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Marillion - Seasons End CD (album) cover

SEASONS END

Marillion

 

Neo-Prog

3.76 | 621 ratings

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J-Man
Prog Reviewer
4 stars The departure of Marillion's eccentric Scottish frontman marked the beginning of a new era for the band, and Seasons End is the first album where the then-new lead singer Steve Hogarth could prove his worth. Hogarth may have seemed like a rather odd replacement for Fish, with his clear, melodic voice sounding vastly different than his predecessor's dramatic, heavily-accented delivery, but time would prove that the choice couldn't have been better. Although the Hogarth era of Marillion does generate some controversy, I'm of the opinion that this long period of the band's history is every bit as good as their highly-acclaimed time with Fish - and right from the beginning of Seasons End, it's clear that the quality of the band's music didn't suffer without their iconic frontman. This album does have a few rather mediocre cuts, but overall it's an absolute gem. Seasons End was an excellent way to introduce the world to Steve Hogarth, and it's also likely to appeal to neo-prog fans more than many of their later albums.

Seasons End opens up on a high note with the melodic progressive rock masterpiece "The King of Sunset Town"; this song immediately makes it clear that Steve Hogarth is not only an extremely gifted vocalist, but a distinct one as well. Though the opening cut sounds very much a track that could've been on a Fish-era album, Hogarth's vocals are delivered in a way that Fish never would've done. "Easter" is another absolutely beautiful track, as is the thought-provoking "Seasons End", a song that reflects upon the ultimate effects of global warming. These three songs are my personal favorites from the album, although "Holloway Girl", "Berlin", "After Me", and especially "The Space..." are all top-notch. "The Uninvited Guest" and "Hooks In You" are both decent pop tunes, but nowhere near the standard set by the rest of the album - these feel more like attempts to be successful on the single charts than to create music as excellent as the band is capable of. Although I could've done without both of these tunes, neither are weak enough to severely damage my enjoyment of Seasons End. The rest of the album is so excellent that it's difficult to let two iffy efforts ruin the experience.

As we're used to from Marillion, the musicianship here is melodic and professional, with most of the emphasis on well-structured melodies and lush arrangements. Steve Hogarth's vocals sound totally inspired, and all four instrumentalists are at the top of their game as well. Steve Rothery's Gilmour-esque guitar solos are breathtaking, Mark Kelly's keyboard palette gives the compositions a rich and developed feeling, Pete Trewavas's basslines are powerful and well-written, and Ian Mosley's drumming is always rock-solid. Marillion would later distance themselves from the eighties' sounding production and arrangement style of their earlier albums, but Seasons End is very much an album from the 1980's. The production has that lovably synthetic sound, and the songs contain just as many digital keyboard sounds as Marillion's albums with Fish - this, and the general style of the songwriting, gives Seasons End a neo-prog flavor that would be largely absent from Marillion's sound within a few years. This album probably has the highest probability of pleasing a fan of the band's first four LP's who were dissatisfied with their later alternative/art rock efforts.

Seasons End was a major turning point for Marillion, but this new lineup proved that they were still ready to create excellent progressive rock music with or without Fish behind the microphone. This is an inspired, memorable, and fresh album that ranks up there with the very best in eighties' prog. Although it is a small step down from the band's two previous efforts and has a few flaws, Seasons End is a stunning album that comes highly recommended to every neo-prog fan. Though I can't quite hand out the 'masterpiece' score, Seasons End is very much deserving of the next-best thing. I've been enjoying this CD for years, and it still sounds every bit as exciting as it did when I first opened it - that is the true mark of a great album!

J-Man | 4/5 |

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