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THIS STRANGE ENGINE

Marillion

Neo-Prog


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1 stars The beginning of the end? This album gives me a feeling of a quick project which for some reason had to be done. The songs are not Marillion like as far as I am concerned. And concerned I am hearing this album from my favourite symfo rock band. My 1 star rating is solely thanks to the title track on the album, this strange engine, which on its own would be a valid reason to buy this album. Come on Marillion, you can do better.
Report this review (#12361)
Posted Monday, January 12, 2004 | Review Permalink
Sean Trane
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Prog Folk
2 stars 2,5 stars really and almost three!!!

This was actually a small surprise as I managed to listen to this about 5 times in my life ( I can't say that for a whole lot of Marillion albums) and it is fairly good . The 15 min+ Estonia track, relating the ferry tragedy in the Baltic sea is quite a pleaser, but there are more worthy tracks on the album also.

From their Hogarth-era this is the second best album but a distant second to Brave IMOHO

Report this review (#12363)
Posted Thursday, February 26, 2004 | Review Permalink
Easy Livin
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
4 stars A Rolls Royce

I have to say, I love this album.

"This strange engine" is more progressive than most of the previous Hogarth era Marillion albums, while retaining all the best qualities from those albums. I know the band themselves came to resent their progressive tag, and tried hard later to disown it, but when they can produce music such as this, it's hard to see what their problem was.

The tracks are generally longer, peaking with the title track clocking in at almost 16 minutes. This track is an excellent piece of prog, with superb guitar work, and plenty of space for the band to stretch themselves beyond their previous self imposed boundaries. This is especially true of the albums which immediately preceded this one.

The first track "A man of a thousand faces" starts in fairly typical Marillion fashion, but slows towards the end to an almost tribal recital, very effective too. There are a number of mellower tracks to follow, such as "One fine day", "Estonia", and "Memory of water". They sit well together, creating a relaxed and pleasant mood for the album. There are some livelier numbers, such as "Hope for the future", and "An accidental man", but the general feel is smooth and melodic.

An undervalued album deserving of greater appreciation. (For those with wider tastes the remix album "Tales from the engine room" by Marillion and The Positive Light is also worth exploring).

Report this review (#12366)
Posted Friday, April 2, 2004 | Review Permalink
The Prognaut
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars Determinant album to understand most of the changes MARILLION suffered in the years to come regarding its self-committed instrumentation, pure composition and resources implementation. It all started back in 1981 during one of the incessant arguments FISH and Steve Rothery used to hold when the songwriter from Edinburgh wanted drummer Mick POINTER to leave the band and Steve at his turn, wanted him to stay. Changes were made, decisions were taken and the sound of the newly born band started to project differently. Mark KELLY and Peter TREWAVAS joined the band afterwards. And you all know the rest of the story. "This Strange Engine" is in the middle of all those changes experienced, beholding the prog scene quite nervously. Steve HOGARTH decided to "hold" the reins of the band and decided to adventure it to a complete different experimentation by co-writing the lyrics with John HELMER again like when he did on "Afraid of Sunlight", by adding up special features to the musical arrangements like the sound of a saxophone played by Phil TODD on "This Strange Engine" (on HOGARTH's debut album with MARILLION, "Seasons End"; they used the sax for the first time and was played by Phil as well), an intrepid almost disturbing trumpet on "Hope for the Future" and the depurated sound of this three-stringed triangular musical device, that closely appeals to a lute; used in Russia when executing popular music named balalaika (marvelously played by Tim PERKINS on "Estonia") and by daring to sing in a more pop rock vein. At least, the music composed in here claimed to do so.

September 27th, 1997. That was the first time I ever listened to anything regarding the "This Strange Engine" experience. MARILLION was touring North America under the self-titled recently released album, and that day, the band commanded by Kendal's "favorite" presented its show at one of the most important stages in Mexico City. Obviously, I was supposed to attend since I did the same thing back in 1994 and I kept repeating myself "this is gonna be way too much better than the last time". Well, I was mistaken. Everything started to go wrong when Steve HOGARTH started to dramatize FISH's work throughout the microphone by singing some of his works from the past ("Garden Party", "Kayleigh" and "Forgotten Sons" to be more precise) and when approaching to the end of the show, when he drowned the remains of his voice that night in a sea of confusion and deceit when attempted to sing a couple of "the new songs". To be perfectly honest at this point, I didn't pay that much attention to the "new recordings" and decided to give it another try in the quietness of my home. When playing the CD for the first time, I just couldn't wait for the next song to twang off when I pulled it out the stereo. It took me severe sessions of constant listening to this album to perceive the bright side or whatever.

The thing is, I just couldn't stand the band going that "commercial" and "accessible" to anyone's ears. I used to think of MARILLION as this band filled of complexities and musical challenges, I used to look up to them considerably but maybe as to many of you happened, the magic started to disappear right after "Seasons End" and "Holidays in Eden" ("Brave" to the ones who put up with HOGARTH's work all the way there) to me. "This Strange Engine" is truly plain and unsurprising. There are few progressive elements lingering around the album, the MARILLION essence can barely be perceived and the lyricism is quite unreal and insensitive. For instance, there's this song on the album I cannot stand at all and whenever I play the CD, I rather skip forward just to avoid listening to it, that'd be "Hope for the Future". The "progression" (if I may call it such) is irreverent yet unusual in MARILLION, the carnivalesque touch is rather despicable, almost an issue of mockery.

So, to wrap this up already, buy this album at your own risk. Some of you may end up disappointed and worried, some of you may like the turn of fate described in here. It goes from mellow, to crappy in seconds. It drives the way through several unexpected landscapes, but I think in the end you may come up with your own conclusions. (Truth be told, the album lasting doesn't go over the 70 minutes. Around minute 29:35 of "This Strange Engine", you can listen to Steve HOGARTH bursting into laughter along this soft piano music in the background).

Report this review (#12368)
Posted Sunday, August 15, 2004 | Review Permalink
4 stars A funny album from the late 90's... perhaps it is a failure because is the next step leaving the big "label". Well, more simplre, hard edged and very harmonic, qualities to be a pop hitter actually, but something got wrong, maybe the xposure, what do you know!!!. Is quite a good record, so many may complain, but excemting the "happy " HOPE FOR THE FUTURE, this album is a good prog album with mellow touches along the way. The hit single MAN OF A 1000 FACES, and the underrated ESTONIA shows the great thightness of the band as composers and media producers, but the best part fo it is the great MEMORY OF WATER, and the final song THIS STRANGE ENGINE, a 15 minute plus song that give us a wide arrange of emotions from tip to toe. After AFRAID OF SUNLIGHT the new album MARBLES is the best option, but this is a very good record after all.
Report this review (#12369)
Posted Friday, September 10, 2004 | Review Permalink
4 stars The problem with Steve Hoghart's Marillion is that they aren´t a prog group anymore. So they are despised by prog purists and they are ignored by the rest because they think they still are a bunch of prog weirdos. In a fair world This Strange Engine would be at the top of the selling lists as so beautiful is the music it contains. Bands like Travis or Coldplay or Keane would give an eye for such a good melody as Estonia.
Report this review (#12371)
Posted Friday, December 10, 2004 | Review Permalink
vladimir.leks
4 stars After I have found Marbles excellent I am somehow going through all post-fish era albums and I have to tell I am very much surprised by this one. I remember at the time it appeared I did not like it and actually it was the last album I listened to of Marillion till Marbles. And now I must take back some of my conclusions I made concerning Marillion. Still, I think that Seasons end is more on the side of former 'Fish" band, Holidays in eden is a crises where echoes already had vanished and new sounds did not come yet, Brave is the beginning of the new era, but for me very very sentimental, Afraid of sunlight is pretty good, but not excellent. But with the Strange engine, I think, they found finally their new own style, not as angry and ironic as with Fish, not as sad and sentimental as early SH albums but instead, a really fresh and lighty music charged with positive energy and ideas. I do not mind that you can hear here some influence of Genesis, Hammill, and (?)Talk talk (estonia), it is still very original and unique. If you like the Ladder of Yes, I recommend it highly to you. I still have no idea what was between this one and Marbles, but surely, now i am looking forward to it.
Report this review (#12373)
Posted Friday, April 1, 2005 | Review Permalink
marillionlive
4 stars The first non-EMI album. TSE is one of those albums which reveals it's secrets with each listen. The two standout tracks are Estonia, a moving tribute to the lives lost in the Ferry disaster, and the title track which is almost Steve Hogarth's autobiography. The rest of the songs are good but not great on first listen. They then grow on you so this is one of those albums which demands repeated listening to get your money's worth! Very accoustic in flavour compared to previous albums.
Report this review (#41380)
Posted Wednesday, August 3, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars I really like this album, and lets face it, you should buy it for the title track, the best hogarth era track by a long way. A man of a thousand days and Estonia are great songs which open the album perfectly. This is not a 5 star album because it is not overall as good as Marbles or Brave, but certainly is a 4 star and is absolutely essential just for track 8. IMO a must have.
Report this review (#44252)
Posted Thursday, August 25, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars This is one of the latest albums added to my mariillion collection... only a couple are missing now, so I've had the fortune of listening to most of their post-fish era albums from Season's End to Marbles. I was a little cautious of this album as it appears to be reviewed as one of their weakest albums (along with Radiation). I was very pleasantly surprised - Man of a thousand Faces is a great opener, and now one of my favourite Marillion tracks.. and there is no shortage of beautiful tracks such as Estonia and Memory of Water.. and great upbeat numbers like An Accidental Man. Overall the album fits together well.. and I'm still waiting for the truly 'weak' Marillion album.. if there is one!
Report this review (#66015)
Posted Sunday, January 22, 2006 | Review Permalink
E-Dub
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars This sort of marked the beginning of an odd era for Marillion--small indie label and following up two brilliant albums in Brave and Afraid Of Sunlight. This album is full of really good moments, but I find that I don't reach for it nearly as often as Marbles, Brave, Misplaced, or Sunlight. It's a good disc...but just not a great Marillion disc.

The Strange Engine is undeniably more of an acoustic sounding disc than their previous work, or anything since. "Man Of A Thousand Faces", "Estonia", and "80 Days" especially. Not necessarily a bad thing either. Rothery really adds a nice layer with his acoustic work. "Estonia", however, is an especially beautiful tune dedicated to the people involved with the ferry accident.

I will say that this disc has what could be Marillion's greatest track with "This Strange Engine". The studio version pales in comparison to the live versions I've heard on Christmas In The Chapel, Piston Broke, and Popular Music, but that being said, it's a progressive masterpiece with one of Rothery's best solos. And I've never heard a song ending on a more powerful or emotional note than this song. One the live DVD's I've seen of this performance, Hogarth looks absolutely spent upon it's conclusion.

So, to sum it up, This Strange Engine is hard to rate. It's a good disc, but sort of begins a strange period for Marillion. Good music, but aside from a few songs from Engine, Radiation, and DotCom, there's nothing that overwhelmingly grabs me by the throat. I'd rate it somewhere between 3 and 4 stars for the title track and "Estonia".

Report this review (#71031)
Posted Friday, March 3, 2006 | Review Permalink
The Crow
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars This album is special... It's not the best from Marillion, but it has something that makes it different from all the other Marillion's albums and becomes this album a very pleasant listening.

Maybe the most relevant fact it's the acoustic predominance in the songs. Steve Rothery usually uses acoustic guitars in almost all the Marillion albums, but here we can hear totally acoustic songs: Man of a 1000 Faces, 80 Days, Estonia and Memory of Water. The rock face of Marillion is very softed in "This Strange Engine", and we only can hear stronger sounds in An Accidental Man and some fragments of This Strange Engine.

This fact makes this album unique and special in the Marillion's discography, and after two similar albums in style like "Brave" and "Afraid of Sunlight", this album sounds fresh and revitalizing, maybe because these albums were a little melancholic, while "This Strange Engine" is luminous and more happy (nevertheless Estonia and The Memory of Water are pretty gloomy...) A lot of prog-heards don't like this album, and this is understandable, because the only prog we can hear here is the final of Man of a 1000 Faces and the whole song This Strange Engine. Fortunately, progressive it's not the only musical style I hear. Actually, I like a lot of different genres, and maybe for this reason I can apreciate this album besides its progressive or not... Most of the songs of this album are not progressive, but it doesn't matters, because most of the songs have quality, and this is the most important thing.

Best songs: the first 6 tracks are really good (Man of 1000 Faces, 80 Days and Estonia are just great) and of corse This Strange Engine is maybe one of the best Marillion's long song from the Hogarth's era. And one of the most progressive tracks they have made, along with "Marbles"'s Ocean Cloud... This song is obligated for all Marillion fans, and for all prog lovers too. If you didn't hear it, in Progarchives you can make that for free, it's available in the Marillion's space. It's really worth a listening. Marvellous song indeed. Great Mark Kelly's keyboards (sometimes these keyboards sound even like the old Marillion albums...), apreciable guitars riffs and outstanding solos by Mr.Rothery (like they said live in Barcelona back en 2013 maybe his best solo) marvellous Hogarth's singing and lyrics, cool saxophone solo... Another highlight in the Marillion's career.

The only bad track in this album is my opinion is Hope for the Future, a silly track that really doesn't fit with the rest of the album... The rest is great, lovely melodies, lovely acoustic guitars, beautiful keyboards, catchy songs... The last really good Marillion album till "Marbles".

Conclusion: if you are not an open minded prog lover, maybe you will disagree, but I think This Starange Engine is a very solid release from Marillion which not got the attention it deserved.

My rating: ***1/2, rounded up to four.

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Posted Friday, March 31, 2006 | Review Permalink
Tristan Mulders
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars Marillion - This strange Engine

While the preceding studio albums "Brave" and "Afraid of Sunlight" were relatively dark and moody album, "This strange Engine" saw Marillion heading of into other musical territories.

Instead of overwhelming full-band performances, such as on the song "Mad" on the "Brave" album, most of the songs presented here are relatively simple songs, with only Hogarth on the front and the other band members as a background band to accompany his singing. That's exactly what I dislike about this album: the lack of great instrumentation. If you were to look for some virtuous soloing, you are definitely in the wrong place here. Instead, you get several acoustic songs (Man of a thousand Faces, 80 Days, Memory of Water), a rock ballad (One fine Day), one failed experiment with Caribbean music (!)(Hope for the Future), a good rock song (An accidental Man) and two attempts at great prog rock (Estonia and This strange Engine).

I never ranked this album high among other Marillion studio albums. To be quite honest, I actually prefer its ambient electronic counter part "Tales from the Engine Room," which is a total reconstruction by a dance group called "The Positive Light". Although both are very different, I still prefer the more coherent and atmospheric remix album.

Of course I didn't write this review with the perspective of bashing the album. There are some good points. I was (still am actually) always very fond of the opening track Man of a thousand Faces, only in the full-length album version though, with its acoustic madness. This is acoustic at its most progressive. Complete with a built-up part with a choir included to accompany Hogarth's great vocal performance.

Even the simple rock song One fine Day is actually pretty good. but judging it's 'progness' I can say it's nihil.

There are also various songs that I tend to skip while listening to the album. 80 Days, albeit a song about Marillion's fanbase and thus a sort of 'thank you' towards the fans, never really worked for me. I have heard its ambient reconstruction before I even heard anything on this album and still prefer that reconstruction. This songs is a bit like "Made again" is on the "Brave" album. a bit of a filler on the album but great live tracks to warm-up the crowd.

There's also the horrible Memory of Water, which is a vocal only song with some cello accompanying Hogarth's singing. Although Steve's vocals sound good and the cellos is also played very well, this song simply is too quiet after the song Estonia. That song already is relaxed and atmospheric and Memory of Water simply lacks energy to be interesting. I guess the band themselves noticed this too, because they never performed the song live in this version. Instead they perform the so-called "Big Beat Mix," which was a b-side to 1998's "These Chains" single. This rendition is filled with up-tempo drumming, guitar solo's at their best, good synths and bass playing and again Hogarth's beautiful voice.

Whereas Memory of Water still has some good qualities, Hope for the Future definitely showed that Marillion should hope their fans would stick with them in the future after hearing this specific song. The basics for the song are actually quite good, if I read the lyrics without listening to the music, I have to say they are good and when the intro sequence of the song starts one might think the song is also equally good. how wrong you were. All of a sudden the tune changes into a Caribbean setting, which, although very funny, is not what I'm looking for in a Marillion record.

So now, the highlights of the album: Estonia is a tribute to the casualties of an accident with a ferry that happened in Estonia in 1994. During a sea voyage from Tallinn to Stockholm, a ferry got caught in stormy weather and the boat sank to the bottom of the ocean taking most of the passengers with him. Rescue vessels managed to save 138 people from the sinking boat, of whom one still passed away. During the following day another 92 bodies were recovered.

The song is a very mellow and atmospheric piece of music, which moods change from semi-depressing (most of the verses) to uplifting and 'happy' in the chorus. I really like this song in its studio version, but I've seen it performed live once on Marillion's 2004 "Marbles" promotion tour, where it was a total mood breaker then, but that of course could also be because the band played it directly after a few uptempo rock songs. It certainly wasn't Steve Hogarth's vocal performance, because that one is very emotional and simply stunning during all the segments of the song.

Of course the best is left for the end, isn't it? This strange engine is the last song on the album. The song basically is Steve (Hogarth)'s life story and especially about his father's role in his life. This song was a tribute to Steve's father by a son who admired him. This story is told within 8 sections, in total comprising 15:30 minutes (it says 30 minutes when you play the song, but that's because there's a hidden track at the end after approximately 14 minutes of silence).

You cannot escape the emotions in this song. The various different sections have their own emotional sidekicks. From admiration and pure love to rage and anger. This is all expressed via the incredible instrumentation, which happens to include several brilliant guitar and keyboard solo's and even a long saxophone solo, but most noticeably through Steve Hogarth's vocal performance.

Although "This strange Engine" isn't Marillion's most progressive, or best, album, it still features a few things that might be of interest to the average prog rock fan.

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Posted Friday, June 2, 2006 | Review Permalink
Cygnus X-2
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Marillion's This Strange Engine would see them recording their first 15 minute epic, it would also show that they had a lot of world influences in their music. Released after the masterpiece of Brave and the somewhat underwhelming sequel Afraid of Sunlight, This Strange Engine was Marillion's chance to show that they could change from moody music to somewhat uplifting music within three years. Steve Hogarth remains as the vocalist for this venture, and his voice never sounded better. Steve Rothery shows why he's a terrific guitarist giving many emotional and breathtaking solos but as well providing sturdy riffs and rhythmic approaches. Mark Kelly utilizes many different keyboard effects on this one as well as gives top notch progressions and motifs. Ian Mosley and Pete Trewavas are as cohesive as ever, offering dynamic and precision performances as the rhythm unit. It's a recipe built for success, but does this album come out on top?

For the most part yes, but there are a few flaws that deny it from being a true masterpiece. Anyway, Man of a Thousand Faces opens the album with Hogarth playing the role of some political figure who can have many different facets and ideals when the situation arises. The chorus is somewhat catchy and the band has a nice riff and chord progression for this song. One Fine Day's intro is the only thing I really like about this song. It's a Rothery solo intro that really shows his skills at emotive guitar stylings. The rest of the song seems a bit boring and a bit contrived at the same time. 80 Days is probably my favorite song on the album next to the behemoth epic at the end. It has probably one of the most memorable choruses I have ever heard as well as a fantastic rhythmic performance on the part of Trewavas/Mosley. Estonia is a more mellow tune that utilizes some great acoustics and keyboards. The song changes moods quite frequently, sounding depressing during the verses and more uplifting during the choruses.

Memory of Water is a short little ethereal piece that really goes nowhere fast. I don't really understand the point of this piece on this album. It gets a better reiteration on Tales from the Engine Room. An Accidental Man is a bit of a mediocre song, but I'm fond of the acoustic guitar work in the intro, mainly because of an interesting chord progression and a biting main riff. Hope for the Future shows some of the groups world influences, mainly because of a very Caribbean sounding chorus as well as some South American trumpets and tones here and there. It's an interesting piece for the most part, but it's nothing I would call groundbreaking. The finale to the album is the first 15 minute epic Marillion had ever done. The story behind the song itself is more or less a veneration to Steve Hogarth's father. Anyway, the instrumentation on this song is superb, Rothery and Kelly show mastery of their instruments giving many keyboard and guitar solos. The saxophone solo in the song also comes at the perfect moment where tension seems to climax and then the song changes directions. It's a brilliant finale to the album. If you're lucky enough to own an original copy of the album, 14 minutes after the song ends (the cd player continues to run after the song ends), you can hear Hogarth laughing at the end, the reason is because they let the recorder run for 14 minutes after the song had officially ended as a joke to the listener.

Anyway, in the end This Strange Engine Shows Marillion's diversity as well as their mastery of their instruments. On the other hand, though, there are a few uninteresting pieces that really throw the flow of the album off. Still, though, there is enough here that should interest a casual progressive rock fan. This isn't Marillion's best, it isn't their most progressive venture, but it is a very solid album. 3.5/5.

Report this review (#82109)
Posted Tuesday, June 27, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars first of all, i would like to say that i'm as big a fan of the 'Fish' era as i am of the 'Hogarth' one...both of them thrill me in their own way.. i set my cap on albuns like Script..., Misplaced Childhood, Seasons End, Holidays In Eden, and this...

there are two ways to look into this one... the one with the eyes of the prog fan who writes a review in PA and the one of the music fan in general who shares his thoughts of this album...i'll choose the second one...

Mariilion have served the prog field for many years and many albums, and won our unquestionable respect...their talent is beyond doubt... Marillion are the neo prog beginners, responsible for masterpieces that kept prog music alive in the 80's, after punk rock faded.. what's more respected is that during the last years, they deliberately escape from the prog stereotypes... sometimes successfully, sometimes not...this time, yes...

'This Strange Engine' is a most beautiful effort, an album where inspiration reaches higher levels...from 'A Man Of A Thousand Faces' to the self titled epic, 'This Strange Engine' brims with ethereal melodies, beautiful strumming and solo guitar work and Hogarth at his best...

'One Fine Day', '80 Days' and 'Memory Of Water' move me every time i listen to them while 'An Accidental Man' is probably the best Marillion rocker of the H era... 'A Man Of A Thousand Faces' is the best opening track since probably their debut album, 'Estonia' is just lovely' and the self titled epic is a lesson for all prog musicians about how to build emotion and essence... the reason this LP doesn't get a fifth star is the lame, supposedly humouristic 'Hope For The Future'...

don't deprive yourself of this beautiful experience just because it doesn't fulfill your prog criteria...enjoy good music...

Report this review (#86544)
Posted Friday, August 11, 2006 | Review Permalink
chessman
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars Occasionally I dig this out and give it a listen, I am playing it at the moment. To be fair, the album is a tad better than I remember it. 'Man Of A Thousand Faces' has some nice acoustic guitar, a pleasant melody, and an uptempo feel to it. Quite a nice start, though I could do without the choir/chorus at the end. 'One Fine Day' is slower, and recognisably Marillion. Very nice, but again, nothing special. '80 Days' is, yet again, very nice. It has a catchy chorus and is listenable, but Marillion have done much better than this. 'Estonia' could be one of my favourites. This is a slower piece, with trademark Rothery echoey guitar work running through it. This is a good song, one I enjoy. 'Memory Of Water', on the other hand, is probably the second worse track on the album. Now I like slow songs, but this one.....it is tedious, drags along, and is, frankly, quite depressing. Sorry, not my cup of tea. Lyrically it's hard work too. 'An Accidental Man' is much better. Nice guitar from Rothery again and a strong tune with impressive lyrics. Another thumbs up from me here! Unfortunately, we now come to what is possibly the worst song Marillion ever wrote. 'Hope For The Future' starts off slowly, with acoustic guitar, but then...oh dear, oh dear, in comes a truly awful pseudo-calypso rhythm and a pretty dire 'melody'. the chorus is the sort of thing you have nightmares about. It was hearing this track again that has put me off getting the cd. However, the album ends strongly with the epic title track. Fifteen plus minutes of classic Marillion, it's a song that seems to be in three parts, with nice tempo and mood changes, and a great build up to a powerful finale. Now this is more like it! If 'Memory Of Water' and 'Hope For The Future' had been replaced by two better songs, this album wouldn't be too bad. But those songs, especially the latter, drag it down in my opinion. Nevertheless, the rest of the material is, if not Marillion at their best, at least decent, and is worth three stars.
Report this review (#109209)
Posted Sunday, January 28, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars It took quite a while for this album to grow on me. Nine years actually .

Back in time. 1994 : Marillion releases Brave. Buy it immediately. Get so disappointed that I loose my faith in the band. Don't even notice the release on Afraid of Sunlight the next year. 1997 : walking in a music store, I have my eye attracted by the cover of TSE. Find it nice. Decide to take my chance. Give it a couple of spins but it doesn't raise my interest. Put it on my CD's shelf besides Brave. End of my love affair with Marillion.

2006. Changes in my life. Alone again. Return to prog. Decide to try Brave one more time. Still can't enter it. Put it back on the shelf an pick TSE. And finally the click : it's good, it's even very good. It is fresh and diverse, showcasing all the band's abilities. It can be rocking ("An Accidental Man"), moving ("One Fine Day"), poppy ("80 Days"), groovy ("Hope for the Future") or blending ("TSE"). It's a mature album from a mature band.

Since this reconciliation, I have purchased all the Marillion's albums that I had missed for almost a decade. Gave them a couple of spins but they didn't raise my interest. Put them on the shelf but I don't care : time is on my side ... This was the story of one fine day when I rediscovered Marillion.

Report this review (#113074)
Posted Thursday, February 22, 2007 | Review Permalink
Prog Leviathan
PROG REVIEWER
2 stars While a few songs on "This Strange Engine" do warrant some attention for their emotive lyrics and fine composition, the album as a whole is very underwhelming with little that will really stick with the listener for any period of time-- especially when we know what he band is capable of after "Brave" and "Afraid of Sunlight".

For the most part, the songs are very laid-back and straightforward, with h singing his heart out (as always) with occasionally brilliant lyrics and the band emphasizing on textures and atmosphere; Rothery has few solos, all of which contribute to the slightly melancholy, sleepy sound of this album. Worst of all, however, is Kelly's painfully tacky synth solos, which imitate trumpets and violins and sound very out of place (and there's a lot of them). Most of the songs have a slightly more accessible sound to them, and don't pack the punch of previous efforts.

Yet, after many listens there are a few that will hit soft-spots in dedicated fan's hearts, but this is a poor place to begin listening to a great band.

Songwriting: 2 Instrumental Performances: 2 Lyrics/Vocals: 2 Style/Emotion/Replay: 2

Report this review (#117216)
Posted Tuesday, April 3, 2007 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars "This Strange Engine" is a strange album indeed. I just find it very inconsistant with some really good songs like the title track , "80 Days" , "Estonia" and "An Accidental Man" while "Memory Of Water" and "Hope For The Future" are almost bad.

The record opens with the poppy "A Man Of A Thousand Faces" which isn't too bad with it's catchy chorus and the spacey soundscape 4 1/2 minutes in.There is a choir and some good piano and organ work as well. "One Fine Day" is a mellow tune with reserved vocals and piano leading the way. So after two average tunes we get a good one in "80 Days". I really like the chorus and the mood of this song, very pleasant. "Estonia" is an incredible song ! It is very atmospheric for almost 2 minutes until the song picks up a little with guest Tim Perkins playing the Balalaika at this point. This passage feels like a gentle breeze to me.The contrast continues. "Memory Of Water" is Hogarth singing solo until we hear some strings. This one doesn't work for me at all.

"An Accidental Man" does work for me a lot. I like the fact that Rothery gets to do his thing finally. The guitar is fantastic on this track and it brings to mind Alex Lifeson at times. This song has a good beat with some great sounding organ 4 minutes in. "Hope For The Future" at least makes me smile when I think of it. It's the caribbean rhythm and sounds that makes me say "What were they thinking ?" There is some trumpet on this track as well. The final track is the epic at over 15 minutes in length.This song has it all including a sax solo 9 minutes in as well as mood and tempo changes throughout. My favourite passage is the ending of the song 15 minutes in that is so intense after building up to that moment.

Well this has enough great music on it to lift it to a 3 star rating. It just could have been so much better.

Report this review (#130373)
Posted Thursday, July 26, 2007 | Review Permalink
ZowieZiggy
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars Their last studio "Made Again " although acclaimed on this site, couldn't attract me. I just found it boring to death (but this was also my feeling with "Afraid of Sunlight".

The start of "This Strange Engine" is rather promising. Of course, there are no miracles : the past grandeur of the genuine Marillion is not to be expected but "Man Of A Thousand Faces" is a very catchy song, full of rhythm (somewhat "world music") and very pleasant to listen to. At least is breaks the usual boredom and uniformity that can be found in lots of their songs from 1989 onwards.

"One Fine Day" is a beautiful and melodious song, in the vein of "Beautiful". Rothery also delivers a nice guitar solo that really illuminates this track. A more poppish and commercial number comes next : "80 Days" is of course much less interesting. Very simple and basic. An average pop / mellow song (typically Marillion Mark II, I would say).

"Estonia" is a very melancholic and poignant one. Far much better than previous soporific songs from their previous two albumS. Of course, it won't break with the classic low tone and slow pace that Marillion II has produced but this song Holds so much emotion that I can just appreciate it. This is not really true with "Memory Of Water" which is just another boring tune.

A bit of rocking song (in Marillion II standards, don't except a crazy tune hey !) with "Accidental Man". At times heavy keys will be really surprising, while Hogarth shows a bit of disposition for being a bit more convincing than usual. This song being in the style of "Holidays in Eden" (the track). Not bad at all.

The next song "Hope For The Future" is rather average. A bit dull to start, it sounds too much like most of their Mark II material. The only difference being maybe those latin rhythms that can be heard in the second part of the song. Unexpected, I should say.

The title track is the longest song of this album (and one of the longest Marillion songs, both bands). Mark II, has never produced such a complex song. Several theme changes : a slow beat intro, a strong and very rhythmy keyboard passage (reminds me "One For The Vine"). The mood returns to a quieter but wonderful part. Very emotional (which was definitely a quality absent from each Mark II album) and built crescendo (you know that I like this construction a lot). A good sax solo would even be featured, which also brings some variety. And finally a short guitar break closes this nice section.

We'll be reverted into a complete quiet part before a finale featuring a good Hogarth (rare enough to be mentioned).

I was driving the first time I was listening to this album. I didn't put too much attention after the (supposed) end of the song, so I was really surprised to hear some laughs after forteen minutes of silence. Pay attention !

This album was a nice surprise for me although it broke with the Marillion tradition (both bands) to deliver special double CD sets (but these were remastered version of existing albums). Three stars.

Report this review (#131167)
Posted Wednesday, August 1, 2007 | Review Permalink
progaardvark
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars For me, This Strange Engine, was sort of a mixed bag. It's got some incredible songs interspersed amongst what I more or less would call filler. The album is more acoustical then previous releases, but also seems to take a little bit of everything from their previous efforts resulting in some radio-friendly, mainstream rock tracks, some CD player skippers, some intelligently arranged songs in similarity to the material on Afraid of Sunlight, and one wonderfully constructed 15+ minute progressive rock title track (with a genuine Mark Kelly keyboard solo to boot, such that we haven't heard since the earliest incarnation of Marillion!).

Because of this ever-present feeling of "mixed-bagginess," This Strange Engine has the feel of something transitional. Transitioning into what is another question, as the following albums released after this seemed to go nowhere. Being that some of this is fantastic and some of it is nearly mind-numbing, I would have to give it three stars (maybe even 3.5). Good, but not essential. However, this is still a worthwhile purchase for Marillion fans. The title track alone is worth purchasing it.

Report this review (#142124)
Posted Thursday, October 4, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars Don't you ask me why ? Find out by yourselves , if Steve Hogarth was looking for the epic of his carrer , This Strange Engine in my humble opinion is the one ///// This fusion of different styles of music deserves more deep looking by all proggers , very rich , so powerful , and thanks for Phil & Paula in participating in this essential work of the Hogarth era . So , with or without Fish , this is the best Marrilion's album , in add to Jester's (((((((((( If reviewers gives one ore six Stars it's there opinion , but i was really surprised by Progarchieves rating .......................................... give this album more chances.
Report this review (#172128)
Posted Sunday, May 25, 2008 | Review Permalink
lazland
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars The beginning of a new era for the band - the first release on an independent label, and also an LP that marks the transition from the old Marillion to the modern band.

I think this is a great LP.

The opener, Man of a Thousand Faces, is all Hogarth. From a slow, acoustic opening, to a rousing end with swirling, powerful, lyrics shouting a choral note.

One Fine Day is a fine ballad, and the bands homage to touring, 80 Days is simply a fun track, and you sympathise with the expressions made.

Estonia is a good, serious, long piece. THe next track is the reason why this is a 4 star rating - Memory of Water is simply a throw away track and quite boring.

An Accidental Man & Hope for the Future are both solid tracks.

The LP's finest track, however, is saved until last. The title track is a backward look at Hogarth's childhood, and he tells the story very well. It is very long at over 15 minutes, and builds up very gently to the climax. There are some beautiful passages of play from the band to complement the story told, and the climax when it comes is all Hogarth emotionally bringing the narrative to a conclusion.

This album sets the template for much of what follows and is a very good piece of work. Highly recommended.

Report this review (#196770)
Posted Thursday, January 1, 2009 | Review Permalink
progkidjoel
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars Marillion's "This Strange Engine" is one of the most underrated Marillion albums of the Hogarth era. Easily accessible to Old and new proggers alike, it brings flowing melodies, beautiful acoustics and lyrics of a level which can be called nothing less than poetic.

Opening with "Man Of A Thousand Faces" and closing with the title track, this album never fails to inspire or bring enjoyment, even in its down points.

Best Tracks - This Strange Engine - Memory Of Water - One Fine Day - Estonia

This Strange Engine: Flowing piano melodies and beautiful guitar solos bring this album to its high closing point, combining fantastic rock and highly emotional vocals which bring fantastic enjoyment to one's ears. This 15 minute masterpiece spans several different sub-genres, from acoustic to Jazz-fusion, and pulls it off wonderfully. Closing with Steve Hogarth's yells and Steve Rothery's electric guitar chords, this track is the highlight of this album

Memory Of Water: This orchestral track, whilst the shortest on the album, is one of the best. Violins and cellos are the instruments solely work to bring this song alive, and work hand-in-hand with Steve Hogarth's amazing voice to bring together what is an awe inspiring song.

One Fine Day: Opening with Pink Floyd-esque organs and guitar, this track reaches its high point towards the end, with its bridging lyrics "Did we fall asleep, babe? Dreamin' the dream, babe" it reaches a fantastic continuation of the lyric and also an inspiring use of the same chorus over an even better melody.

Estonia: This track is nothing less than beautiful. Carrying its main lyric

"Noone leave you, When you live in their heart and mind And no one dies They just move to the other side When we're gone.. Watch the world simply carry on We live on laughing and in no pain We'll stay and be happy With those who have loved us today"

Proudly throughout the entire track. Although slightly corny lyrics, Marillion manage to pull it off in a way that pulls just as much on the listener's heart string as it does the guitar.

Marillion's "This Strange Engine" is a brilliant piece of prog from Marillion, and an album that will stick with you for years after the initial listen.

I highly suggest you pick up a copy.

Report this review (#211827)
Posted Monday, April 20, 2009 | Review Permalink
3 stars This represents the start of what I see as something of a lull in Marillion's career, although you can probably decipher that from the average ratings of Marillion's studio albums. A string of really very good albums (with the exception of Holidays in Eden) was broken by this one. It's by no means bad, and certainly has its moments, but much of the material lacks the inspiration and vitality which Marillion are known for.

Let's start with the great tracks. Man of a Thousand Faces and Estonia are a couple of classic Marillion tracks, filled to the brim with emotion (if perhaps not as proggy as some people would like). Likewise, 80 Days is rather un-progular and has a couple of iffy solos, but as a song holds up reasonably well. One Fine Day has a string section which isn't to my taste, but overall is another emotionally-charged song. An Accidental Man goes into the same pile as these couple of songs: not amazing, but still perfectly listenable.

And then there are the more questionable tracks which fail to press my whoopee button. I understand Memory of Water is trying to be all mysterious and atmospheric, but I just find it rather boring. Hope for The Future seems a bit goofy and at times, particularly during the solo, is all over the place. It just overall has an aesthetic quality I don't enjoy.

Which only leaves the title track. The epic. Except it's really, really not that epic. It feels like you're waiting for the crescendo to come, for the lacklustre beginning to be compensated for... but it never comes. It lacks the focus or clarity of other Marillion epics (such as Ocean Cloud from Marbles), and makes for a disappointing end to the album.

This is not a bad album. There are some very good moments on it and there's something good to be found in most of the tracks. However, the album is dragged down by uninspired, aimless and sometimes just plain dull moments, most of which turn up in the second half. A good album, but by no means essential.

Report this review (#220280)
Posted Monday, June 8, 2009 | Review Permalink
Bonnek
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Prog Metal Team
4 stars This Strange Engine is almost as good as its predecessor but somehow it didn't manage to sell itself convincingly. At least it's my impression that it doesn't get the praise I would bestow on it.

First of all, except for Hope For The Future, all tracks here are excellent. Again the album is very varied and goes from mild ballads like Estonia, to good (Police-alike?) pop like Accidental Man. It even successfully resurrects their slumbering prog tendencies into the 90's with A man of a thousand faces and the impressive title track.

As I pointed out before, ever since Fish left, Marillion failed to break out into a new audience but instead got stuck inside an audience that for a large part consisted of either Fish-nostalgics or condescending purist for whom Marillion would always remain too straightforward.

Report this review (#236897)
Posted Thursday, September 3, 2009 | Review Permalink
Finnforest
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
2 stars Not strange enough

This is my third Hogarth era album and the first that failed to connect with me in any meaningful way. I was blown away by the darkly elegant "Brave" and thought "Afraid of Sunlight" had some decent moments. But here things have moved to a much more conventional sound, which isn't necessarily a bad thing, unless of course the material simply bores you. This was the case for me. This smacks of some truly middle-of-the-road adult contemporary rock which has been given some arty frills. Minus these proggy mirages you are often left with soft ballad singalongs that would not sound out of place on a Celine Dion album. Ok, that's an exaggeration but not by much. Repetitive choruses, bland melodies, and very few interesting moments of playing. Safe and sugary is the story here. The booklet and artwork feel pretty clichéd and phoned in as well. The exception of course is the last track, the title track, which is a 15 minute attempt at redemption. There are some really nice moments here. Compositionally things build and get more interesting, and we finally get some spirited and interesting instrumental work. I think Mark Kelly shines the most with fiery synth passages and some really lovely piano. Rothery contributes his usual liquidy smooth leads and overall there is a slightly melancholic beauty to the piece. But to give the work 3 stars I have to say it is a "good album" and I can't do that. It's a weak album with one very good track at the end. Two stars is perfect, this is one for the fans to investigate.

Report this review (#291911)
Posted Sunday, July 25, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars This Strange Engine is the start of independent releases from Marillion, no longer tied to the commercial constraints of EMI. And what an impressive start to life as an independent.

More prog than the previous releases with several longer tracks including the title track which is over 15 minutes (actually it is a 30 minute track with 14 minutes of silence followed by some simple piano and laughter. I don't get the joke and since I like to auto-repeat an entire CD, this is an irritation and a waste of space/time. What were they thinking?).

This Strange Engine is certainly different to earlier releases with excellent production and the use of more acoustic sounds and really nice atmospherics created by keyboard. All songs are well crafted and are very listenable, including the "Memory of Water" which consists almost entirely of Hogarth supported with sparse instrumentation.

The album was also remixed by "The Positive Light" and released as "Tales from the Engine Room" which gives a very different interpretation.

If you had given up on Marillion then this is definitely worth listening to since it represents a return to a prog sound although Marillion are now a different band to the early years.

Recommended.

4 stars. Marks are lost for the 14 minutes of silence.

Report this review (#358949)
Posted Monday, December 20, 2010 | Review Permalink
octopus-4
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
RIO/Avant/Zeuhl,Neo & Post/Math Teams
3 stars I needed many years before restarting with Marillion. I have quit after Afraid Of Sunlight that I really disliked and I had to wait for a radio to pass Marbles while I was driving. I didn't know that Marillion were still live, actually.

So going back to the albums that I have previously missed, "This Strange Engine" looks really better than its two predecessors.

"Man Of A thousand Faces" starts like it was Pearl Jam, I mean nice but pop, but in the second half it brings me back to the time of Holidays in Eden, so a quite good start.

Also "One Fine Day" opens poppy, it makes me think to Sting's after Police. Rothary's guitar sounds a bit trivial, but let me say that this a poor song, only it's not much prog.

The story doesn't change with "80 Days". It's a good song, but it's like Marillion have joined the 80s at the end of the 90s.

The first truly neo-prog song is "Estonia". It takes a couple of minutes before becoming interesting, but the chorus sounds very good and I like the arrangement with the balalaika behind.

"Memory of Water" makes me think to the opening of Camel's Harbour of Tears...Are those strings a keyboard? I'd like to know which device it is. It really sounds like cellos. A very good song.

Sting and Police are back with "An Accidental Man". An accidental message in a bottle..

"Hope for the Future" is a good title. This album is really better that its two predecessors. It's quite promising and the unplugged moments like in this song's opening are very good. The bass line and the rhythm has something of Lou Reed's Walk On The Wild Side, but it's just a moment. The song has a Calypso mood. Unusual and nice, even if it seems to be back to the 80s with the trumpets which sound like Matt Bianco.

But unexpectedly there's a 30 minutes epic. .I don't know if Trewavas was already in touch with Neal Morse in 1997, but this song has been a good training for him in terms of resistance... It's the first time after Grendel that Marillion make something like an epic. Effectively this song has all the characteristics of an epic, not only the length. It's all extremely pleasant and the changes are not too sudden apart the silence after about 5 minutes between an uptime and a soft section. Hogarth here is at his best. He doesn't sound as anybody else and the rest of the band puts here all the experience and the maturity of more than 15 years on the prog scene. Well, I'm not speaking of Close to the Edge or Echoes, but this is a very good track which can be intended as a summary of what Marillion did up to it. The guitar riff at minute 9 is similar to Forgotten Sons for exaple, and it's followed by guitar, cymbals and voice like Hogarth's Easter. It's at least at the level of Grendel but this one is more mature in terms of composition. Grendel was an attempt to make a sort of Supper's Ready, this is a Marillion song

Summarizing, "The Strannge Engine" (the song) would deserve 4 stars, but the rest of the album is not good enough to be defined "essential". Surely it's better than its predecessor even the "Sting's" songs.

3 full stars

Report this review (#451762)
Posted Wednesday, May 25, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars The rebirth...

i was eagerly awaiting this in 1997, curious if the band I came to love so much that I gave them the 2nd rank in my personal fab-list ( the first will always belong to BJH with Woolly ) would have recovered and re-focused well enough to find a way into the future... I had lots of questions and since Hogie's solo-effort "Ice Cream Genius" ( released some time before "This strange Engine" ) had not been able give a fitting answer ( because it was Hogie and not Marillion... and I'm a Marillion-Fan - with Hogie ) this album had a lot to do in order to convince me whether there was still gas enough to really soldier on in grace or not - I would not have accepted a 2nd "Afraid of Sunlight", no matter how high it ranks amongst the fans nowadays ( read my review to AOS to understand better ).

"This strange Engine", thank god, proved to be a ( huge ) step into the right direction and was one of the best answers I ever got. From the lively start with "Man of a thousand Faces" ( absolutely mindblowing at the end, when, with the vocal-arrangement you get the feel of getting "Cloudbusted" by a whole choir ) to the final cry of the epic title-track Marillion made sure they had not only recollected their forces for another well-crafted sonic attack, they really had found the new point of estimation that they needed in order to get out of what, in terms of creativity, would have been a dead end street.

Mark Kelly had discovered a new love for acoustic instruments, Steve Rothery had begun to vary his guitar-sound-scale, Steve Hogarth sounded fresh and confident, yep, the band was in good shape again. But most of all: the songs are songs again ( well, not exactly, cause an epic is an epic and the title track turned out to be a loooong epic to make sure there's still enough of "Prog" in the band to surprise all those who thought Marillion, by now, were keen to forever turn away any lover of that ) - and they all have their distinctive character.

Not every single thing on "This strange engine" is superb, though. It took me some time to get into "80 Days" with its strange keyboard-horn-solo ( that sound is ridiculously artificial for a "Mark Kelly-acoustic-phase" ), and though I quite like "An Accidental man" it can't be seen as that a great rock-pop-song to follow in the footsteps of "Hooks in you" or "Cover my Eyes" ( still like those tracks and can't really understand why severe prog-heads don't, but I wonder if they think any better of that "Accident" )... while "One fine day" comes across a little too tame, although it's a wonderful track. And there's a miss on this album as well, and that's "Hope for the future". For those who join me here: I don't think of this song as a miss at all. It's only... when listening to the arrangement it should be a shiny, happy, uplifting tune, and whatever they did - it is not, it doesn't take off, so they should have tried another arrangement because the song itself is quite good !

It's obvious that the absolute Highlights on this album are the title track and the absolutely breathtaking beautiful "Estonia". I do believe there's no more to say about those two masterpieces that hasn't already been said. Both of them are essential Marillion, with "Man of a thousand Faces" in their towing rope, a track that can only be seen as "not as good" as the two of them because they are so blatantly brilliant that even "The Space" or "Splintering heart" would have been outshone if on one and the same album. But let's not forget about "Memory of water". Hogie's voice up to give you chills when singing this awesome melody so alone and free, only augmented by a carefully woven string-arrangement, a truly wonderful gem with heartbreaking lyrics. Not many singers can do this, but what's more important: This recording perfectly captures the emotion of the song. It is a short tune, it's got no sign of blatancy and so it can easily be overlooked, but it belongs to the finest moments of this band.

A personal 4.5-star-album, but this is still PA ( lol ), so it can't be more than 4 stars here, with 5 "progstars" for the title track - and that's 15 minutes no prog-lover is allowed to miss - 5 "songstars" for "Estonia" and "Memory of Water", 4.5 for "Man of a thousand Faces", and, though the average prog-listener may have his problems with it, 3 stars ( at least !!! ) for the rest. If this is not enough for you to justify my rating, then please add another 5th star for the production ( guess who ), fresh and alive ! Back on track ! Ready to explore new grounds ! Not a tired moment. Only one odd move. Forgiven. Greetings from a happy fan !

Report this review (#610450)
Posted Sunday, January 15, 2012 | Review Permalink
Warthur
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars This one took a while to grow on me, and then took a while more to shrink on me again. If you'd asked me to review it after my first listen, I'd have given it three stars or so and considered it another effort by Marillion to reach out to the mainstream like Holidays In Eden. Then, repeated listens convinced me that this was actually a more than worthy followup to Brave and Afraid of Sunlight. With Steve Rothery spending more time on acoustic guitar and the songwriting taking a fairly accessible direction on some songs, you could be forgiven for mistaking this for Marillion's indie rock album, but on closer listening I think there is more to it than that.

Mark Kelly's piano solo on The Man of a Thousand Faces, for instance, might not be traditionally "proggy" but it certainly isn't a particularly commercial or mainstream move. Likewise, The Memory of Water is a minimalistic piece which is simple, straightforward, and about as far from pop as you could hope to get. Indeed, I think overall this album finds Marillion finding a place where they don't feel the need to prove how progressive they are, but they don't feel the need to conform to indie pop sensibilities the way they sometimes did on Holidays In Eden; instead, their first album free of EMI finds them exploiting this newfound freedom and trying to be nobody except themselves. What they turn out is a warm and emotionally intimate album which has plenty to offer open-minded prog fans - such as the glorious Estonia or the epic title track - whilst at the same time not letting "prog" - or anything else - define what they do.

But at the same time, in retrospect it also feels like the beginning of Marillion's extended period of experimenting with what I think of as "divorced dad indie rock". Like I said, it's undeniably soulful stuff, but there's a mixture of insularity and self-satisfaction here which ironically feels cheesier and more pretentious than their proggier years. Yes, Fish would brashly declare himself the Market Square Hero, but there was a certain irony to the song, a sense that he was playing a character that he and we alike knew was a bit clueless and full of himself. Conversely, Hogarth seems to be convinced that he is the Man of a Thousand Faces, whereas in fact he basically only has a very limited set of modes he's good at. The narrative of the title track tries to get us to identify with H's life story, except it just makes him sound dully self-obsessed rather than telling us anything transcendent. And Hope For the Future is just awful, an attempt at some sort of quasi-samba deal which doesn't work at all.

On balance, then, I think three stars is a fair rating for it. It's a competent independent work, and some parts of it can be pretty moving. but it doesn't quite scratch the itch for me any more. It's good, but it isn't as enduring as their best work.

Report this review (#627085)
Posted Sunday, February 5, 2012 | Review Permalink
richardh
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars This was the album where I fell out love with Marillion initially. There was something of a prog revival in the 90's yet Marillion were pulling away from it seemingly going in a more rigid song based direction.No particular complex peices yet there is still much to enjoy here especially the musical arrangements which are high class. I have always loved Steve Hogarth's voice and recently have picked up his excellent side project with Richard Barbieri as well as the classic Marbles. I hadn't listened to This Strange Engine for a while but I need my Hogarth fix! After 10 years of not listening to this it took me by surprise.

The first track Man Of A Thousand Faces is real goosebump stuff building to a climax. Like everything on the album it is beautifully produced. Lots of layers and very good use of back vocals/choir. One Fine Day is a bit more bluesy but again Hogarth shines and the keyboards are delicate and perfect for the track. Nice guitar as well.Lovely emotional music. 80 days is a bit more upbeat and bouncy. Still quite reflective in tone and straightforward but nice enough and got me nodding my head in time with the music.The trumpet solo at the end is superb. Estonia is another reflective emotive song and yet again Hogarth is the stand out performer. This is perhaps a sign of things to come and closer to the atmospheric style of Marbles.Gorgeous stuff and production is bang on.Almost seems to hang in the air at times. Memory Of Water continues the mood with the sound of violins complementing Hogath's excellent vocal before we go into the more rockier An Accidental Man. Nice organ work that builds towards the end. Very enjoyable. Hope For The Future starts off in an acoustic vein but picks up a little as it goes almost Caribbean style and quite danceable if you are so inclined! Like everything on this album its very simple but nothing that is going to offend. Probably one track that was earmarked as a potential single. The final track is This Strange Engine. The longest one clocking in at 15 minutes and the only track that you might immediately relate to earlier incarnations of Marillion especially the guitar. Like everything here its very delicate and exquisitely done.After a few minutes the guitar gets a bit heavier and the arrangement builds.We actually get for the first time on the album ...wait for it.. A SYNTH SOLO!! Ah this this the Marillion I know and love.Then it ends all a bit too quick really and back to nice vocals and delicate keyboards and then drummer keeping time but not a lot else. At this point I understand why I probably put this away and didn't get it out for 10 years. A little bit frustrating. One decent prog track would have been nice after all not just 2 minutes in the middle of a long track.

Overall this does feel as if it was firmly aimed at American radio. Extremely safe stuff but very classy nevertheless. Not prog but then not everything has to be prog I suppose.

Report this review (#752684)
Posted Sunday, May 13, 2012 | Review Permalink
3 stars In the 90's, this wonderful compendium of musicians in which the sum of the parts is greater than individuals, was constantly experimenting to find a particular sound. Sometimes they found it, and in others less so. This work is in the second group. As always, with highly polished gems.

The most ambitious and extensive song is one of those diamonds. It requires special attention and repeated listening to appreciate slowly musical variety and their interaction with lyrics. With little cohesion or homogeneity? That's what sometimes progressive rock, at least for me. I see justified some 'musical explosion' after calm passages, and vice versa.

The other gem is Estonia, heartbreaking and extremely emotional. One Fine Day and Memory of Water are enjoyable, with an easy pace and less progressive. Not much to rescue the rest.

Report this review (#989813)
Posted Sunday, June 30, 2013 | Review Permalink
4 stars I love this album. Not Marillion's best, but one of their most underrated. Also, this is the last Marillion album before Marbles that I would describe primarily as Prog.

For better or worse, this is the first h-era album that doesn't seem to go out of its way to sound altogether different the previous record (Afraid of Sunlight). Marillion has a history of doing that, to the point that sometimes it seems like they're sabotaging themselves after a really great effort (see: Somewhere Else). One trait that does separate it from all previous releases is Rothery's balance of acoustic vs. electric guitars, with a heavy preference towards the former.

The first minute of "Man of a Thousand Faces" could easily be dismissed as mid-nineties AOR with above-average lyrics, but it soon builds into a classic Marillion anthem: Mark Kelley shines with both a cheery piano quasi-solo (2 of them, actually) and full backing chords for Rothery's acoustic rhythm. The extended "ending" section, featuring an almost- tribal beat from Mosley and endless vocal layering with the help of a full choir, is responsible for making the song something more than just rock (Rock + something more... that might be a concise definition of prog). Though it's a good opener, the outpouring of emotion inspired by the last 2 minutes of the track is probably why Marillion will usually play it near the end of a show.

h's affinity for arrangements stolen from soul music is apparent on "One Fine Day" and Rothery's acoustics continue on "80 Days."

"Estonia" took a long time to grow on me. I can't say I truly liked it until I saw them perform it live in 2012. In the keyboard-heavy ballad, inspired by a conversation h had with the only British survivor of the cruise liner MS Estonia. h once again demonstrates his criminally under-appreciated talent as a powerful, authentic, and emotional singer.

"Memory of water" contains, to my knowledge, h's longest a cappella performance on a studio recording. It seems like it should be a traditional murder/suicide ballad (Britain and Scotland have plenty), which prompted me to check the credits... nope, it's original!

"An Accidental Man" is catchy, but demonstrates a case of lyrical dissonance... the subject matter isn't nearly as peppy as the music sounds. Also, its overall sound is quite similar to that of their 2001 album, Anoraknophobia... a preemptive outtake, if you will. Sadly, some of Mosley's best fills happen during the fadeout.

"Hope for the Future" uses the same tricks as "Man of a Thousand Faces"--a heavy chorus effect (but no rented vocalists this time), a Caribbean beat, and a Mexican-sounding horn solo provided by a session trumpet player (there'd be more of that sort of thing on Radiation).

The title track has received its share of criticism for seeming unorganized, and I'm forced to agree to an extent: "Supper's Ready" this is not. But, at the risk of being repetitive, h pours so much of himself into this biography of his life (particularly his childhood) that a close listen is bound to bring you on the journey with him: a journey which is, by nature, unpredictable. The song opens suddenly with no introduction (...like "Supper's Ready," come to think of it), is easily the most dynamic on the record, and contains the album's heaviest and proggiest moments. And, we finally get a top-notch electric performance out of Rothery.

Despite my confident assessment of the album as Prog, This Strange Engine works as a "second tier" example of almost all of Marillion's styles: high-concept progressive rock, ultra- melodic mid-tempo rock, soulful pop... but it's not the best at any of them. It is, however, absolutely genuine in all that it offers.

Report this review (#992918)
Posted Saturday, July 6, 2013 | Review Permalink
2 stars By this time along the road of Marillion's studio discography I was growing more than a little disappointed with the band. Their music seemed to be changing lanes drastically into light, if pleasant, pop / rock territory with the last release. I was hoping that this album would change that and put the band back on track to what I thought I should be hearing from them.

"Man of a Thousand Faces" - Starts off in a very light vein with voice and acoustic guitar before heading to anthemic "sing along" folk rock. A pleasant 7 mins and thirty one seconds but not magical. Mosley purely takes the band through the motions regarding the drums. No stunning Rothery lead breaks here.

"One Fine Day" - Starts of in very light bluesy, smokey fashion. I like this but again it's not magical - it's miles away from the Marillion that I loved up until and including "Seasons End".

"80 days" - Voice and acoustic guitar start again. Light hearted country / rock / pop thing that I could imagine "America" or "Poco" doing. Pleasant enough.

"Estonia" - Starts off very softly - back into smokey territory. At this stage in the album the band is starting to sound very formulaic to me and its hard not to simply skip ahead to the next track.

"Memory of Water" - Nice, mournful, almost vocal only start until the cello comes in. I like Hogarth on this one.

"An accidental Man" - I like the start of this one. It is an ok, pleasant track but again nothing special by any stretch of the imagination. About two thirds of the way in it incorporates some nice organ keyboard work. Goes on way too long though.

"Hope for the Future" - Light bluesy track before going into a kind of "Lou Reed" bass rythm kind of thing and then seguing into calypso carribean territory. It is interesting but I can't say that I love it.

"This Strange Engine" - Starts off with that light smokey atmosphere before seguing into the hardest rock of the album accompanied by some nice keyboard work. A third of the way in it slows again (I'm drawn in at this stage). Some nice Sax halfway in with some soaring Rothery lead work. From then onward the track kind of loses way and goes on too long with some typical Hogarth emotive hollering.

I will not be spooling this album up again in a hurry. It is pleasant for the most part but there is nothing in it of any importance whatsoever. There is a hidden track which features laughing and piano if you wait awhile after "This Strange Engine" has finished. I can't help wondering what the laughter is about - perhaps the betrayal that this album is? I'm not impressed at all and I remember thinking to myself that I was done with the band for good. A 2 star rating from me.

Report this review (#1007339)
Posted Sunday, July 28, 2013 | Review Permalink

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