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Marillion - This Strange Engine CD (album) cover





3.42 | 561 ratings

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4 stars The rebirth...

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

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

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

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

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

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

rupert | 4/5 |


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