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Marillion

Afraid of Sunlight

Review by Gary Hill

Let me say for starters that I really like Steve Hogarth’s voice. I think he does a great job of serving as Marillion’s lead singer. I’ve talked to the gentleman on the telephone and found him to a very down to earth and charming man. I also would like to add that this is a very good album. It’s quite fun to listen to.

OK, all of those precursors out of the way, I have to say that I have pretty much gotten to the point where I don’t really follow Marillion that closely anymore. This album shows some of the trademarks of what lost me. It seems to me that once Fish left the band the rest of the members of the group seemed content to drop away a bit and become Steve Hogarth’s backing band. I mean, honesty, Fish was an incredible vocalist and lyricist, but it always felt like a team effort. Albums like this show a band that seems content to play in the little areas left between Steve Hogarth showcases. A huge chunk of the disc is balladic and often times the songs feel formulaic.

OK, those are the negatives. The truth is, though, Marillion can produce this type of music better than just about anyone. A mediocre song by them is better than most songs by a lot of neo-prog outfits. So, with that in mind this is a darned good CD that has some wonderful moments of music and a lot of extremely good stuff surrounding it.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2008  Volume 4 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Gazpacho
Sound effects start things off here. After a time they bring in a bouncy sort of musical element and the vocals run over the top of this. A chiming guitar and prominent bass line are the most noticeable features of a lot of this. There is a cool melodic and rather soaring progressive rock section in this, too. The real dramatic prog is saved for later – around the three and a half minute mark they shift this out into a powerhouse progressive rock excursion that is simply awesome. After another verse chorus pattern they take us out into another expansive jam. Somehow parts of this remind me of The Doors. Before they close this we get a radio broadcast of a police chase. This, along with some keyboards (and then by itself) ends the piece.

Cannibal Surf Babe
What’s with that title? Well, as you might guess this comes in with a more pop-oriented sound and they include a bit of Beach Boys vocals. It drops back to a driving bass line and percussion for the verse. After an iteration like this they bring some other elements. This is really a rock and roll tune without a lot of progressive rock in the mix through the first couple minutes. We get what I think is theremin later. If so, that’s a nice touch in my book. A folk rock sort of jam takes this further down the road. There are points here where I am reminded of the keyboard lines of Jon and Vangelis’ “Back to School.” This is another that holds off on the prog for a while. It’s around the three and a half minute mark again before it really turns out into something you might consider progressive rock – or at least something that is blatantly prog. They work this through, though, still focusing more on the rock and roll elements. We get somre more Beach Boys vocals before they close it out.

Beautiful
While this starts off a bit strange they shift it out to a melodic, balladic piece that is sort of a trademark of the Hogarth era Marillion. This is quite pretty – or should I say, “beautiful?” It evolves into quite a powerful piece of music.

Afraid of Sunrise
This is another ballad, but it’s much more gentle and delicate than “Beautiful.” This is basically a Steve Hogarth showcase.

Out of This World
The first couple minutes of this track are in the form of a moody balladic number. It’s got a great tone and texture to it and has some space rock elements peeking over the top here and there. They fire out into a hard edged rocker for a short instrumental segment and then it drops back down to a more potent and evocative ballad approach. Hogarth delivers another trademark vocal segment and then they shift this out to space with bits of newscasts over the top. It drops way down to atmosphere over which Hogarth delivers his next vocals. This motif, with some modifications, takes the track out.

Afraid of Sunlight
A moody ballad motif starts this out. They power it out into what is sort of trademark modern Marillion element for the rocking chorus.  They alternate between these two musical themes as they move along. As they carry this towards its conclusion it becomes extremely powerful. It is dropped way back down to end.  

Beyond You
For some reason I just can’t shake the feeling when I’m listening to this track that parts of it remind me a lot of “Waiting For A Girl Like You” by Foreigner. Don’t get me wrong, this is much more moody and Hogarth’s vocals are nothing like Lou Gramm’s but a big chunk of this track feels like opening to that piece to me. They fire this out into some killer melodic prog later in its run. When it drops back down to more atmospheric territory this works pretty well and avoids the “WFAGLY” trap. This eventually becomes quite a powerful piece of music.

King
Guitar leads this off with some keyboard accentuation. If feels like it’s going to burst out into a hard rocker, but instead background sounds enter and take us to Steve Hogarth’s acapella entrance. Guitar joins and this becomes a folky ballad. They power out into a retro tinged rocking version of those musical themes as they take this forward. Keyboards weave a line over the top of this, but then they drop it back again. Hogarth drives this for a while, but then they power our into a killer jam that at first feels like it comes from Pink Floyd’s The Wall.  They shift around and eventually create a noisy powerhouse motif to end this.

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