had to take its toll by then. It's to their credit that, afterwards, Marillion have reinvented themselves and started anew with fresh and powerful material, but in 1995 their previous achievements had taken the best out of them and I was afraid that soon they'll have to call it a day ! Thank god they did not. I somehow envy everyone who is able to enjoy AOS so much they cite it as their favorite, it could as well have been the end, a blind alley with no way out. But for me, the title track and "Out of this world" are not enough to ever call it an essential album. But those two are the best moments to be heard - and, as I said, other tracks came into full bloom later. It's no more than a bare three stars, at times it's only two again, you make the choice and I honestly hope that the guys can forgive me, I'm a big fan but to rate this record any higher is a ( self- ) deceptive thing... imho.

rupert | 3/5 |


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