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Seasons End

Review by Greg Olma

This album was always going to divide the fans.  Some fans just can’t get past a change of vocalists and therefore don’t give the material a chance.  Their previous record Clutching At Straws was later reissued with a bonus disc of demo material that has some ideas that made it onto Seasons End so we know that Fish was still somewhat involved at the start of the recording process.  In fact, most of the material was written before Steve Hogarth had even joined the band, so at the end of the day, it just seems like a continuation from where they were on the previous disc.  There are definitely parts and elements that move the band away from their initial sound, but only partially.  There is a lot to like about Seasons End, and although it was generally well received, there was a rather large faction of their fans that were disappointed (at the time) by this switch in vocalists.  One of the things that strikes me about Seasons End is how well it has aged.  The material has stood the test of time, and that is what makes a good album into a great one.  Although I had my doubts about this new vocalist and slightly new direction, I find myself enjoying this record more each time I listen to it.

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Track by Track Review
The King of Sunset Town
This record starts off with some keyboards, but the song doesn’t really start until almost two minutes in.  The sound reminds me of something that would fit comfortably on Clutching At Straws.  Right away Hogarth establishes himself as a worthy vocalist to front this prog band.  Both this track and the title track clock in at more than eight-minutes, so the band certainly was not abandoning their prog roots in favor of a more commercial sound.
Steve Rothery starts this little track with some great acoustic guitar.  It has a renaissance feel to it, but the guitar solo kicks in, and you get that classic Marillion sound.  The song ends with a section that has a Misplaced Childhood vibe.  They did put out this little ditty as single back in the day and it did chart pretty well.
The Uninvited Guest
Here is where I feel the band is starting to break free from their earlier sound and venturing out to a more commercial direction.  This was the second single from Seasons End and it has that traditional song structure, but they still Marillion-ize the overall feel.  As always, Rothery’s guitar work elevates this track from something bordering on ordinary to something amazing.
Seasons End
Title tracks are a tricky business because the band feels so strongly about it that they decide to name the record after it.  Sometimes they choose well and other times, it just doesn’t make sense as it might be the worst track on the disc.  Fortunately, Marillion did choose wisely as this, in my opinion, is the perfect piece to focus on.  It starts off somber and almost depressing (in a good way) and builds into a track that really showcases Hogarth’s vocals and Rothery’s guitar soloing.  For the last three-minutes or this song, the band counters that somber feeling in the beginning by building a more uplifting soundscape that gives you a hopeful feeling.
Holloway Girl
Side two of the original vinyl starts off with this track that is reminiscent of the Clutching At Straws era material.  Lyrically it doesn’t fit that record but musically it would have fit nicely alongside any of those tracks.
I don’t know why the city Berlin gets so many name checks in songs and albums, but here is one from Marillion.  It also reminds me of their previous album but what really brings this song to the forefront of great tracks is the saxophone.  It has a very jazz feel (probably because of the sax) but halfway through it starts to rock out.  Again, Rothery adds some great soloing to finish off the track.
After Me
Just like “Easter," this track starts off with acoustic guitars.  About halfway through, this song builds into a more full rock tune.  Even though it is the second shortest number on the record, it still packs quite a punch.  This is another example of Marillion pulling away from their previous sound and going into a new direction.
Hooks In You
Clocking in at less than three minutes, this is pure commercial rock.  It is the only song that has an 80s sound, and if you told me it was another band that Hogarth fronted, I would believe  it.  It has a very un-Marillion sound and, although I like it, it is the weakest tune on the record.
The Space...
They finish off the record with a great piece that builds quickly into vehicle for Hogarth’s vocal gymnastics. This is one of the tracks that lyrically Hogarth brought with him from his previous band.  As the tune progresses, it contains a very orchestral part and ends with some great guitar work, and again Hogarth stretching his voice to almost the breaking point.  By far, this and the title track are the standouts on Seasons End.
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