REVIEW: Marillion - Sounds That Can't Be Made

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Post by jimbryant on Thu 20 Sep 2012, 11:41 am

Marillion - Sounds That Can't be Made
by Jim Bryant

A band with such a vast back catalogue as Marillion could be forgiven for perhaps resting on their laurels, or trying to repeat past glories. Their history is littered with various wonderful albums such as ‘Brave’ and ‘Marbles’, however the band have continued to reinvent themselves again and again. Whilst they have kept what has become the instantly recognisable Marillion sound, each new set has seen them take risks. This has yielded some fantastic results, in the case of the dub-reggae groove of ‘House’ from ‘Marillion.com’, but has almost inevitably led to the occasional disaster (and I’m thinking here of the near-calypso style ‘Hope for the Future). Suffice to say, throughout their career thus far they have created some of the most uplifting music around while still remaining fresh and experimental enough to cause some controversy amongst their devoted fan-base.

‘Sounds That Can’t be Made’, the seventeenth(!) album has arrived following a four-year gap since ‘Happiness is the Road’. It finds Marillion in excellent health; the break has clearly done them good and ‘Sounds...’ feels less stodgy than their previous release. It also seems much more cohesive, with each track feeling very much like a part of the whole.

Starting with ‘Gaza’, Marillion prove that they can still be a controversial band. The lyric is their most politically compelling since ‘Forgotten Sons’ and tells Gaza’s current story from the point of view of a child. It has already caused enormous discussion amongst Marillion’s fans, some loving it, some hating it, with very few standing in the middle-ground. It’s certainly thought-provoking from a lyrical standpoint. Musically, the sprawling nature of some of the band’s epics is echoed here and each measure moves seamlessly into the next. Fans of ‘Ocean Cloud’ and ‘Invisible Man’ will find much to love and thematically it is certainly worthy of such epic treatment.

‘Sounds...’ moves into a different gear following the opener. The title track recalls Talk Talk and The Blue Nile, particularly in its opening section before exploding into the sort of impassioned melody that fans have come to expect. ‘Pour My Love’ and ‘Lucky Man’ are as straightforward as anything Marillion have attempted, but this is not a criticism. For every epic track they’ve done, there’s an equally moving shorter song. ‘Power’ comes from the same barrel as ‘Afraid of Sunlight’ and has the same emotional grip with sensational melodies in the chorus. ‘Invisible Ink’ is something of a grower, but the final section is immense. The closing track, ‘Sky Above the Rain’ might just be the most beautiful thing Marillion have ever recorded and is, with a little luck, destined to end more than a few live shows.

If there is a misstep, then it’s ‘Montreal’, another epic song in the middle of the album. While Steve Hogarth has successfully written a number of autobiographical works over the years, this one seems less structured and a bit more fragmented. Maybe that’s the point of the track, but it can be a little clunky. It’s one that takes time to gel, and while it won’t gel for everyone there are still hooks within it; they just get a little bit lost at times. Ultimately, it’s another track that will split opinion.

Like all Marillion albums, ‘Sounds That Can’t be Made’ takes time to fully appreciate; even after multiple listens it reveals hidden gems throughout. It’s well worth listening through headphones as well. Only then do the layers unravel a little through the sonic landscape that Mike Hunter has created through what is his best production yet. What is clear immediately however, is that all five members of the band shine, each producing some of their most memorable performances.

The future for Marillion looks immensely bright. They are the pioneers of band-used internet commerce; however let’s hope that it is the music they are remembered for. They, unlike most, have the ability to inspire loyalty in their fan-base while still producing music that divides opinion entirely. As such, they are a band to cherish.

jimbryant

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Post by Adam D on Thu 20 Sep 2012, 10:34 pm

Great Review Jim.

Is it for sale in music shops or only online?

Adam D
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Post by jimbryant on Fri 21 Sep 2012, 8:38 am

Not sure. It should be released in shops; I did the pre-order so got it a week or so ago.

Ta,

Jim

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