People who know me, my family especially, and readers who've been around this blog for a while might well know that I am a bit of a Marillion fan. It may be somewhat unfashionable but what the hell do I care. Although recently Prog Rock does seem to be garnering more acceptability, there was even a short piece on the BBC news about the first ever prog rock awards event, and with bands like Rush and Asia etc. turning out great releases and touring you have to say it is still alive and well, the younger generation like Opeth and Steve Wilson also keeping the old beast alive.
So Marillion then - if you have heard of them no doubt it is memories of the Fish era 25 years ago when they popped up every now and then on TOTP with a minor hit, often looking very oddly dressed and playing even odder keys and time signatures. After Fish departed they drifted away from the general consciousness, sadly in my view. Steve Hogarth (H) replaced Fish in 1989 and the band has continued to have a very very loyal following since. So much so that many of the albums the band have produced in the last 15 years have actually be funded by preorders from the fan club members. I'm one of those bunch by the way parting with my hard earned readies many months before there is any sign of a physical result. The one advantage is receiving the release before general release. So it has been with Sounds That Can't Be Made the bands latest offering.
In summary one of their best albums for many many years. It has taken some time since the last new studio offering as the band knew they needed a re-charge. It was definitely worth the weight.
The album kicks off with Gaza. A fantastic piece of music inspired by the Gaza situation. This is 17 mins of pure brilliance. This is a Marillion heavier than normal, very charged and back to the multiple sections linked well together. This piece is frankly the highlight of the album and almost worth getting on it's own it is a mini-masterpiece. Steve Rothery's solo is once again a master-class is tasteful augmentation to a song not an over-dominating blitz to boost the guitarists ego.
As the final strains of Gaza drift away you think - what can follow that? The answer is a complete change of mood - again a driving sound with a tuneful chordal riff that sticks in your head instantly. H is superb on this track his emotion pouring from the speakers (headphones) in an excellently executed performance.
Those for me are the two stand out tracks of the album but there are other amazing gems, particularly the 14 min Montreal, Lucky Man and the 10 min closer The Sky Above The Rain. Erstwhile lyrist John Helmer returns with lyrics for the track Pour My Love. it's been some albums since he last got a credit on a new Marillion track.
Sadly Marillion like many other bands/artists are pigeon-holed by previous pre-conceptions and people thinking "Oh they can't be good/relevant any more". It is interesting that somehow a band like say U2 continue to be considered hip/cool/of the moment whilst others drop away but I don't feel the quality of output justifies it - certainly not with this release. Marillion may play to smaller venues, not feature in chart shows etc. any more but their music is frankly more relevant and vital now than 25 years ago in my humble opinion.
Spend the next 17 min of you life profitably - I give you Gaza by Marillion...