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Marillion - Radiation CD (album) cover





2.70 | 523 ratings

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3 stars The test...

i was tempted to alter my "headline" into "the stresstest" - because "stresstest" has been chosen to be the official German "word of the year 2011"... AND because - apart from Steve Hogarth who had to undergo his very personal "stresstest" during that time, suffering from insomnia - a superficial listen to "Radiation" indeed may be a "stresstest" for the average prog-fan as well... but that's not the point I really wanted to make. I think this album is a test for Marillion-Fans. Cause if you are, you may miss a lot of what you love about the band first. You may find it a transitional if not confusing piece in their output. Some may even dismiss it for the band to have gone wrong, lost track, or simply acted ill-advised. Others may dislike its shape and the way it sounds, think it was a failure of production while they appear to like the songs. Concerning the long track at the end, you may shake your head in embarrassment if you expected it to be "prog-rock" - but you may as well be ready to pass that "test" in spite of it all. Cause, whatever you think, remember this: With this band you were always in danger to be misled by your expectations, at least since the arrival of Steve Hogarth had taken place. And each new album somewhat had supposedly become a bag of surprises, good or bad ones, depending on your taste. They dislike to repeat themselves. Considering this, "Radiation" is no less than a typical Marillion-album. It's not that odd at all !

So free yourself from expectations, please, and for once more have a listen without prejudice... but please give the album more than just a few, cause in the very first place it's a grower ( my first "headline" had been "the grower" but I thought that "the test" was even better ). It's needing time to finally get to you. And at the moment when it finally does, you will gladly find you have passed the test - cause you're worthy. You've just proven to be a real fan of this band. And they thank you for it with a huge amount of pleasure. You'll stop wondering about how strange this album first sounded to you, you'll start wondering why other people don't seem to like it. And, my personal tip: before you listen to any other new Marillion-album, put on this one, cause it helps you to get ready for and exited about the next marvelous bag of surprises. "Radiation" can always free you of misconceptions and false expectations - and if it serves you to, you just have dug into the deeper truth of what this band is really about. As such a delighted and devoted fan, you won't want them to do another "Seasons end" or "Brave" ( or, for those who prefer it, AOS ) anymore. You already own those albums, don't you ? You'll want a new bag of surprises cause you can play those well known ones to death if you like, no problem at all. Every fan can pick his very own favorite. Blessed we are. And blessed I am.

"Radiation" is a grower and, like every Marillion-Album ( with, perhaps, the exception of the final shape that "Holidays in Eden" had taken ), it's a honest piece of music. It doesn't pretend to be anything else than what it is, and it doesn't pretend the band were anybody else but Marillion with a ) their very own tastes and influences and b ) their very own, admirable skills. But it's the music ( and lyrics ) standing in the foreground, the music that keeps melting all those things into one, capturing the moments of its creation, representing the state of progression at the time it was made. As a reader of PA. you may now ask yourself what's so special or "progressive" about that, cause this should be a regular thing with every band, but although you're absolutely right you better recognize that in many ( too many... ) cases it is not, and Marillion remain an example of how it should be !

Phew. What a long introduction without having said much about the music on this disc, sorry, but I obviously needed to say this and I think that a review for "Radiation" is such a seductive place to do it, because I love that Album, but it took me some time. The rating has been lowered by myself especially for this site, cause I don't want you to think I was cheating - but at the same time it's hurting me personally to not see a fourth star gracing it combined with my name. Perhaps I desperately seek to make up for that with the words that, as highly recommended, should say more than the rating - and ought not be limited.

With "This strange Engine", Marillion just had re-invented themselves, and perhaps the most important thing about its successor is that ( and how ) they managed to keep that spark of new found freshness alive. Dave Meegan was not involved in this project, which may have led to the final result not sounding as perfect as it could, but with Stewart Every's assistance it sounded as alive and authentic as it could. He and the band seemed to avoid every unnecessary bit of paint or polish in order to capture the spirit of the moment. And this is what the spirit of that moments says: "We are a ROCKband. Let's give ourselves and our fans a reminder and let's have fun altogether. There's a myriad of things we love about Rockmusic, especially - but not exclusively - British Rockmusic, and we're sure our fans do the same. We got that "prog"-tag but being progressive means being and staying open-minded and that's what we are. Let's progress in making some noise the way we love to do it right now, the way it's coming out. We got nothing else to prove than the simple fact that we are alive as a band can be and in our music we'll continue to hold that spark - the only way to escape false expectations and preconceptions is by not meeting them and going our own way, going further one more cause there ain't no need to go back to where we've already been. We're proud of where we've been and what we did, but we want to be proud of what we're doing right now just as much when one day we're supposed to look back at this one, too... and for us, this means: the journey isn't over yet, and we don't know where we will arrive but for sure we won't arrive in a place that's dull or boring just because we became self-indulgently repetitive !"

I do not really know if they thought ( exactly ) so but "Radiation" feels that way, and, lord, it feels so good. It's a pretty good attitude for making an album. An album that came in an unexpected quick succession to TSE and had to deal with its singer suffering from insomnia. Steve Hogarth was going through a personal hell, struggling to get over and find a way out, and though the Album sounds far from being so depressive there's an impressive document of that struggle on it, the unusual heavy "Cathedral Wall". Catharsis from desperation to release - perfectly expressed in song, and, linked with "These Chains" ( good one but false pick for a single ), a disturbing emotional journey that does make the darker side of this album. You can take this darker side without being over-strained cause on the album as a whole you still get the impression of the whole band having enjoyed themselves quite a lot, though Hogie may have only been able to do so in parts. I guess that making "Radiation" was an essential part of the healing-process... cause I'm sure it must have helped. But no matter how impressive this personal "center-piece" became, it's the first 4 songs ( if you don't count the intro as a single one ) that I like the most about this album.

Those four songs finally make it for one of the best song-sequences on any of their albums. I honestly love "Under the Sun" ( it somehow reminds me of Deep Purple, while the intro is a funny hint at the Beach Boys ), "The answering machine" ( It's taking off... blowing your ears out with a somewhat Scottish folk-flair taken into heavier dimensions ), "Three minute Boy" ( lyrically, it's a companion of "King", but the music is as Beatles as Marillion can be - their "Hey Jude", if you like ) and "Now she'll never know" ( goosebumps all over my skin - such a marvelous expression of a broken heart by your own guilt, silently killing the listener with one of Hogie's very best singing-performances... making perfectly clear what it means when he laments: "she told me to go to hell... and here I am !" OMG... what an emotional moment, special regards to Pete Trewavas for sensitively strumming the acoustic guitar once more,I love it when he does ). 5 stars for this, no less, no matter how average it may sound to anybody wanting Marillion to re-do "Close to the Edge". And thumbs up with 4 stars for the experiment at the end, where Marillion meet world-music and ambient for the first time after "Tales from the engine room" had pointed out a way of how they themselves could approach it: "A few words for the dead".

What to say to anybody who won't listen ? It's a dream just to think that anyone who's about to bring destruction with a violent act of terror ever would. But trying to find the words that eventually would not only be ignored but punished was quite worth the attempt. Hogie has a heart - and he's not ashamed to show it by drenching it out to us. Wonderful it is but just as painful to know that "the dead" won't hear, cause "the dead" can't listen. Thank you - say the living.

That's about the most of this. But it has to be said that, just like "Hope for the Future" on "This strange Engine", there's a miss on "Radiation" as well... and the miss is ( Hey ! I'm a Springsteen-Fan ! You can't do that, dare you ??? ) named "Born to Run". That's a tedious attempt at a "Blues"-Song that, it has to be said, is not even Blues - neither is it really a song. It's just superfluous for an elseway very good album that may bring the average prog-fan so close to the edge that I'm not allowed to give it more than a 3 star-rating here. I'm expecting to be rewarded with your praises, folks ! ( No, don't do it, it was only a test. Better pass THIS one ).

rupert | 3/5 |


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