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Marillion This Strange Engine album cover
3.46 | 663 ratings | 38 reviews | 14% 5 stars

Good, but non-essential

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Studio Album, released in 1997

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. A Man Of A Thousand Faces (7:31)
2. One Fine Day (5:31)
3. 80 Days (5:00)
4. Estonia (7:56)
5. Memory Of Water (3:01)
6. An Accidental Man (6:10)
7. Hope For The Future (5:10)
8. This Strange Engine (15:41)

Total time 56:00

Bonus tracks on 1997 Canyon release:
9. Beautiful (Acoustic version) (4:48)
10. Made again (Acoustic version) (5:15)

Line-up / Musicians

- Steve Hogarth / lead & backing vocals, keyboards, percussion
- Steve Rothery / guitars
- Mark Kelly / keyboards, backing vocals
- Pete Trewavas / basses, backing vocals
- Ian Mosley / drums, percussion

- Charlton & New Bottle School Choir / chorus (1)
- Rey Lear / choir arranger
- Tim Perkins / balalaika (4)
- Paula Savage / trumpet (7)
- Phil Todd / saxophone (8)

Releases information

Artwork: Andrew Gent with Hugh Gilmour (design)

CD Intact Records ‎- RAW DP 121 (1997, Europe)
CD Canyon International ‎- PCCY-01098 (1997, Japan) With 2 bonus tracks

Note: On the second American Pressing "Estonia" is 11:49 (?)

Thanks to ProgLucky for the addition
and to Quinino for the last updates
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MARILLION This Strange Engine ratings distribution

(663 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(14%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(42%)
Good, but non-essential (34%)
Collectors/fans only (8%)
Poor. Only for completionists (3%)

MARILLION This Strange Engine reviews

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Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Sean Trane
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

Review by 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).

Review by The Prognaut
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).

Review by 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".

Review by The Crow
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.

Review by Tristan Mulders
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.

Review by 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.

Review by chessman
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 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.
Review by Prog Leviathan
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

Review by Mellotron Storm
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.

Review by ZowieZiggy
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.

Review by progaardvark
COLLABORATOR Crossover/Symphonic/RPI Teams
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.

Review by lazland
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.

Review by progkidjoel
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.

Review by Bonnek
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
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.

Review by 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.

Review by 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

Review by Warthur
4 stars This one took a while to grow on me, and then took a while more to shrink on me again, and then it grew 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 very much an acquired taste, an attempt at some sort of quasi-samba deal which comes across as rather cheesy.

On balance, then, I think four stars is a fair rating for it. It's a clear step down from Afraid of Sunlight, but much of it is still quite moving, and I do respect the band's willingness to advance and further develop their sound away from their former comfort zone but in a way which feels like an organic development of what they'd already been doing.

Review by richardh
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.

Review by Dapper~Blueberries
4 stars Out of all the releases Marillion had made over their 40+ years of music, I am quite surprised that This Strange Engine is so underrated and ill-appreciated within the sheer volume the band has crafted, especially in their current H-era. I want to hopefully get more people to see how good this album really is. I cannot say it is a perfect album the band has made, but I think the hate it gets is undeserving.

I think the biggest complaint I have seen within this album is that it is too poppy, or a bit more mainstream, and I can definitely see why people might have quite the stinge for that type of stuff within prog rock, but I feel like Marillion has always been a little more poppy and accessible. Look at songs like Kayleigh or The Great Escape, which are rather big pop hits for a prog rock band, and while you could argue The Great Escape is a lot more prog than pop, Kayleigh cannot be denied from it being it's very pop status, so I feel like This Strange Engine more or less just continues the more pop nature Marillion naturally already have, and I personally think it sells this more prog pop aspect really well. Songs like 80 Days, Estonia, and Hope For The Future are all excellent songs that feel very vibrant and lively, but contain Hogarth's signature moody poetry that creates a divergent boundary in mood and feelings that pay off really well.

I also feel like the critique of this being a lot more acoustic and not filled with enough complexities never quite made sense to me. I feel like even more acoustic albums can be quite complex, I mean look at some folk bands out there like Current 93 and Harmonium, which are groups that create very endearing and rather long songs that contain quite the bit more spice needed to keep things interesting. The complexities, to me, are pretty front and center, and even if they are not the main focus, I think the music as a whole makes up for it, especially on the 15 minute long title track, which I think in of itself is a very strong prog rock epic. I actually feel like the focus on Hogarth's singing and lyrics work in favor to this album, and while I do think not every lyric hits hard, I think at the end of the day this is some of the best Hogarth vocals on an album; definitely comparable to some legendary scores on Brave and Marbles.

Now, personally, really truly justly personal, I think this is a very great album. I never feel dissatisfied with these songs, and what is on here is really stellar in the grand scheme of things. However, I think it is a very front loaded album, with the exception of This Strange Engine. Unlike most Marillion releases which have a very good handful and mixture of songs that are spread out meticulously, the first half kinda has the better songs in my mind compared to the second half. While I do enjoy moments from An Accidental Man and Memory of Water, I do not think they compare to stuff like A Man Of A Thousand Faces or 80 Days that have some brilliant elements that truly make H-era Marillion my favorite era the band is held in. The exception is This Strange Engine, which I think holds some stellar, almost Ocean Cloud rivaling scores that keep me wanting more. Truly one of Marillion's best songs.

If you might be a new or old Marillion fan, I think you should really check this album out, or revisit it. I think a lot of people need to relisten to this one, as it is where we get some of the best Hogarth moments, some of the best? more moody songs the band has made, and one of the band's best prog epics. Do not turn down this album, it really is a special gemstone, and an underrated one at that.

Review by Hector Enrique
3 stars After two works of deep and dark reflections such as "Brave" and "Afraid of Sunlight", Marillion breathes less choppy and more relaxed with "This Strange Engine", their ninth album.

An irregular proposal, which combines moments of great harmonic freshness as with the opening "A Man of a Thousand Faces" or the expressive "80 Days" showing a decidedly eloquent Steve Hogarth, with others of solemn melancholy as with the peaceful "Memory Of Water", and contrasted with the insipidity of "An Accidental Man" and the inexplicably failed "Hope For The Future" of Caribbean rhythms, a misstep as was "Cannibal Surf Babe" on "Afraid of Sunlight".

But the album's lack of cohesion did not prevent the Englishmen from delivering a couple of sublime pieces: the emotional and breezy "Estonia", referring to the tragedy of the ferry of the same name in the icy Baltic Sea in September 1994 and featuring the interesting string nuance of Tim Perkins' balalaika (a kind of lute of Russian origin) and, above all, Hogarth's extensive and heartfelt tribute to his father in the confessional "This Strange Engine", with Mark Kelly in the leading role and very uninhibited on keyboards (with a circumstantial Wakemanian air), Steve Rothery's sustained guitar solos, Phil Todd's dramatic saxophone and an instrumental development with tension surges and silent pauses in the progressive style that end with an unbridled vocal discharge by Hogarth. Surely the best moment of the album and a more than acceptable closure. The change from the giant multinational record label EMI and its extensive networks to one with more frugal resources such as Castle Communications, added to a proposal whose consistency falters in some passages, prevented "This Strange Engine" from having a great repercussion and recognition at the time.

3 stars

Latest members reviews

4 stars After the release of 'Afraid of Sunlight,' Marillion had a run of spotty albums in the late 90s and early 2000s. 'This Strange Engine' is definitely strange, as there are a couple tracks on this album that are among my favorite Marillion songs, and the rest I could take or leave, with not much in be ... (read more)

Report this review (#2969425) | Posted by Magog2112 | Saturday, November 25, 2023 | Review Permanlink

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 ... (read more)

Report this review (#1007339) | Posted by sukmytoe | Sunday, July 28, 2013 | Review Permanlink

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 ... (read more)

Report this review (#992918) | Posted by StrafeSawdoffe | Saturday, July 6, 2013 | Review Permanlink

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 mo ... (read more)

Report this review (#989813) | Posted by sinslice | Sunday, June 30, 2013 | Review Permanlink

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 ... (read more)

Report this review (#610450) | Posted by rupert | Sunday, January 15, 2012 | Review Permanlink

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 (a ... (read more)

Report this review (#358949) | Posted by KeepItDark | Monday, December 20, 2010 | Review Permanlink

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 ... (read more)

Report this review (#220280) | Posted by Una Laguna | Monday, June 8, 2009 | Review Permanlink

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 , a ... (read more)

Report this review (#172128) | Posted by trackstoni | Sunday, May 25, 2008 | Review Permanlink

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 stor ... (read more)

Report this review (#113074) | Posted by Bupie | Thursday, February 22, 2007 | Review Permanlink

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... ... (read more)

Report this review (#86544) | Posted by toolis | Friday, August 11, 2006 | Review Permanlink

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 ... (read more)

Report this review (#66015) | Posted by dazkgoodwin | Sunday, January 22, 2006 | Review Permanlink

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 c ... (read more)

Report this review (#44252) | Posted by wtmoore | Thursday, August 25, 2005 | Review Permanlink

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 n ... (read more)

Report this review (#41380) | Posted by | Wednesday, August 3, 2005 | Review Permanlink

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 ... (read more)

Report this review (#12373) | Posted by | Friday, April 1, 2005 | Review Permanlink

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 ... (read more)

Report this review (#12371) | Posted by | Friday, December 10, 2004 | Review Permanlink

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 man ... (read more)

Report this review (#12369) | Posted by arqwave | Friday, September 10, 2004 | Review Permanlink

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 ... (read more)

Report this review (#12361) | Posted by | Monday, January 12, 2004 | Review Permanlink

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