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Marillion - Seasons End CD (album) cover

SEASONS END

Marillion

 

Neo-Prog

3.76 | 789 ratings

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Orpheus-keys
4 stars Cast thy weary minds back to the depths of 1989. Tensions were rising, a new decade was blossoming and the glamorous aura of the 1980s was meeting its inevitable decline. In the world of alternative British music, - Madchester had reached its peak with major-selling groups like the Stone Roses and Inspiral Carpets whereas groups like New Order and the Smiths had already become remnants of yesterday. A little further South, in the progressive rock world, was a group called Marillion, - a quintet whose reign amongst the sheltered bedrooms of rock fanatics had reached their ten-year anniversary. With albums such as 'Script for a Jester's Tear' and 'Misplaced Childhood', they had become household names in Britain by now, - largely due to original frontman Fish who marked his territory on the grounds of rock with his blending of fantastical lyricism, despondent imagery and stage theatricality. In 1988 Fish left the group and was soon replaced by Steve Hogarth. Short on press support but high on ambition and confidence, the group set out to record their fifth album with their new vocalist.

The album starts with the eight-minute opus 'King of Sunset Town' which is a sprawling and diverse piece of music and lyricism. Thematically similar to earlier works like 'The Web' with high connotations of dejection and moodiness is balanced nicely with segments of fantastical elevation. Keyboardist Mark Kelly is consistent as usual but is now taking full advantage of more modernized keyboard sounds, particularly during the intro section. Guitarist Steve Rothery also shines with usual displays of melodic nuances throughout the track. Indubitably a strong opener and the proggiest track on the album. 'Easter' is an electric- acoustic pop song which was released as a single after its release. The song begins as a gentle acoustic ballad before gradually building up tension into a climactic chorus, which is followed by an extended heartfelt guitar solo which is simulataneously passionate and sedative. The song closes with an upbeat reprise of the main theme with accompanying scat- singing. 'The Uninvited Guest' is another catchy pop song with hard rock elements similar to that of 'Incommunicado' from their previous album Clutching at Straws. 'Seasons End' is the representative track of the album; another eight-minute opus which is very slow throughout. First half of the song is very emotional and dramatic which is chock-full of crashing cymbals, guitar chords and cascading synth pads. The second half takes on a more quirky vibe with Mark Kelly taking centre-stage with polyrhythmic marimba-sounding swirls before the track gradually fades out and closes Side One.

Side Two opens with 'Holloway Girl' which is a fairly slow yet upbeat and catchy song which is led by a pervasive delayed guitar riff. 'Berlin' is the third-longest song on the album which retains true to the album's dramatic and ambient quality, - but not quite as breathtaking as Easter nor nowhere near as progressive and diverse as King of Sunset Town or Seasons End. 'After You' is a gorgeous ballad which is definitely one of my personal favourite for it showcases a sublime vocal performance by Hogarth and the lyrics are very sincere and sweet without sounding too saccharine or sappy. 'Hooks in You' was the leading single from the album and definitely the sole AOR-styled rocker on the album, - although in reflection it doesn't age too well in comparison with the rest of the album. 'The Space...' closes the album with a punch as it enriches the listener with its somber, reflective yet life-affirming quality. Rich in orchestral textures and layering, the six-minute slow epic ends with the universal lyric "Everybody lives and loves and laughs and cries and eats and sleeps and grows and dies.." giving the whole album a very earthy quality.

Overall; - a splendid release at a very difficult time for the group. Inevitably hesitant to stray too far away from their roots yet they clearly had an adamant desire to progress and evolve beyond the sprawling progressive-rock epics of the early 80s into a more balanced and streamlined group with ambient textures. A very solid record, a key release and an essential listen for even the most ardent Fish-era Marillion fanatic.

Orpheus-keys | 4/5 |

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