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Fish Sunsets On Empire album cover
3.81 | 266 ratings | 20 reviews | 31% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection

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Studio Album, released in 1997

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. The Perception of Johnny Punter (8:37)
2. Goldfish & Clowns (6:36)
3. Change Of Heart (3:41)
4. What Colour Is God? (5:50)
5. Tara (5:12)
6. Jungle Ride (7:34)
7. Worm In A Bottle (6:24)
8. Brother 52 (6:03)
9. Sunsets On Empire (6:54)
10. Say It With Flowers (4:15)

Total Time: 59:06

Bonus track on 1998 remaster:
11. Do Not Walk Outside This Area (6:29)

Line-up / Musicians

- Derek Dick "Fish" / lead vocals

- Steven Wilson / lead (1,10), rhythm (1,8,9,11) & slide (9) guitars, keyboards, loops/sampler (2,4,5,8,11), string arrangements (1), arranger & producer
- Robin Boult / 12-string & rhythm guitars, lead guitar/ebow (5,8)
- Frank Usher / lead (1,3,7,8), rhythm (2-4,7,8) & slide (3,7,11) guitars
- Foster Patterson / Hammond (1,2,7-9,11), piano (1,2,5,9,11), keyboards (3,5,6), backing vocals (4), string arrangements (5)
- Chris Gaugh / cello (1,5)
- Brian Hale / violin (1,5)
- Martyn Bennett / violin (6,8)
- Terence Jones / French horn (9)
- Fraser Speirs / harmonica (6)
- Ewen Vernal / bass
- Dave Stewart / drums
- Dave Haswell / percussion (2,5,6)
- "Doc" / telephone voice (8)
- Lorna Bannon / backing vocals (1,2,5,9)
- Katherine Garrett / backing vocals (3,6)
- Don Jack / backing vocals (1)
- Chris Thomson / backing vocals (1)
- Annie McCraig / backing vocals (9)

Releases information

Artwork: Mark Wilkinson

CD Dick Bros. - DDICK25CD (1997, UK)
CD Roadrunner Records ‎- RR 8679-2 (1998, Europe) Remastered (?) with a bonus track

Thanks to ProgLucky for the addition
and to Quinino for the last updates
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FISH Sunsets On Empire ratings distribution

(266 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(31%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(39%)
Good, but non-essential (23%)
Collectors/fans only (5%)
Poor. Only for completionists (2%)

FISH Sunsets On Empire reviews

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Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by loserboy
4 stars Having been a FISH fan for a long time I did not need a lot of convincing to recognize and appreciate Derek Dick's talents. "Sunsets On Empire"" is an incredible release with some real nice and tasty prog moments (yum yum). "Sunsets..." has a slightly harder edge to the recording and I think this is why I am so fond of this release. Steve Wilson (PORCUPINE TREE) brings a new element into the music and I like the addition. Like all FISH releases he covers a nice a wide spectrum on his recordings..ranging from a lulaby to the jungle war zone. This album has freaked me out and continues to do so....Brilliant recording all the way around.
Review by The Prognaut
4 stars Audacious, relentless and provocative, "Sunsets on Empire" displays that powerful yet enigmatic musical side of FISH we've never seen or listened to before in previous releases. I determined myself to get this excellent album after watching from beginning to end the "Sunsets on Empire, Live in Poland 1997" DVD, which is a true jewel. The DVD contains five tracks out of the ten contained in here, plus some of his previous solo recordings and a masterful MARILLION songs medley. Over the interview FISH conceded to the German television, also included on the DVD, he describes meticulously the making of "Sunsets on Empire" album, he talks about some of the inconveniences and the changes made during the realization, also he details the relationship he keeps with his fellow guest musicians and the ones that helped in the production of the CD. The opening track, "The Perception of Johnny Punter", had to be lyrically overwritten due the difficulties spotted out by the record company, claiming there could exist some kind of misinterpretation where specific terms may be "offensive and with racist inclinations". FISH, with the equanimity that has always described his personality, took the whole matter as a joke, and playfully referred to situation as "ridiculous", since the label allowed him to keep the swear words to the lyric of the song and for a couple more. Ironic.

Remarkably, and far from sounding pretentious, FISH explores the depths of politics, religion and humankind in a very peculiar way. But amazingly, he manages to keep the romancing, the heartbreaking, the soulful essence and the imperative trademark of his unmistakable songwriting. Proof of that, is represented throughout the lyric and musicianship condensed on "What Colour is God?", which he co-wrote with multi-instrumentalist and anchorman of PORCUPINE TREE, Steve WILSON. The understanding on the creation of this song between such monsters of progressive rock, was outstanding. The song kicks off calmly, where peaceful mystic rhythms flow in between the energetic voice of FISH and the opening chords of what seems to be the thundering rhythm guitar wailed away by Robin BOULT. Eventually, the song blasts off superbly, almost hypnotic, where Steve reveals what he's made of on keyboards, as Dave "Squeeky" STEWART, who two years later would record "An Outcast of the Islands" with Colin BASS; keeps the beat marvelously behind his drum kit. (I know it is not the proper spelling of "squeaky" but this is the way that YATTA and FISH spell it when referring to him).

"Goldfish and Clowns" along "Jungle Ride", are under my perception, the two tracks out of the entire album that set off evidentially because they happen to be very condensed and quickly digested at the time you are listening to them. Not that they lack of direction and purpose, I just pointed out that they don't splatter providentially, convincing your ears at first listen. On the other hand, tracks like "Tara" (dedicated to his now thirteen year-old daughter Tara Rowena) and "Say it with Flowers" (so filled with the essential pointers for successful romancing), reveal a more sensitive touch, where emotions and incarnated feelings distill the scene meaningfully, and FISH certainly knows his way through putting together words, that in the end, would display a poetic view.

All songs in here have a particular point of view, and a characteristic individuality of course, but I surrendered immediately to "Brother 52" (featuring Doc's story), a song that talks about true indelible marks friendship leaves upon yourself and the diamond clear perception of life. The song flows soulfully through a vivid experience, tattooing particular memories inside your head, carving words with repercussive meaning, "we are lover, warrior, magician kings". The musical passage described spectacularly by Martyn BENNETT and Foss PATTERSON, on violin and Hammond organ respectively, leads the song all the way to full enjoyment and appreciation. Irreparably, great stuff.

The self-titled song, carries away the full meaning of the album, it is determined to give away understanding, embracement and cohesion. Presumably, the album is not completely progressive or challenging nouveau, but from upon the hill FISH looked at it, it's only human, particularly really fundamental and extremely disturbing to the simplicities of the common mind. Deservedly, this proposing album stands out as excellent and intrepid. This is the perception of one man through the eyes of the world out there. This is the perception of FISH.

Review by Fishy
4 stars On the previous studio album Fish tried to spread his musical wings but failed. There was so much diversity that the point got lost. A lot of his following got disappointed and fans of progressive rock lost interest in the former Marillion front man. "Sunsets on empire" is an unexpected return to form although this sounds rather different when compared to earlier efforts. There's still lots of different musical influences but it's nicely integrated in the progressive rock style. Proof of that is the sound of the bonus track on the reissue. "Do not walk outside this area" has some exotic rhythms which may sound weird but as a addition to an atmospheric track with a strong chorus, it just works. In fact I think it has become one of the highlights. Porcupine Tree's Steve Wilson is the guy who is responsible for the nineties progressive sound and he did an excellent job. When you take a look at the song credits and you listen to the excellent guitar playing throughout most of the album you'll notice he was responsible for a lot more than that. Therefore fans of Porcupine Tree should definitely check this one out. From the opening track it is clear that this album has a rough edge, The music puts the rock in progressive rock and there's some pretty aggressive vocals. Although his voice is in rather good shape when compared to the live performances, it is clear his voice lost some of its power since his Marillion days. There's some excellent songwriting on this album( "Goldfish& clowns", "what colour is god", "brother 52"). The real highlights are "The perception of Johnny Punter" and the title track. These tracks have great melodies and an awesome wall of sound with different layers of guitars, keyboards and female background voices. Unfortunately the album also holds some boring stuff ("Say it with flowers", "Tara"). Overall excellent album with pretty strong lyrics as well but Marillion seems long gone and forgotten.
Review by Cygnus X-2
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Fish's 1997 release saw him treading into newer and more modern territories musically. This album is not truly progressive rock, but it's a nather blend of hard rock with progressive overtones. This album is very guitar oriented and they lay the basic foundation for essentially every song on here. Essentially what you can expect is high quality and very sniping lyrics on top of solid guitar riffing and chord progressions. It's not Fish's best album, but it certainly is very very far from his worst.

The album opens with The Perception of Johnny Punter, a rollicking 8:30 affair with a great guitar riff and some bitter lyrics about being a hostage or in a hostage situation. It starts of the album is a similar fashion that most Fish's albums start, fantastically. It's also the first of many songs on this album to feature a nice monologue or section of dialogue from Fish. Goldfish & Clowns opens with a lone droning piano note and some swelling guitar chords. A strong chorus and some interesting instrumentation are other highlights of this great song (that's better represented live, in my opinion).

Change of Heart is a 12 string guitar based piece with some floating slide guitar licks from Porcupine Tree's Steven Wilson (who appears on this album and Fish's next album, Raingods with Zippos). This song has a similar feel to some of Fish's older songs like Just Good Friends and Dear Friend (both from Internal Exile). It's a bit of a throwaway, but it still is a pretty good song for what it is. What Colour is God? is one of my favorite pieces on the album mainly because of the addictive chorus. A strong percussion based verse breaks loose into a multi-layered vocal experiment with a rather interesting chord progression underneath it. Tara is one of the poppier tunes solely if you base it on the music (but the lyrics are still pretty sappy). It's a predominantly mellow tune with a dynamic bassline, pretty piano work and some anxious synthesizer textures on top of it all. Jungle Ride is a 7:30 Fish monologue augmented by tribal/middle eastern sounding textures. The duet chorus and the uneasy environment created gives this song the perfect feeling.

Worm in a Bottle is a winding tune that has Fish singing happy birthday to himself. Some groovy organs and some quasi-electronic drumming as well as some Alex Lifeson inspired riffing can also be found on this song. Brother 52 begins with Fish making a phone call to a friend and they talk about the murder of a friend. Some more groovy organ and gutiar fills can be heard here as well as a punchy chorus. Sunsets on Empire is a vocal led piece that has a triumphant and uplifting feel despite a rather downtrodden theme. I'm quite fond of the piano work on this song, which ranges in many moods such as melancholy to energetic within a matter of seconds. Say it With Flowers has a nice phased guitar chord progression as well as some great acoustic instrumentation. It's a bit on the poppy side, but I feel that it ends the album well.

In the end, Sunsets on Empire isn't Fish's best work, but it isn't far from it. The modern edge and the pristine production only help improve the overall quality and feel of this album. Fans of Fish and Marillion will probably find a lot to enjoy about this album. 4/5.

Review by Prog Leviathan
3 stars A Fish album which will more than please fans, and maybe even attract attention from newcomers as well.

"Sunsets" has everything fans should expect from a Fish release: emotive and quality vocals, smart song-writing and lyrics and a classy production. However, this is the first around in which the instrumentalists match the quality of the singer, making for a more complete and interesting package. Much of the credit for this has been given to SW, whose distinctive guitar and atmosphere (circa his "Coma Divine/Signify" years) adds a new level to Fish's sound. The songs themselves are a good mix of easy sing-alongs, bluesy rockers and sinister grooves, fitting together nicely to make the album's distinct mood and artsy tendencies.

Recommended for not just Fish fans!

Songwriting: 3 Instrumental Performances: 3 Lyrics/Vocals: 4 Style/Emotion/Replay: 3

Review by Gatot
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars When I read "Marillion - Separated Out" book by Jon Collins, one of the great stories was the one written at page 13 by Steven Wilson (then 11 years old) about his first experience watching punk band The Chiltren Volcanoes at Berkhamstead Civic Center who did opening act for a band called "Marilyn" (sic). By the time the band called Marillion got into the stage there were only 25 people left because all the punk rockers already gone. Two years later Steven heard the band on Tommy Vance Radio 1 session when he was amazed about the band and followed them since then. And . decades later he assisted the band's ex front-man Fish producing this "Sunsets On Empire" album. I can imagine how big the generation gap is. And.. this is a very good album by Fish.

The Perception of Johnny Punter (8:37) is of course the best song from this album. It's got everything that I expect from Fish during his Marillion years: low register voice notes with strong accentuation and emotions followed with higher notes in his energetic style, mumbling and narratives in the middle of the song and powerful breaks. Well, that is actually something to do with composition. Yeah, the composition is very strong especially with Steven Wilson's hand in songwriting as well as production. The flow of the song is really wonderful. It starts with soft riffs by Steven Wilson with his unique guitar playing style followed by energetic low register notes by Fish which opens the song beautifully: "Just another wake up, a hostage of sunrise, .". Wow! What a great opening vocal line that reminds me to the legendary and memorable phrase of "So here I am once more! In a playground of a brokenheart ." from marillion's Script for A Jester's Tear album. My adrenalin runs at double speed when drums by Dave Stewart enters energetically which provides great atmosphere for guitar riffs to enter the scene. Oh man . I do not believe that Fish was finally able to make such a great song like this one. The guitar solo part (starts at approx min 3:18 until 5:00 - close to 2 minutes of solo!) is also powerful and memorable. I usually play this song LOUD to get subtleties of the music. It's very enjoyable track. It's killing!

I salute Steven Wilson's virtuosity in soundscape and production that make this opening track is so attractive and enjoyable/ It's one of best songs that Fish have ever produced. As I mentioned early that one of great things that I like about Fish vocal line is when he performs "mumbling" and "narrating" in the middle of the track. In this opening track he also does narrative at approx minute 5:10. Wow! It's so powerful hearing again the voice of Fish in narrative mode like he did in "Misplaced Childhood" album with Marillion. I like when he mentions with powerful low register notes ".when the dogs don't bark". Yeeeaaahhh!!! Fish rules man!!!!! This song ends with great joy and enlightenment that makes my day when I enjoy it very early in the morning. It's so catchy and memorable man!

"Goldfish & Clowns" (6:36) is a ballad song with good vocal of Fish. Again, he starts the first verse with powerful low register notes "There are vampires in the park Mawgojzeta .". The guitar fills that follow are also good. "Change Of Heart" (3:41) is another ballad with acoustic guitar by Robin Boult and Frank Usher. It's a good track but nothing special that I need to mention about this song.

What Colour Is God? (5:50) is another killer that I really love it very much. Fish and Wilson composed this song in upbeat energetic fashion and unusual to any Fish albums until this album was released. The intro part is truly killing me! It has a percussion exploration in the vein like our local Dang Dut music but with great instruments harmony of keyboard and howling guitar and loop samples. In a way the percussion work reminds me to the work of world music artists or Peter Gabriel's music. The howling guitar backed with long sustain keyboard work has created a great ambience of the music. Fish starts his first verse with powerful vocal line : "I was thinking about thinking, about thinking, about thinking I was thinking" is very atmospheric, catchy and memorable! Not only that, the music that accompanies him singing is really brilliant! Of course, I give this great song with a masterpiece rating. The song has successfully combined groovy style, rock and ambient music beautifully.

"Tara" (5:12) is a very personal song for Fish, dedicated for his daughter Tara. The music is quite simple and straight forward but the flow of the music is nice especially with cello and piano accompanying the music. Lyrically, it's about how a dad is longing for his daughter who stays in a distance and requires a flight to meet. "We'll see each other in the morning, when the sun comes up.".

"Jungle Ride" (7:34) starts with acoustic guitar rhythm and Fish narrative or mumbling style augmented nicely with percussion work. This song was written with Robin Boult. Again, this is a good presentation pf Fish singing and narrative style. "Worm In A Bottle" (6:24) is a song built around drum beats augmented with some nice howling guitar work as well as fills. It's also written with Robin Boult. Frank Usher plays his guitar excellently. You can also enjoy Ewen Vernal bass guitar work clearly here with this track.

"Brother 52" (6:03) is another song that orients around beats and it has a sort of disco style. It has all the energy and dynamics of funky and rock music. It starts wonderfully with piano work followed with telephone receiving conversation between Fish and his brother (?) Doug. Steven Wilson co wrote this song with Fish and provides guitar rhythm section. The cello solo in the middle of the track accompanying Fish narrative is really stunning. "Sunsets On Empire" (6:54) is a sad and dark (?) song about having to end a relationship. It's I think very personal to Fish. As I reckoned the days when Fish with Marillion, most of his great lyrics were invented when he was in miserable condition. This song seems like he experienced the same painful experience, looking at the lyrics. Musically, it's another excellent composition with some bluesy elements. The guitar work is also interesting. The album concludes with a mellow track "Say It With Flowers" (4:15) - it's a good ballad.

Overall, this is an excellent addition to any prog music collection. The collaboration with Steven Wilson of Porcupine Tree has made the album is interesting to enjoy especially with Wilson's skills and virtuosities in making great sounds. The ony concern that I have in terms of sound is the fact that this album has lesser bass than most of Porcupine Tree album. I don't know what is the reason on this - it's probably Fish wanted it like this way. It would be better if it's produced with the same quality like Porcupine Tree "Comma Divine" or "Stupid Dream" albums. Keep on proggin' ..!

Peace on earth and mercy mild - GW

Review by ZowieZiggy
3 stars It is always a pleasure to listen to a Fish album.

The opener sets the tone : this album will be harder than usual. Still some pleasant narration part and mellotron are tempering this orientation. But most of this good opener has a hard attack, no doubt.

"Goldfish & Clowns" has a genuine "Marillion" mood which is really pleasant to (re) discover. "Fugazzi" (the album) fans, this song is for you. This harder evolution could also be felt in this album and it is wonderfully transported into Fish's solo repertoire. Two lengthy and successful tracks to open this album is rather encouraging.

The next couple of songs are not of the same caliber. The light pop-oriented "Change Of Heart" can not really hold the comparison. A bit naïve. And "What Colour Is God" is too screaming IMO. As if Fish is trying to cover all the instruments with his voice. Heavy/funky style has never been my fave.

A more ambient song as "Tara" is more than welcome. The subtlety of the great man is back. I far much prefer him while his vocals are more delicate, charming than shouting. And this good melodic track is a perfect showcase for this. Fish can express all of his emotions in this ballad. The pleasant violin play is also responsible for a favourable opinion about this good song.

Another crowd favourite is "Brother 52". Another powerful song with a great keyboard play, very prominent. But what's catchy here, is the chorus line. Especially while played live. Lyrics are very pessimist and related to some dramas that occurred in the US (Oklahoma and Waco affairs).

Another highlight of this good album is the title track. Powerful but sweet at the same time (yes, it is possible). Backing vocals are very effective (similar to some great ones on Floyd's work). It should have been the closing number.

Three stars for this good "Fish" album.

Review by progrules
3 stars This 6th release by solo Fish is almost a deceiving one. It suddenly struck me when I listened to it one more time. It starts with two excellent songs: The Perception of Johnny Punter and Goldfish and Clowns. These two are actually very significant songs because they embody the resurrection of the Big Man.

Let's face it, after a promising debut his next four releases were hardly more than mediocre (the ratings on our site say it all, don't they ?) and then suddenly out of the blue after three years of "coming to senses" a surprising come back with two of such impressive songs, in my opinion two of the better he ever did. So why deceiving ? Well, to be honest, even though the rest isn't exactly poor, probably even a lot more than average, they are absolutely less and almost go back to the former standard.

But that probably also has to do with the fact that the two mentioned jewels are pretty heavy for his usual style and the others are more normal songs, some of them even ballads. Again I can't call them poor or mediocre really, they are actually pretty good. But somehow I canīt shake off the feeling that if I would be in some store and I only would have time for the first two songs to check out I would undoubtedly say: well, this is absolutely great and buy the album immediately and then when I got home check out the entire album and felt just a little bit betrayed.

Just a thought, itīs the way I sometimes look at albums: how are they constructed, how are they arranged ? Anyway, all in all I believe this is a very good album, behind Raingods .. probably his best ever. Itīs just falling short for a four star rating so I give three (3,4).

Review by Mellotron Storm
4 stars "Sunsets On Empire" stands head and shoulders above all of Fish's studio albums in my opinion.That's not counting his highly regarded "Thirteenth Star" (his latest) which I haven't heard yet but do own. I really do feel it's Steven Wilson's involvement on this album that has made the difference for me. Apparently Steven was a MARILLION fan and Fish also liked PORCUPINE TREE so Fish asked if he'd help him out with this one. Wilson arranged and produced it, and also co-wrote over half of these tracks, so yes he's had a big influence on the final product here. He also plays guitar on it. Check out the Cannabis leaves on the album cover.

"The Perception Of Johnny Punter" kicks in before a minute with heavy guitar and vocals. I like how it settles before 3 minutes then it kicks back in with some screaming guitar. Spoken words and a calm after 5 minutes then it kicks back in at 6 1/2 minutes. Great track. "Goldfish & Clowns" starts out with piano and guitar expressions. Reserved vocals join in before it kicks into gear at 2 minutes. Emotion. A guitar solo before 3 minutes then it settles back a minute later as contrasts continue. Good song. "Change Of Heart" features strummed guitar and reserved vocals. It's fuller after a minute. Nice guitar solo 2 1/2 minutes in.You can tell it's Steven Wilson playing it. "What Colour Is God" opens with percussion as reserved vocals join in. It kicks in with passionate vocals as contrasts continue. Catchy stuff.

"Tara" has a beat with piano and atmosphere as reserved vocals arrive. A very cool tune. Some female backing vocals too. "Jungle Ride" opens with spoken words, percussion and strummed guitar. It picks up with vocals after a minute. Great sound. Spoken words are back as themes are repeated. "Worm In A Bottle" opens with percussion and laid back vocals to start. It picks up a minute in as contrasts continue. "Brother 52" is interesting with the spoken word samples mixed in with the vocals, organ, piano and violin. Excellent tune. "Sunsets On Empire" reminds me of solo Roger Waters with the almost whispered vocals to start and gentle guitar. It does kick in at 1/2 minutes as contrasts continue. "Say It With Flowers" features reserved vocals and a mellow sound. Strummed guitar and more passionate vocals follow as contrasts continue.Tim Bowness helped compose this one with Wilson and Fish.

In the liner notes Fish credits Steven Wilson for pushing him to do things he had been avoiding, and bringing an "attitude" to the recording process. Fish really sings with passion like in his old MARILLION days and the songs here are more creative than his earlier solo stuff in my opinion.

Review by b_olariu
2 stars 2.5 actualy

From the beggining I must say that I'm no fan of Fish solo career, everything he release after the departure of Marillion to me is totaly uninspired and flat, and at some point some of his albums are not prog at all, are rock albums with good lyrics and nothing more. I know 4 albums from his catalogue, Internal exile, this one, Suits and 13th star, but not one gave me a very good impression overall. This one Sunsets on empire released in 1997 is almost ok, the opening track The Perception of Johnny Punter is good rock piece, the rest are almost mediocre at best, and I don't really care if Steve Willson was involved in the making of the album, to me remains a fairly unpleasent album overall. I do can appreciate that he is one of the best lyricist in prog music, but musicaly doid almost nothing for me and I had hard times listning to this at once. He has a good voice and I like him a lot in Marillion but here, from whispering passages to more louder sections, he always tries to take the face of the instrumental arrangements, who are already not fantastic and to few. So, 2,5 star to Sunsets on empire, great cover art and all , but the arrangements fail to impress me, this is not the kind of prog I want to listen every day.

Review by Warthur
5 stars The first few years of Fish's solo career were turbulent ones. His debut album was reasonably well-received, although I'm personally inclined to say that was more down to people being relieved it wasn't flat-out awful as opposed to a consequence of it actually hitting the level of his Marillion material. Either way, his next few albums showed diminishing commercial returns (and, though I rather enjoy them, suggested that the creative waters were not flowing to their fullest), and in setting up his own record company he ended up flooding the market with numerous interchangeable live albums to confuse things even more.

Despite not being much of a commercial success at the time, artistically Sunsets On Empire is where things started to seriously get back on the right track for Fish. Teaming up with a top-notch musical partner in the form of Porcupine Tree's Steven Wilson was an absolute genius move, because Wilson is able to craft a sound for Fish which hits precisely the combination of progressive leanings and crossover appeal that Fish had always seemed to strive for but hadn't quite managed to get right up to this point. Add this to Fish penning the most intelligent and thought-provoking lyrics of his solo career to date and bringing to the table an excellent vocal performance which for the first time since Clutching At Straws convinced me that he really believed in the ideas and emotions he was conveying, and you have one hell of an album.

In fact, I'd argue that the piece is a milestone both in Fish's solo career and in the overall progression of Steven Wilson's music - after this, Porcupine Tree would take an indie rock-influenced song-oriented approach for a couple of albums, which seems in part to be an application of the ideas developed here to the PT sound. In short, it's the coming together of two of the most important figures in British prog - one who helped revive the scene in the 1980s, and one who reinvented it from the 1990s onwards - and the more I listen to it, the more I'm convinced it's a full-on classic. "Can we say it's all worked out, it's all OK?" asks Fish on the gorgeous and minimalistic closer Say It With Flowers, and yes, Fish, this time around it's worked out fine.

Review by lazland
4 stars Sunsets on Empire was released in 1997, and, to me, rather clearly marks out the first instalment in the second part of Fish's duel solo career. This career started promisingly with the rather good Vigil in A Wilderness of Mirrors (itself, a logical follow up to Clutching At Straws), but rather swiftly degenerated into a morass of record company splits, dubious musical direction, and, frankly, a descent into commercial oblivion.

So, when this was released, I did not have too many hopes, but had seen some decent reviews, got it, and found that said reviews were fully justified. Although I do not feel that Fish has, unlike his former band mates, released a bona fide indispensable masterpiece, this is most certainly the first in a very consistently excellent series of albums, that has continued to 2013's Feast of Consequences.

What does, of course, set this apart, right from the crashing and heavy tones and riffs of The Perception of Johnny Punter, an overtly political piece about the shocking ignorance of the British general "bloke", is the involvement of a certain Mr Steven Wilson, he of Porcupine Tree fame. Not only did he lend guitars and keyboards, thus creating an altogether harder edge to more "traditional" Fish music, but also co wrote six tracks and, crucially, produced it, providing us with both a lush sound (the vocal harmonies are never anything less than beautiful), and a glimpse of his own future career direction. Certainly, I don't think that anyone else aside from Wilson could make the monologue of Jungle Ride sound so enticing and exotic. And, talking of political, the title track is a gloriously expansive pure rock track referencing, and, of course, celebrating the decline of that great institution, the British Empire, with bittersweet lyrics reminding all of said decline.

It is difficult to pull any particular track as a standout. I personally love the commercial prog rock of Goldfish and Clowns, the powerful funk of Brother 52, and the lush Celtic love of Tara, but, in truth, all of this is damned good, and quite how it flopped commercially so badly (Fish had to close his record company as a result) is a bit of a mystery, except, I suppose, that the musical sins of the past had rather caught up with him.

I am rather clear about this superb album, one of his best. It is well worth revisiting if you haven't heard it for a while, and, if you do not have it, buying to add an excellent, hard, bitter in places, and never less than fascinating release to your collection. Certainly, those of you "'ard and 'eavy" proggers (neo? Too soft for me, mate!) will find a great deal to enjoy here (What Colour Is God? should have been a PT track, it is that hard), and I really do wish that there was a hope of a further Dick/Wilson collaboration in the future.

Latest members reviews

5 stars 1997. It took me time but finally Marillion without Fish was as irremediable as it demonstrated it still made sense. Hogarth was good, and helped the band to experiment new directions although Fish had such a very special charism. We could finally "live without him" and still appreciate the fan ... (read more)

Report this review (#930458) | Posted by Monpierrot | Friday, March 15, 2013 | Review Permanlink

4 stars With his fifth studio album, "Sunsets On Empire", Fish has produced his best work since Vigil In A Wilderness Of Mirrors, released in 1990. One man is no stranger to this success: Steven Wilson, the leader of Porcupine Tree, co-wrote six songs (including one with his No-Man colleague Tim Bowness), t ... (read more)

Report this review (#273030) | Posted by fusaka | Friday, March 19, 2010 | Review Permanlink

1 stars I had shelved this album many years ago, but Fish's latest album, 13th Star, as well as the mostly excellent ratings given in PA, convinced me to give it another try in case I had been completely mistaken. And I was not. Listening tho Sunsets on Empire again for the purpose of this review was ... (read more)

Report this review (#234357) | Posted by SentimentalMercenary | Sunday, August 23, 2009 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Four stars. For me one of the best works by Steven Wilson as a producer (I must confess I didn't like so much the work he made for 'Kallocain' by Paatos), maybe only surpassed by latest Porcupine Tree albums, Opeth's Blackwater Park, Deliverance and Damnation, and No-Man's 'Schoolyard Ghosts'. ... (read more)

Report this review (#178482) | Posted by synesthetize | Wednesday, July 30, 2008 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Probably the greatest Fish album. Very original. A few masterpieces: Jungle Ride, What Colour is God, and of course The ballad of Johnny Punter. A couple of weak spots here and there. but quickly forgiven. I always loved Fish's voice and lyrics, he produced a few good albums (vigil, i.exil ... (read more)

Report this review (#165929) | Posted by silmarillion | Sunday, April 6, 2008 | Review Permanlink

4 stars This album arguably relaunched Fish's solo career with a new purpose and direction. In Steve Wilson he found a strong writing partner/producer and the result is this very strong album. 'Perception of Johnny Punter' is a bold opener, with slow, heavy riff and spoken sections. 'Brother 52' final ... (read more)

Report this review (#41318) | Posted by oldcrow | Tuesday, August 2, 2005 | Review Permanlink

3 stars I see the two tendencies in the post-marillion era of FISH: 1. Fish is a great song-writer, which is the most striking in Interal exile. The first album Vigil is still very much influenced by the style of marillion. However, after IE there are less and less melodic and catchy songs in his albu ... (read more)

Report this review (#24969) | Posted by | Thursday, February 24, 2005 | Review Permanlink

5 stars just the best album by Fish... take aside the mellower tracks (Tara, Change of Heart, Say it with Flowers) and you still got 45mn of pure exciting modern "trip rock"... Steve Wilson gives the record an amazing energy yet it's Fish who really blows everything ! he doesn't have the Marillion voice but ... (read more)

Report this review (#24967) | Posted by | Wednesday, March 17, 2004 | Review Permanlink

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