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Marillion - F E A R (F*** Everyone And Run) CD (album) cover

F E A R (F*** EVERYONE AND RUN)

Marillion

Neo-Prog


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maani
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Founding Moderator
3 stars "The cold war's gone, but those bastards'll find us another one/They're here to protect you, don't you know?/So get used to it - Get used to it!.../The sense that it's useless, and the fear to try/Not believing the leaders, the media that feed us/Living with the big lie." ("Living With the Big Lie," from Brave)

In the 27 years since Steve Hogarth took over as lead vocalist for Marillion, the band has had only one bona fide concept album: the aurally and emotionally stunning Brave (1994). Using as a starting point the (true) news story of a young woman found roaming around an area of England -- who did not know who she was, or where she had come from, and even refused to speak to the police or the media -- the band created a fictional "back story" for her, which included some fairly "dark" elements, including re politics, socio-culture, media -- and fear. The above quotation is a good example -- and very relevant to their new album, as the new album offers a look at how the "big lie" has become even bigger. However, the overall effect of Brave was more "melancholic" than grim, more sad than "judgmental" (of the society they describe).

Twenty-two years later, the same (or worse) "darkness" exists in many of the same ways, but even more ominously now -- and this time the band is at the center of the story -- and they are ANGRY. Indeed, the overall effect of the album is one of barely checked (and occasionally unbridled) anger, and a deep frustration and concern both for England (whom they are directly addressing) and beyond (including the U.S., for whom some of the issues are the same). One might say (borrowing another phrase from Brave) that the band is no longer "hollow men," but has become both worldly-wise and world-weary, both "informed" and disillusioned, even (to a degree) cynical.

The album consists of three suites, separated by two other compositions, one of which relates directly to the suites, the other of which seems a tad out of place (though, as we will see, its inclusion does make some sense). The three suites -- "El Dorado," "The Leavers," and "The New Kings" -- and the related composition ("Living in FEAR") are all, in one form or another, observations on fear: how it is created (fear-mongering), how it is controlled (via politics and media), how it affects people. The other composition ("White Paper") is mostly a meditation on love -- in this case, "dying" love -- though it seems that the love is dying at least in part as the result of the prevailing atmos-fear. Thus, while it is a tad more "jarring" in this context then the similar inclusion of love on Brave, there is no question that love is also a victim of fear.

The album opens with "El Dorado," a five-part composition that describes the plight of immigrants, and the roadblocks (both figurative and literal) that they often encounter, particularly including xenophobia:

"The roads are traveled by many, like promises of peace./And some choose not to go -- the fear looks like bravado./I see them waiting, smiling, on the borders in dawn's mist,/Or lost to the world in their upturned boats"/"I see myself in them, the people at the borders/Denied our so-called golden streets,/Running from demolished lives into walls."

It doesn't get much more concise, and understandably cynical, than that. In fact, this suite makes an interesting companion piece to "Gaza" (from their previous album, Sounds That Can't Be Made): where the latter (a 17-minute epic) is specific to a certain group, the former (another 17-minute epic) deals with a broader scope. It is also interesting to note that this album was written and recorded well before the Brexit vote, and could be seen as somewhat prescient in that regard.

"Living in FEAR" is a more generalized look at fear, and particularly the responses it creates, not least including a variety of "walls" (again, both literal and figurative). Noting specific walls and "lines not to be crossed" (the Great Wall of China, the Maginot Line, the Berlin Wall -- all of which are called "a waste of time"), it also speaks to the "walls" that people themselves put up when they are afraid.

That observation is made against a hopeful call for some sort of normalcy:

"The key left in the outside of the unlocked door isn't forgetfulness --/It's a challenge to change your heart./The apple pie cooling on the windowsill is such a welcome change/From living in fear -- year after year after year./There's a price to pay, living in fear is so very dear./Can you really afford it?"

There is also a call to "put down our arms" ("We've decided to risk melting our guns -- as a show of strength").

Although least "political," the second suite ("The Leavers") puts the band in the center of the story -- after all, touring allows for a degree of observation of the world that is perhaps only shared by true "world travelers." The band sees itself as "Leavers" -- "parties that travel" -- who show up for a day or two and then move on. They arrive "before dawn," and "slip in from ring- roads," bringing their "boxes of noises, boxes of light": "We will make a show and then we'll go." They juxtapose themselves against the "Remainers": those who "remain in their homely places" (i.e., lead normal lives), and sometimes "try to persuade us, and tame us, and train us and save us and keep us home as we try to fit in with the family life." But once in a while, the Remainers "leave their homely places with excited faces -- preparing their minds for a break from the sensible life" (i.e., a rock concert)..."[I]n one sacred ritual, we all come together -- We're all one tonight."

As noted, although "White Paper" is something of an "outlier" here, it nevertheless provides a look at how fear can affect love -- and vice-versa.

"The New Kings" is the angriest and most sardonic of the three suites. It addresses money and media, plutocrats and oligarchs. Re money, it is decidedly less than kind:

"We are the new Kings, buying up London from Monaco./We do as we please, while you do as you're told./Our world orbits yours and enjoys the view,//From this height we don't see the slums and the bums on the street./Oceans of money high in the clouds/But if you hang around, more often than not it will trickle down./We're too big to fall, we're too big to fail."

Even Gordon Gekko gets a shout-out ("Greed is good").

With respect to the media, the following plaint by a confused citizen pretty much nails the cynicism of many people (including conspiracy theorists):

"We saw the crash on the news today/It changed our lives -- but did it really happen?.../I don't know if I can believe the news/They can do anything with computers these days."

As an aside, it is interesting to consider "The New Kings" in light of the following from Brave's "Paper Lies":

"Are we living only for today?/It's a sign of the times --/We believe anything and nothing./When you look into the money/Do you see a face you hardly recognize?/When you get behind the news of the world/Do the things you find begin to bend your mind?/Paper lies."

As noted, after 22 years, not only has nothing changed, but it seems to have gotten worse.

But the band leaves its bitterest anger at the "approaching storm" (which may well already be here) for last:

"Remember a time when you thought that you mattered/Believed in the school song, die for your country/A country that cared for you -- all in it together?/A national anthem you could sing without feeling used or ashamed./If it ever was more than a lie, or some naïve romantic notion/Well, it's all shattered now./Why is nothing ever true?.../On your knees, peasant. You're living for the New King."

Although Marillion (and particularly Mr. Hogarth) has always dabbled in socio-politics, it has become increasingly present -- and the band increasingly concerned -- of late. In this regard, F.E.A.R. is a shamelessly -- and understandably -- angry set of observations, and brings their socio-politics to a fine (rapier-like) point.

Musically, if Marillion's three strongest musical influences are (as I have always felt) Genesis, Pink Floyd and the Moody Blues, this album is strongly (and superbly) Floydian, with nice touches of the Moodies, and only occasional Genesis influence. (Indeed, the electric piano figure in "The Gold," and some other keyboard figures, could have been lifted from PF's Animals. And much of the guitar work throughout has a wonderfully Gilmour-ish sensibility.) This is actually not surprising (and is meant as a compliment), given that PF are the masters of the kind of "dystopian" rock that F.E.A.R. represents. And although everyone in the band is superb -- and there is a deceptively brilliant cohesion that approaches a sort of uber-gestalt -- this album is largely Mark Kelly's (with a more-than-able assist from guitarist Steve Rothery): although Mr. Hogarth undoubtedly plays some piano parts, it is Mr. Kelly's piano and keyboards (along with the atmospheres and effects created in the studio) that undergird nearly the entire album. And this, too, is not surprising, since this is true of almost every great concept album in prog.

As suggested above, there are also quite a few allusions (subconscious or not), both lyrical and musical, to Brave. In fact, after you have had a chance to truly take this album in, I invite you to go back and read the lyrics to Brave, and then listen to Brave again. And this is not in any way a criticism of F.E.A.R.: if anything, it is another compliment. Indeed, the only reason I am rating this album 4.5 instead of five stars is that I gave five stars to Brave; and while this album is superb in every way -- and harks back to that masterpiece -- it does not quite reach the frightening brilliance of its predecessor.

Finally, there is an aspect of this album that I have not found with any other concept album in memory. [N.B. This is where even curious readers who are reading this before listening may want to stop and listen to the album first. I am quite serious. I'll give you a little time to think about it. (Tick-tock-tick-tock?)]

What I have discovered is that the five pieces are strangely "inter-changeable." What I mean by this is that the song order can be changed, not only without changing the overall concept, but, in at least one case (and I admit this is hopelessly presumptive) possibly strengthening it.

This thought first occurred when I received the album as a download, with the song "Tomorrow's New Country" closing the album, even though it appeared on the lyric sheet as the sixth ("vi") part of "The Leavers." When I contacted Marillion to make sure this was the correct placement, I asked, if it was, whether it was deliberate: i.e., an attempt to "soften the blow" at the end of "The New Kings." The response was, yes, it was meant as an "antidote" (their word), and was deliberately moved from "The Leavers" to the end of the album (though the lyric sheet still reflected its original place).

So -- I decided to see what the album would sound like putting "Tomorrow's New Country" back in its "proper" place. And the effect was remarkable. Not better or worse, just -- different, in a surprising (and even conceptually relevant) way. (Once you have heard the album in its given order a few times, I highly recommend programming it to do this -- just for fun, if nothing else.) Then, feeling as I do about "White Paper," I decided to test a theory, and played the five pieces in a couple of different orders entirely (while keeping the three suites in order). The order that surprised me most (in a positive, eyebrow-raising way) with respect to expressing the overall concept (and also working together "musically" from one track to another) was starting with "White Paper," playing the three suites in their present order one after the other, and ending with "Living in FEAR." Again, I am not suggesting that the order chosen by the band is "wrong" in any way. After all, the band's "vision" is the one that counts, and there are reasons (good ones!) that they chose the song order that they did. I am simply suggesting that, unlike most (maybe any) concept albums you've heard, there is an interesting ability to "play around" with the placement of the two non-suites, and maintain both conceptual and musical integrity.

Ultimately, F.E.A.R. is a superb album (and, like all great albums, gets better with each listen), and a welcome addition not only to Marillion's oeuvre, but to the prog concept album canon. Kudos to one of the few bands that keeps neo-prog not simply alive, but thriving and -- progressing. And a band that has genuine care and concern for the world around them and the people who live in it.

Report this review (#1612012)
Posted Friday, September 16, 2016 | Review Permalink
2 stars So here we are once more to talk about Marillion's new stuff. Once more their latest work is subsequent to a pre-order, then there is the promotional tour, maybe with a LIVE record, then there will be the Marillion Weekend followed by a DVD and so on and on, with a tried and tested mechanism to earn money, well supported by the huge quantity of fans. Before going on I need to make you notice that I know Marillion since their very first start, and I loved them in both Fish and H lives.

I've listened to FEAR several times then I decided to write down this review, which is a step forward with the respect of the preceding STCBM, when I was totally unimpressed.

The overall impression is that this new work is better than the preceding album, there are no silly songs as "Pour My Love" or "Invisible Ink", there are long suites in the classical aim of progressive rock songs. My perception is that the sounds and the song structures come from preceding recording sessions as MARBLES or BRAVE (don't be surprised... these are their best works in H era and are extremely beloved by fans) or also something from THIS STRANGE ENGINE. The result brings, in my opinion, to useless long suites built up with cut&paste of several sketches, without energy, inspiration and creativity. The guitar solos, once one of their best things, come out always in the same way, with the same register and the same pattern. The drummer work seems unenthusiastic, poor of ideas and even the drums sound seems too grave and vintage, as if it would have been recorded with only two overhead microphones, instead of a complete set on the single components of the drumkit. Too bad! On the other hand, Mark Kelly seems to have found another time that beautiful way to play piano, which was among the beautiful things of Marillion sound (remember how strong and incisive was the chord which followed 'So here I am once more..." in the first album) and Pete's bass is always precise, well rounded and rich of good patterns. I've found very interesting and captivating the sumptuous end of "The New Kings", but when you have to wait almost an hour for an emotion in a CD, something's not going in the right way, don't you think?

At the end I think that Marillion have a huge amount of unreleased stuff in their wardrobes, and they eventually extract from it what their fans prefer, since they've paid for the new album in advance. Hoping the provisions will end as soon as possible I cannot give more than 2 stars. 2.5 for the love I had for this band in the past.

Report this review (#1614895)
Posted Saturday, September 24, 2016 | Review Permalink
2 stars Don't get me wrong, I used to be a great enthousiast of Marillion. I liked them to bits. I even enjoyed Marillion.com and Anaroknophobia.

But since they turned into a shadow of themselves, every album seems and sounds uninspired. FEAR sounds like the guys really don't want to do it anymore. They do it for the fans. Mediocre songs with uninspired musical and vocal contributions.

Mark Kelly and Pete Trewavas are the only ones that sound great. Ian Mosley hasn't played a single drumroll or beat since Interior Lulu that held me in awe. He sounds tired and washed out. The same goes for Steve Rothery, where are the heartbreaking and goosebumpy solos like on Easter or Ocean Cloud?

And Steve Hogarth sings really forced. He takes the leadrole and he's always singing, never giving the band a chance to come with nice instrumental passages. He never really was a good singer, but he had soul and emotion. Now it all seems gone.

The last great record the band made was Less is More and with pain in my heart, I must admit that Marillion doesn't do it for me anymore. Sorry guys.

Report this review (#1615366)
Posted Sunday, September 25, 2016 | Review Permalink
2 stars The new Marillion album, "FEAR", has been compared to "Brave" and very early Marillion. In fact, however, it sounds like "Afraid of Sunlight" (or even "This Strange Engine") Part 2, artificially constructed as an epic. The music is either slow or very slow and is unpretentious, most of the time reminding me of symphonic Ambient with vocals. There are few purely instrumental arrangements (none of which exceed 1 minute in duration), and they're as boring as the mixed ones, Hogarth really whining this time around, throughout the album, no matter what he whines about, i.e., the lyrics are more than merely decent overall. Sans the concluding one, The New Kings, all the epic-length songs are just pseudo-epic in construction. Either way, while being the best track here, The New Kings is also dissatisfying from a progressive rock perspective, strongly inferior to 'The King' from the aforementioned "This Strange Engine". IMO, any progressive rock song should be created on the basis of instrumental arrangements (as it was in the case of "Brave", for instance), rather than by using the vocal lines as a 'starting point' for composing music, but "FEAR" is characterized exactly by the latter approach. To be objective, I must add that the album is by no means devoid of what we've used to call "atmosphere", which is more often dramatic than romantic (indeed, it would've been really strange had it been otherwise), but never really dark, let alone fearful. So, if you consider "Brave" the best Marillion album (as I do), avoid "FEAR", because there's too little here to please even a 'classic' neo-prog fan, let alone those who prefer profound progressive rock.
Report this review (#1615701)
Posted Sunday, September 25, 2016 | Review Permalink
3 stars So after 5 complete sittings on good equipment I feel ready to share my thoughts. The independent reviews gave reason to be optimistic, while others have dared to air their disappointment, only to get shot down as though they have just insulted someone's relative. Sadly as much as I want to give my all time favourite band a glowing review to match the expectation, I am left feeling a rather underwhelmed. My excitement slowly ebbs away as I finish every session wondering whether the independent reviewers were given a different version to me!

"Similarities to Brave?" - Not even a close contest. Brave has multiple sections of pure brilliance, taking you on a journey through quiet moments of genius to guitar solos of such quality that the hairs stand up on the back of your neck. Once again Rothery's guitar takes a back seat as he continues to ruin every one by insisting on using his favourite effects pedal that sounds like he is playing underwater. I can only apologise to the band for slating their hard work. I just find this album uninspiring and dull. 'The New Kings' is easily the best section, but it still left me wanting more.

I am now sure to get slaughtered for giving my honest opinion, and that is fine as some people will take offence. Music is very personal, and my opinion will always conflict with others, and on this occasion with the band themselves who have said that they are now able to write what they want without feeling the need to please everyone. Good for them, and I respect their attitude. Unfortunately it is not good for me. Good musicianship, good lyrics at the most, good packaging, good album (just maybe not for me). A 'good' 3 stars.

Report this review (#1616004)
Posted Monday, September 26, 2016 | Review Permalink
4 stars It's 2016 and as it is an Olympic year that coincidentally means a new Marillion album. The last three albums have been pre-ordered special editions released in an Olympic year and FEAR is no different (it will be written as FEAR for short in this review). I shall be reviewing the special edition of their eighteenth studio album (the fourteenth since Steve Hogarth joined in 1989).

The first thought when I saw the box was how well put together it was. No expense was spared in creating something you would be proud to own. I loved seeing my name in the credits again and also think it was a good decision to ask for the band to sign it. My second thought is the title ? "Fuck Everyone and Run". Is it a controversial title? Only because Marillion have never really been known as a sweary band but when you understand the lyrics and themes of the album you can certainly see why they chose it. If it is necessary to be a bit controversial to get your point across than that has a much bigger impact than just being controversial for the sake of it. Also, it is the only swear word mentioned on the album so it is hardly Ice-T's Home Invasion.

Included with the compact disc is a DVD. This contains the album in both stereo and surround sound mixes. You can select the audio option so it plays the album as instrumentals too. I think the instrumental version is a lovely idea and gives the album a whole new dimension. It is just a shame to lose Steve Hogarth's lovely voice. There are also three videos of short jam session recordings but I think what will interest the fans most is the sixty-three minutes long documentary of the making of the album.

The most important part of the album is obviously the songs themselves. Apart from Marillion's influences of Pink Floyd, The Beatles, Radiohead, Genesis, Yes and others, it seems to me that the biggest musical influence on this album is themselves. It feels as though the band intend to take some of the most interesting and beautiful parts of their previous albums and streamline them into something incredibly special on this album. Their evolution over the last thirty-five years has meant there is an incredible back catalogue to choose from.

What I have noticed is that Mark Kelly is a lot more prominent on this album. His synthesiser, piano and organ playing carry the songs far more than they have ever done which for a keyboards and one guitar based band like Marillion is saying quite a lot. Steve Rothery is still playing some wonderful guitar parts but it is a lot more restrained and quite subtle in places. Pete Trewavas and Ian Mosley are playing superb bass and drums here too. Pete has some really quite impressive bass riffs especially on 'El Dorado' and Ian has some very powerful fills.

The lyrics are certainly a lot more political compared to previous albums and deal with universal subjects such as patriotism, propaganda, pacifism, economic inequality but more personal subjects such as life on the road as a touring band.

Opener 'El Dorado' starts with a pastoral acoustic passage but becomes an incredible widescreen epic with lots of synth, organ and piano sounds. The synth parts give it a definite science fiction feel especially in the second part of the suite and some are actually quite scary. Definitely one to be played as loud as possible.

'Living in FEAR' is a shorter piano driven song but no less special, quite plaintive during the verses but becoming bombastic during the chorus. I especially like the German and Russian lines at the end. It gives the song an international feel.

'The Leavers' is another long track opens with a wonderful twinkling synth arpeggio reminiscent of Tangerine Dream and then follows another incredible epic adventure in music. The lyrics outline life on the road for the band and those who stay at home but see them live in their hometown. The electronics and piano sounds are all there and Steve Rothery closes the song with an amazing guitar solo. It is fast becoming my favourite song on the album. Absolutely stunning.

'White Paper' is the second short song but is also no less welcome than the long songs. There is a lot of piano on this song (there is a lot on the whole album actually) but it never gets boring as it is treated with echo and reverb and sounds very beautiful.

Third long song 'The New Kings' was very kindly released by the band as a stand-alone mp3 so we were already quite familiar with it. This was because they were performing it live over the summer and did not want fans to hear a rubbish version of it on YouTube. The strings give the song an orchestral air but you can feel the anger and energy throughout the whole song.

The album was produced and mixed by Michael Hunter who has done an amazing job as the unofficial sixth member of the band. All the instruments are perfectly balanced but there is still room for each player to breathe and not to overwhelm anyone else. He hasn't overdone the reverb but the songs still sound powerful with the dynamic range compression (reducing the volume of loud sounds and amplifying the quiet sounds) in all the right places so the album doesn't distort too much. It has a classic production sound but also sounds like a modern digital recording just like a proper album should be with a warm sound that isn't sterile sounding.

There are a few flaws and this album is not perfect. The album was mastered with seventeen tracks so the long songs consist of five-six sections. This means that there is the two-second gap between sections. I think the vocals could have done with a bit more quality control. Steve Hogarth has always had a tendency to mumble the odd sentence in his vocal delivery and the album continues this quirk. I feel that final track 'Tomorrow's New Country' feels slightly out of place as it is part of The Leavers suite but tagged on at the end after 'The New Kings' but it is a lovely little piece of music so it had to go somewhere. Also, some people may miss the eight, nine and ten minute songs and the eight track albums but there are plenty of other Marillion albums for that.

In conclusion, I would certainly put this in my top five of favourite Marillion albums. In my list it would probably go in at number three, it is a better album than 'Sound's That Can't Be Made' and 'Anoraknophobia' but not as good as 'Marbles' and 'Afraid of Sunlight'. I would certainly give this album an eight out of ten.

Report this review (#1618338)
Posted Tuesday, October 4, 2016 | Review Permalink
lazland
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars FEAR, or, to put it a little bit more bluntly, Fuck Everyone And Run, is the eighteenth studio album by Marillion, keenly anticipated by those of us who crowd funded the venture via Pledge Music what seems like eons ago. When my cd arrived, gloriously on time, on 23rd September, it was signed by the band, and I took myself into the dungeon of my study to immerse myself into new music by my favourite band.

A little over an hour later, I went back into the sitting room and the metaphorical bosom of my lovely wife. "Well, how was it?". "Erm, okay, well, I'm sure it will turn out really good". Not exactly a ringing endorsement, in all honesty.

This feeling stayed with me for the first three listens. Then, over the next couple of listens, the album began to connect. And, then, it hit me.

This is not an album that you walk away from early thinking it has classic written all over it. It is just about the slowest slow burner I have ever known. But, when it does hit you, by God, it is like a sledgehammer, because this is an extremely special piece of work.

For me, it was towards the end of the second phase of El Dorado, The Gold, when the band do what they have always done at their best, a multi-layered wall of sound accompanying a deliciously beautiful Steve Rothery solo.

The piece itself introduces us gently with some birdsong, before a rather ominous second sub-section, with Kelly roaring, announces itself to us with a delicate interplay between the band, a gentle piano recurring throughout the work, before said wall of sound asserts itself with some huge passages of wonderfully produced power - no review of this album, by the way, could go without mentioning with a great deal of respect the work Mike Hunter has put in to bringing out the best of his musical charges. The FEAR sub-section then brings the listener into the intensity and emotion of all that follows perfectly.

I do not think that the band themselves have ever sounded better. Mark Kelly is plastered all over this work, with a mixture of intelligent sounds that deceive with their apparent simplicity, although the key word here is apparent, because his efforts simply lead the band in both direction and tone. This is quite simply the sound of a keys player who has become the genre's finest modern exponent.

Steve Rothery adds some lovely trademark touches (and it is still the case that a towering Rothery performance is the key to a towering Marillion performance), whether it be by virtue of his effectively rhythm guitar backing swirling keys, to lead guitar bursts which make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up, whilst Pete Trewavas and Ian Moseley are quite simply doing well what they have always done well, leading the charge with a backdrop which, at turns, excites, and then drags the music back to the mellow places it intended.

And what of the vocalist and lyricist I admire above all others, a certain Mr h? The title of the album is stark, to say the least. Fuck Everyone And Run. Fuck them all. The rich bastards responsible for digging ever deeper the grave of poverty of ordinary people around the world. The abandonment of the traditional country, and values, on the sword of run away capitalism. This, combined with some deeply personal lyrics as well, Is a forceful statement by a man who is approaching his sixties, and feels he has to make his feelings clear to the world, and life, before it becomes too late. He manages it with aplomb, not a celebrity moaning in the pages of a cheap "lifestyle" mag, but setting his thoughts out plainly in a wonderfully sincere work of art.

And the songs? Living In Fear, which follows El Dorado, is one of those hugely enjoyable Marillion tracks which combines progressive rock with commercial sensibilities, and fairly races along, with the band moving things along at an incredible rock pace, pushing Hogarth's vocals to the very limit. The Kelly lead two thirds in when there is a short pause in the intensity is lovely, this before the pace becomes something akin to Usain Bolt on speed, with a soaring guitar and band accompanying a choral mix of screams.

What follows next, though, is simply a classic, a track which deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as past glories such as The Great Escape, Neverland, Real Tears for Sale, and The Invisible Man. The Leavers is a staggering creation, and one which, above all, requires a very patient set of listening sessions before being fully appreciated. The track itself is split into five sub-sections, telling the story of The Leavers and Remainers. It is not, by the way, a reference to the Brexit debate in the recent UK Eu referendum - the lyrics were, I believe, written well before that. As with all of the finest lyrical songs, there is ample room for the listener to put his/her own interpretation on what the writer is trying to convey. My take on this (and I have not seen any documentaries explaining this, as I believe such programmes rather spoil the fun) is that we are, as a race, split between two differing tendencies, those who will fight for all they believe in and tough things out, including their support for favourite bands, loved ones, causes, and those who simply leave, sometimes because they feel they have no choice, but find themselves in tremendously difficult circumstances sometimes as a result, including the opprobrium of the people's they encounter, unfairly most of the time.

Whatever Hogarth's intent, this track has some sublime moments. It features all that is best about the later work of this great band, from staggeringly intense rock, to the sublime interplay, delicately phrased, between Rothery, Kelly, and Trewavas (who is more and more a bassist in the Squire and Entwistle tradition of playing lead with his bass) on part three. The piano work on this, by the way, adds such a delicate layer of subtle beauty to proceedings that you stare agog at the speakers, with this and Hogarth's fragile voice crying at you. Then, midway through part four, Jumble of Days, one of the most urgent of Rothery solos cries out plaintively, with an incredible wall of sound from Kelly backing. The intensity of the music towards the end, "you won't be much use to us dead", is astounding. The pace relaxes again in the intro to part five, One Tonight, with some delicate guitar and piano underlaid by a sensitive Trewavas riff, before there comes one of those rare moments in music. One of those moments, when the band turn up the intensity to White Heat, before Hogarth, who has never sounded better than in this section, cries out with such feeling to break your heart, "We Come Together", and then Rothery sings to us against a backdrop of pure lovely noise, and at the end you really just have to hit the pause button, have a drink, have a cigarette, just simply take a break to recover. Simply wonderful, and up there at the top, end of.

White Paper is the most personal lyrically on the album, with those lovely keyboard textures backing Hogarth bearing his soul. This is a mournful and deeply moving prog ballad, accompanied by bursts of urgent energy musically, and has nothing of filler in it whatsoever.

The album has three tracks, spilt into sub-sections, over fifteen minutes long (and if that does not have true prog fans slavering at the mouth, then, really, nothing will), and the last of these is The New Kings. This was the track made available a few weeks prior to the official album release as a download to keep us "pre-orderers'" happy. I gave it a few listens, but it was not really until I heard it in the context of the whole album that I really began to appreciate this fine piece of music.

It is, by far, the most political lyric ever set to music by the band. It continues a fine tradition begun, all those years ago, by Forgotten Sons. Indeed, I would place a fair wager that a certain Mr Dick would rather wish he had written this. Quite honestly, it does not really matter what your politics, because Hogarth sets to music the indelible unfairness of a system which allows such avarice and greed to go unchecked, with such awful consequences to the rest of the ordinary population. Musically, it takes the themes of the opener to their natural conclusion, and it is here that the track works so well. The cover of Brave proclaimed that we should play it loud, with the lights out. This one is exactly the same, because it absolutely soars in places, and is incredibly intense, with Moseley and Trewavas never sounding so good at shoving the music along, a lead rhythm section to beat all others. I adore the female vocals which adorn parts of sub-section four, Russia's Locked Doors. We are all, in one way, or another, working for The New Kings, who are truly "too big to fail", and the band provide us with an incredible wall of sound to emphasise the pain and intensity which those lyrics correctly convey, especially when we listen to the emotions plaintively put across at the staggering and scary happenings when a passenger jet, full of innocent families, is brought down by Russian state missiles. The closing section, Why Is Nothing Ever True, is as heavy as the band have ever sounded, and the dripping venom of the lyrics panning those who got us all into this sorry state hit home with unerring accuracy.

To close, we have the inevitable short comedown that is Tomorrow's New Country, an opportunity for us all to come down as gently as is possible, given the raw emotion which preceded it.

This is an incredible album. It is an album which absolutely demands repeated listening, not just to "get it" in the first instance, but to grow to appreciate just what a work of staggering musical art it is. This album is right up there with the band's finest. It deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as Script, Brave, This Strange Engine, and Marbles. I cannot award it anything less than a masterpiece rating.

A final thought. There are not many bands on this site who, eighteen studio works in, can still lay claim to being able to record and release such vital and relevant music. For those of you "neo-prog haters", I can only say this. Marillion have, once again, shown themselves to be the masters of intelligently written, and intensely performed, progressive rock. This is not traditional neo. This is traditional fine rock music, end of.

A masterpiece of modern progressive rock music, which comes extremely highly rated.

Report this review (#1630529)
Posted Monday, October 10, 2016 | Review Permalink
3 stars Is it sacrilege to prod prog icons with a quizzical stick? Given the sheer quantity and quality of their output over the years - (Fish? Hogarth? Still? After all this time? Who really cares any more?) - it goes without saying that Marillion are tantamount to untouchable. They have given me countless hours of great listening pleasure. But, on the evidence of FEAR, it seems they may now be running on empty. I wasn't over-struck by "Sounds that can't be made" but at least it contained some grand epics that kept it afloat. FEAR takes us a step backward, and downwards. It's just a listless, plaintive elegy for The Unfairness of It All, tapping into the rich nostalgia seam already comprehensively mined by Big Big Train (another band going off the boil, by the way) but comes up with nothing new. I read the eulogies from all and sundry and must bow to other people's judgement, but I have to say that very little in FEAR made me pause, heartfelt lyrics included. I waited for the key moments, but, El Dorado II aside, I waited in vain. Not a record to listen to in future, I'm afraid. Three stars is being over-generous, but I'm a generous soul.
Report this review (#1631216)
Posted Tuesday, October 11, 2016 | Review Permalink
Aussie-Byrd-Brother
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Rock Progressivo Italiano Team
4 stars A new Marillion album is always something of an `event' or cause for great celebration in the progressive rock community. The legendary late-Seventies group who completely transcended their Fish-era Neo-Prog origins and morphed into a contemporary-sounding crossover band went on to scale even greater heights with the arrival of vocalist Steve Hogarth, and it is this version of the band over twenty-five years later that remains stronger, more vital and more divisive amongst listeners than ever. Their eighteenth studio album `F.E.A.R' may not be a huge leap into unexpected territory for the group, but all the trademark moody and unhurried compositions, tender singing, cryptic lyrics and subtle instrumentation are there, as well as the disc being less concerned about including some of the catchier, more single-aimed pieces this time around - this one seems especially made for Marillion's loyal fanbase that have supported them making their distinctive type of music over the years, and it is those followers who will be the most rewarded.

`F*ck Everyone and Run' is an appropriate title for the frequently heavy lyrics and creeping dread of the themes that permeate the entire disc, although little traces of light and hope filter through here and there, and Steve Hogarth's smooth yet weary voice perfectly conveys the sadness of his words. Despite him dominating much of the sixty-eight minute disc, as always the first-rate musicians around him play with great subtlety, only rising up when more power is needed to lift the music in the more dramatic moments, which the band do with an exemplary skill like no other group. Four of the six compositions (although indexed into 17 separate tracks, so keep the CD booklet handy!) on offer present Marillion at their most measured and uncompromising, with only a couple of shorter pieces in between the longer works offering more direct tunes, although never close to being simplistic or radio-friendly.

Marillion are a textbook example of a band that can rarely be enjoyed instantly on a surface level and first listen, instead constant replays are needed to allow for the many meticulous and carefully arranged pieces to unveil their intricacies. Sure enough, risky five-part opener `El Dorado' is very slow to reveal itself and initially comes across as five fragments strung together, but a careful build and cohesive sense of flow gradually emerges after numerous listens. Soft acoustic guitar opens the disc over Hogarth's reflective words, a final twist bringing a sense of foreboding. Mark Kelly's icy synths (and yes, there are traces throughout this track that remind of their Neo sound of old!) and haunting electric piano rise in prominence, Pete Trewavas' bass grumbles along in the backdrop beside Ian Mosley's steady beat as Steve Rothery's majestic and perfectly executed slow-burn electric guitar soloing takes flight. Slinking electronics take a darker turn with the frequently melancholic lyric, with a growing heaviness that twists into the band building up a stormy air of desperation before a delicate, almost hopeful ending.

The first shorter piece, `Living in Fear' is a more compact pop/rocker that never aims to be radio-catchy, but it's still more straight-forward and instantly melodic than what came before, with the song holding a defiant air in amongst shimmering guitars and warm Hammond organ.

Nineteen-minute opus `The Leavers', compared to the fairly gloomy opener, is more optimistic and beautiful. Twinkling electronics glisten brightly and dreamy guitars chime sweetly before the piece suddenly bursts to life with a confident up- tempo beat, thick insistent grooving bass and a freed vocal swoon that turns chest-beating from Hogarth to instantly give the album a rush of energy. Pristine ambient passages, ruminative piano interludes with weeping guitar strains and grand orchestral symphonic synths all feature in amongst powerful bombastic blasts, and the victorious pomp in the climax all help to leave the impression that this is an anthem-like modern Marillion classic full of warmth and great hope, one their fans are sure to go crazy for.

`White Paper' is the next shorter break, an emotional ballad with energetic little poppy spots to fire up the stark piano, all driven by Hogarth's sombre and achingly personal vocal that always remains dignified and sympathetic.

Then it's back for one more lengthy workout, and the near-seventeen minute `The New Kings' sees Marillion at their most heavy and inspired. It's especially a superb showcase for both Rothery, who's guitar weaves in and out of the piece with great power and the effortless skill that only a master guitarist can deliver (and he's frequently proudly `proggy' with lengthy soloing spots too!) and the powerhouse drumming of Ian Mosley, who's given so much to do on this track, offering plenty of expertly delivered variety. A damning political lyric is given life by stirring orchestration, doomed organ, snarling guitar and pounding drums, often set to Hogarth's deceptively tragic sweetly purred falsetto vocal. The extended instrumental build and haunting female chorus vocal of the middle passage `Russia's Locked Doors' is simply sublime, leading to a ferocious and breathless ending of runaway piano and cinematic synths. `Tomorrow's New Country' is then simply a sparse and haunting two-minute coda to close on.

Despite Hogarth being such a charismatic singer, the disc is very lyric/vocal heavy and could have done with more purely instrumental passages, which completely make the album take flight and grab the attention when they do show up. But it's hugely satisfying when the band deliver dense and challenging works like this in comparison to their more straight-forward `song'-based albums such as `Somewhere Else', and they constantly remind why they're such prog-rock icons when they're at their most complex, confident and personally self-indulgent as they are here.

It takes years and later perspective to figure out which Marillion works are their defining releases, but for now, `F.E.A.R' is the kind of album that connects with the most intelligent and patient of progressive music listeners, and it's another smart and carefully considered artistic success for this prog-rock institution.

Four stars.

Report this review (#1631363)
Posted Wednesday, October 12, 2016 | Review Permalink
4 stars This is another excellent release from Marillion. If you feel like they should be innovating, then you will be disappointed. This is more of the same, and will fit nicely in a playlist with any other post fish, slow building, atmospheric, and passionate albums. Speaking of Steve Hogarth, his vocals sound as sublime and mesmerizing as ever. This could be one of his top performances, but there are so many good ones to choose from. The rest of the band sounds terrific with the excellent musicianship that you would expect from Marillion. With all the progressive metal albums being released this year, this is definitely a slow burner that requires a relaxed state of mind. If you are in the mood for something mellow that takes you on a journey, then FEAR is another Marillion release that will give you just that experience.
Report this review (#1631521)
Posted Wednesday, October 12, 2016 | Review Permalink
Warthur
PROG REVIEWER
2 stars Hm, no, I think here Marillion and I have ended up parting company.

Now, don't get me wrong. I appreciate that more laid-back and meditative sounds have always been part of the band's sound, and have been responsible for some of their grandest moments (as on parts of This Strange Engine or Marbles, for instance). Likewise, I also get that right from the debut album the group have never been afraid to do politics or social commentary

On the lyrical front, I was already put off a bit by how clumsy the lyrics on Sounds That Can't Be Made had been when dealing with social commentary or politics. It's not that I had no sympathy with the message of songs like Gaza - I just felt that the words used didn't really do justice to the extremely nuanced subject matter involved, and made it seem less like Hogarth was articulating an informed point of view and more like he was just sticking his oar in uninvited and unhelpfully. That trend has unfortunately continued here, and largely permeates the album.

Whereas previously Marillion managed to sound like firebrands out to condemn an unjust world in firey terms (as on Forgotten Sons) or to strive for a better one (as on Easter), by now they sound less like energetic radicals and more like grumpy, worn-out old relatives who grump in a reactionary way about how the world's all gone to pot since they were little 'uns but who don't offer any real way forward beyond a toxic mixture of bitterness, inward- looking self-obsession, and dreamy nostalgia for a past that never was. (This is a very Big Big Train approach, of course.)

Musically, everything feels just a bit flat and tired. Stylistically bits of the album could be passed off as missing bits from Brave, Afraid of Sunlight, This Strange Engine or Marbles, which in principle should be great because those are some of the most beloved high points of Hogarth-era Marillion, but in practice it just makes the whole thing feel like another exercise in going through the motions, shaking up the snow globe one more time to see if the snow will fall appreciably differently this time. The drums, in particular, seem particularly weak, Ian Mosley just kind of doing his bit and then wrapping up, whilst Steve Rothery's guitar solos and Mark Kelly's keyboard solos have succumbed entirely to self-plagiarism.

It's not a completely incompetent album, just an album which entirely fails to grab me and on balance probably doesn't need to exist. Change for change's sake is pointless, of course, but at the same time there's only so many times you can plough the same furrow before it begins to get a bit tired out, and "tired out" is exactly how I would describe Marillion's sound here.

Report this review (#1632310)
Posted Saturday, October 15, 2016 | Review Permalink
5 stars F E A R is a natural follow up to Sounds That Can't be Made from 2012, in that Steve Hogarth's lament for Palestine titled Gaza seems to be part of the lyrical blueprint for F E A R's topically charged songs. Where STCBM started off strong and then veered into more upbeat songs like the catchy title track, before petering out at the album's conclusion. F E A R maintains it's lyrical and musical tone up to the very end. This is without a doubt Steve Hogarth's baby with ambient musical backing for his singing before the rest of the band turn loose on wonderfully complex, albeit slow burning musical bridges, that show Steve Rothery's guitar leads still conveying amazing melodic drama and angst, with Mark Kelly adding sublime keyboard counterpoints or counter melodies that complement Rothery to a T. The sound mix on F E A R is musically at a lower volume which allow Hogarth's lyrics to clearly be heard and enunciated. This puts Pete Trawavas' bass and Ian Mosely's drums more in the background, even though both play as well as ever. Hogarth's more naked sounding vocals express a myriad of emotions with some slight straining present at times. Close microphone placement, louder amplification, and age most likely being the cause, but this adds authenticity to the music. Don't worry, H still sounds commanding, powerful and wonderfully in tune on some the most demanding singing that these songs require.

As other's have noted, the songs on F E A R are very much a slow burning affair, but are composed and performed with love and care as each note, beat, and melody seems to have been meticulously picked out for maximum effect. But on to the songs.

Multi track lead off song Eldorado finds H opining on the mankind's love of money which he comes back to in the album's stellar finale suite The New Kings. Greed and corruption may seem old topics by now, but Marillion's expressions of dismay in prog music terms is both new and musically satisfying.

Title track F E A R conjures musical and lyrical invocations for us to finally putting down our arms and live a decent existence. Again, it's Hogarth's impassioned vocals that sell the song. He does the same on the New Kings with a slow falsetto singing the chorus "f**k everone and run" without sounding the least bit clichéd or pretentious.

The high point of the album for me is the second multi suite song entitled the Leavers which starts out with sublime xylophone like keys from Kelly and ends in one of those amazingly cathartic guitar solos by Rothery. Hogarth sings of his need to constantly be on the road and the surprising confession that he, the author of these confessional lyrics, wears a mask around his loved ones at home and can't communicate with them, constantly waiting for that phone call "that's takes me away." An absolutely sublime track and will probably be a new Marillion concert staple.

The only track that sounds forced to me is White Paper with it's more abstract lyrics. It is another slow burning track and frankly, IMO, is album filler for the age of double vinyl album running time.

The conclusion: F E A R is the Marillion album that I have been waiting for after the remarkable Sounds That Can't Be Made. If it's the album you have been waiting for, then you will be quite pleased with F E A R. If you're expecting another Brave or Marbles, you might be disappointed. But only a magnificent prog band that constantly changes or evolves can give us that option.

Report this review (#1632580)
Posted Sunday, October 16, 2016 | Review Permalink
4 stars It is too late in the party for Marillion and yet, They have decided to produce another masterpiece and believe me: It is a masterpiece.

You only need to have three albums from the Hogarth era Marillion: The wonderful "Brave", the marvelous "Marbles" and this one, that's all and all the ones with Fish.

Here We have a different group, one deeply fixated with Pink Floyd and, boy! Do They have stories to tell. This is a concept album about a group of people that have been let down by their own country. The war is far from England but Who needs It?

I feel like I am again listening to Sting in "The Dream of the Blue Turtles" and don't miss the suite "The Leavers" because It is sort of a "Limelight" for this band always on tour and never reaching home, always leaving town. Amazing.

Report this review (#1633426)
Posted Thursday, October 20, 2016 | Review Permalink
5 stars Instead of a typical review, let me just say this:

They have been together since the early 1980's (or late 70's if you count the earliest incarnations). They have been releasing a steady stream of albums, none of them sub-par or healf-hearted. And after all those years they have been able to release "F.E.A.R.", an utterly brilliant, beautiful, and relevant piece of work that gets better with every listen.

To put things into perspective: new albums by bands of similar tenure are usually received with a patronizing attitude. We all know how it is and Metallica is arguably the most glaring example: even those that like "Death Magnetic" are probably aware that without lowered expectations, the album would not stand close scrutiny. Or let's take Yes, I have yet to read a review of any of their newer albums that would not boild down to recalling past glories and listing those rare tiny reflections of bygone days in the new music. Then there are all those numerous bands that record next to nothing and slowly(?) lose all relevance, embarking on greatest hits tours pandering to old (prog) rockers' nostalgia.

Then there's Marillion. They show that a band of artistic integrity and true talent can release masterpieces no matter how old they are or how deep they have delved into their stylistic niche. They don't need excuses for rehashing past glories because they just don't.

Most importantly, they show that there is no limit to true creativity and you don't have to reinvent the wheel to retain freshness and originality: an expression of true artistry will resonate with the listener regardless of genre conventions and the baggage of the past. Such is "F.E.A.R", an original album that doesn't try to be anything else but itself and succeeds in being a masterpiece.

Report this review (#1636331)
Posted Thursday, October 27, 2016 | Review Permalink
3 stars Marillion always pull out all the stops when it comes to creating outstanding music, and F.E.A.R is no exception. The band is made up of brilliant musicians/composers and a great vocalist. Unfortunately, a great vocalist does not make for a great lyricist. Let's face it, H is no Fish! His lyrics don't have any flow or rhythm and they always feel condescending. I sometimes feel cheated when I hear such beautiful music undermined by such bad lyrics. It's almost like finally dating the woman or the man of your dreams only to find out he or she thinks the Earth is flat and boats drop off the edge of the world when they sail too far. Anyways, F.E.A.R. Deserves an "A" music wise, and a "D" lyrics wise.

P.S. Don't even get me started on "Gaza" or "Montreal" (Lyrics wise of course).

Report this review (#1668438)
Posted Friday, December 16, 2016 | Review Permalink
BrufordFreak
COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars I understand the ideas Marillion are trying to express with this album--and I share their anger and frustration--as I'm sure millions if not billions of people all over the planet do. I appreciate the effort and skill that goes into putting these ideas into a musical form, yet I just don't think that this album is of the quality of expression and refreshing sound as one might expect from either Marillion or any band trying to shout out such an emotional message as this one--and it most certainly is not one of the more memorable albums released this year. As a matter of fact, were it not for occasional reminders from other people's posts and lists, I would have completely forgotten the existence of this album. Musically, it is drab and ordinary, a total rehashing of a well-established sound on an almost rudimentary scale.

For fans or people who want to hear rants against the current, albeit real, course of humankind.

Report this review (#1668518)
Posted Saturday, December 17, 2016 | Review Permalink
Rune2000
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Prog Metal Team
4 stars A new renaissance for Marillion!

My relationship with Marillion has been an idle one for quite a few years now. I'm a big fan of the classic Fish era material and do enjoy the early Hogharth era releases up until Afraid Of Sunlight, yes that includes the somewhat controversial Holidays In Eden. After 1995 the band continued their cycle of album releases which to me sounded pretty bland and unfocused. The band did manage to get praise for the 2004 release Marbles but I'm still not entirely sure why it's such a popular release. Maybe it has to do with the band finally getting their first cohesive release in years? After two more releases Marillion finally hit rock bottom with the release of Less Is More, a studio album which consisted of new acoustic arrangements of some previously released tracks. To me it sounded like the band was no longer even trying to make any new creative choices and instead were just pandering to their existing fanbase.

Then something happened with the release of Sounds That Can't Be Made, which partly could be attributed to Steve Hogharth's strong lyrics that moved away from his otherwise very personal reflections and became more concerned with the world of today. I remember hearing Power for the first time at a concert and taken by the delivery and message of the new material. After listening to the entire Sounds That Can't Be Made I was definitely impressed by many of the compositions but there were still a few lesser tracks that dragged the overall experience for me.

Four years passed and a new Marillion album was beginning to make headlines. At first I was only barely enthusiastic about the news, writing off Sounds That Can't Be Made as a minor spark in the band's catalog and assuming that they'll get back to business as usual on F E A R... how wrong it was of me to assume this! After hearing the EP The New Kings, which predated the release by a few month, my mind definitely began to change since what I was hearing on this four part suite was a more aggressive and revitalized band. Musically the material is fueled by genius keyboard arrangements by Mark Kelly, which don't distract from the overall flow of the music while creating just enough groove for the other band members to contribute to. Steve Rothery performs some of his most memorable guitar work in years, which could be attributed to the new energy that he's received by working on his solo work with the Steve Rothery band. Ultimately it's Steve Hogharth's lyrics and vocal performance that completes the material and makes it some of the most memorable work from Marillion in decades!

The album consists of merely six compositions, three of which take up more than 75 % of the album time and thus are the backbone of this marvelous album. Of the three I probably enjoy El Dorado and The New Kings the most but The Leavers is not far behind the other two. These three compositions have an overall theme that reflects upon the current state of affairs in the world and taps in the dark side of the politics and world economy. The three remaining shorter songs are by no means lesser than the rest and manage to complete the transitions between the multi suite tracks. Living In F E A R is probably my least favorite composition on the album but it's mostly due to it's last 2 minutes which, in my opinion, could have been omitted from the track. White Paper is my favorite of the "shorter" tracks due to it's sleek progression, which almost makes it a multi suite in a mini format, and the strong melodic hooks in the vocal delivery. Tomorrow's New Country finishes off the album with an epilogue and makes me wonder whether this is the new direction that Marillion is planning to expand on in the future? I guess only time will tell.

To me F E A R is the best Marillion album since the 1987 release of Clutching At Straws but the journey here was long and quite a bumpy one. Please give this album at least three spins before making your judgment. For me it took more than 10 repeated listens for the tracks to settle into what I now consider an excellent release from one of the under-appreciated band's of modern progressive rock.

***** star songs: F E A R (4:07) The Grandchildren Of Apes (2:35) Vapour Trails In The Sky (4:49) White Paper (7:18) Fuck Everyone And Run (4:22) Russia's Locked Doors (6:24) Why Is Nothing Ever True? (3:24)

**** star songs: Long-Shadowed Sun (1:26) The Gold (6:13) Demolished Lives (2:23) Living In F E A R (6:25) Wake Up In Music (4:27) The Remainers (1:34) The Jumble Of Days (4:20) One Tonight (3:56) A Scary Sky (2:33) Tomorrow's New Country (1:47)

Report this review (#1683334)
Posted Sunday, January 22, 2017 | Review Permalink
Neu!mann
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars For their eighteenth studio album the original Neo-Progressive patriarchs followed an old-school musical tradition of putting social issues center stage, but without the oblique camouflage of "Close to the Edge" or "Selling England by the Pound" (two of the better-known '70s archetypes).

Marillion has always been more direct and unflinching in its encounters with Everyday Life (see: "Clutching at Straws", one of the higher-ranked albums in these Archives), and never more so than in this 67-minute criticism of The State of Things today. In classic Prog fashion the album opens quietly, with a gentle prologue invoking the poet William Blake ("the enchanted English walled garden", so forth). But the Dark Satanic Mills now threatening Blake's Anglo-Eden are geo-political, multi-corporate, and driven by insatiable, selfish policies of profit and greed.

This is one of those wordy albums that requires your undivided attention; otherwise it's a long haul across a very deep, evenly-graded rut. Not unlike a lot of Neo-Prog it draws musical and thematic inspiration from post-"Animals" PINK FLOYD, with far more unity of purpose than the Roger Waters-led group, but also with the same maudlin chords, the same sleepwalking tempos, and a similar, strident preoccupation with lyrical content over actual songwriting.

You might think all the moral outrage expressed in the text would extend to some equally indignant music. But this is the plushest hour of agit-prop you'll likely ever hear, full of the band's trademark soaring guitars and orchestral synths, arranged with little variation in tone or texture. The album was divided into three long suites, taking immediate aim at our reigning global oligarchy in the 17-minute mini-epic "El Dorado", rising to a climax of genuine strength and emotion in what has to be the highlight of the entire project.

The transitional anthem "Living in FEAR" is equally passionate. "What a waste of time", sings frontman Steve Hogarth, compiling a list of follies in a long history of misguided nationalism: the Great Wall of China; the Maginot Line; the Berlin Wall. It's too bad he didn't think to include the virtual wall of Ronald Reagan's SDI pipe dream. Or the Mexican border wall proposed by the newly inaugurated ersatz American president. Or even "The Wall" itself, erected and maintained by the band's role model Roger Waters: a real waste of time, for discriminating Progheads.

And then there's the odd subplot celebrating the transient lifestyle of the modern rock musician ("The Leavers"): the closest thing we have to a romantic gypsy subculture in a homogenized society and, according to Marillion, the best alternative to the grinding erosion of idealism around the world. It may be a wrongheaded misreading on my part, but I detect a whiff of elitism at odds with Progressive Rock's more egalitarian impulses: a sense that we schmucks can only hope to bask in their reflected glory during a concert event before regressing back to our humdrum lives.

The album never quite recovers from that misstep, and plods along under the burden of its convictions for another 45-minutes toward an unresolved ending, literally on a note of music hanging unfinished in mid-air, as if begging for a sequel. If true, let's hope the band rediscovers the collective fire that continues to motivate their better efforts. Or, failing that, at least remembers the immortal words falsely attributed to movie mogul Sam Goldwyn: "If you want to send a message, call Western Union."

Report this review (#1691636)
Posted Saturday, February 11, 2017 | Review Permalink
4 stars I find this album took ages to reveal it's secrets; but then Brave did something similar - having been a fan of early Marillion, I just wasn't sure. It ended up as a favourite and whilst FEAR doesn't quite get there yet, I feel it might yet.

The oddest aspect of the record is that it seems to be light on the big, anthemic hooks; and tends to be reflective. Not that it's not dynamic; and there are moments when it all kicks in that it has rather a lot of impact, but for a record with such an aggressive title and concept - that I wholeheartedly approve of - it's more brooding than outright angry and that's unexpected. Marillion can still turn up the heat (Gaza proving it), so it seems surprising to see the Rothery going for a more textural role than an in-your-face one. Mark Kelly is terrific throughout and manages to sound very fresh.

I think a bit more repetition might have made this an easier swallow - there's no choruses, in fact, there are lots of sections. Think the Misplaced Childhood structure without the chordal repetition between parts of side 1 and 2. It's perhaps fairer to think of FEAR as a politically charged Tales from Topographic Oceans. Its a meandering, long-form work created of many sections that work to a common end. The opening, El Dorado is very strong, with a Tull-like intro, segueing through a STCBM style part - The Gold - which culminates in a classic Rothery solo that could have come off of Marbles or Afraid of Sunlight. The rest of the track feels reminiscent of Ocean Cloud, with shorter vignettes making up the rest of the song. Notable is the lovely lyric at the end of Grandchildren of Apes; which is beautiful and optimistic.

White Paper and Living in FEAR are shorter tracks that carry the atmosphere between the three epic tracks. The Leavers has some lovely atmosphere but I tend to lose concentration a little during the song. It meanders a little too much. Some lovely keyboards. In the wake of the whole Brexit thing, it's somewhat switched lyrically - the 'leavers' being seeming more progressive people and the 'remainers' being those who wish to remain as they traditionally did. Nothing to do with Marillion, obviously, but heard post July 2016, it seems a bit skewed!

The New Kings does tend to be the saving grace; with the greater sense of urgency. After the whole 'We are the leavers/remainers' lyrics, one kind of wishes for something other than 'we are the new kings' - that said, it is a hook, I suppose. Small gripe, and not worth too much thought.

The piece has a lot of atmosphere and drama, with the greatest dynamic variation provided in a single epic on this record.

I had hoped for a true classic; and it might win me yet. I think a single LP with El Dorado on one side and The New Kings on the other may have been the album I hoped for. Less might have been more after all. Still, on what is presented here, it's good to see Marillion holding their long-form card aloft again and making purposeful music.

Not the best political LP this winter - that crown goes to Anubis' The Second Hand - but it's a very good record in its own right.

Report this review (#1707737)
Posted Tuesday, April 4, 2017 | Review Permalink
friso
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars Progressive rock is a genre mostly appriciated by intellectual teens and adults. Within the progressive genre some bands are more adult oriented than others. On the top of the pyramid of adultness there's Marillion in its present day form. I would have never approached an album like this, had I not found the 2LP version as a bargain (slightly cut front cover). I'm actually glad that I did.

Marillion is of course the original neo-progressive group. On this album the band displays some traces of those early days, but mostly sounds like an art-rock group with a focus on ethereal sound designs - not unlike some quieter post-rock groups. Before I forget, the production is top-notch. Perfect high-fi listening.

Whereas the early work of the band could be quite bold and direct, here everything is very subtle and sensitive. Almost as if written for a wellness center. Singer Steve Hogarth - like it or not - is one of the most gifted singers of the progressive genre. He's also a bit drenched in his own believe of making something deeply profound - which I would only count as a given on this album's best titles. The 'El Dorado' suite (which makes up side one of the vinyl) is such a track, with the "I'm becoming harder to live with" outburst as great dark finale.

The follow-up track 'Living in Fear' compares unfavorably, being a stretched symphonic poprock song . 'White Paper' is a stronger atmospheric piano ballad with a dramatic movie-like atmosphere, which develops into a nice melodic art-rock song. Hogarth launches a lot of political sensitivities and images on this album in an effort to ground the otherwise otherworldly music, I guess. After two sides of vinyl I keep wondering when the often praised guitarist Steve Rothery will strike, but his efforts are all intertwined with the subtlety of the collective effort. His use of the professional electric guitar pallet of sounds is however comforting to the ears. The third side of the vinyl is reserved for the 'The Leavers'; a succession of dreamy parts that has little new to introduce (again some nice atmospheric piano) and fails to reach a rewarding finale. A bit of drag actually, but quite beautiful as musical wallpaper.

On side four 'The New Kings' the band has some of its more imaginative song-writing. I imagine this to be the most rewarding 'epic' for both fans and newcomers. Together with that fine opener 'El Dorado'. Since they make up for side one and four, I can easily customize this album to my liking.

In the end I wouldn't know who to recommend this album to, other than fans of Marillion. The bands has developed its eighties influences (both progressive, symphonic and pop) into something very professional and well executed - but not per se interesting for listeners of exciting, adventurous or imaginative progrock. Hence the rating.

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Posted Friday, December 6, 2019 | Review Permalink

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