Album of the Week 20-2013: Marillion – Brave


Progressive Rock is quite likely the only genre where you could still get away with releasing a concept album in the mid-nineties. While record label EMI was urging the band to do a quick album with a few hit singles, Marillion spent fifteen months in a French castle, writing and recording what became the best album of their long carreer. Hit singles were few and far between on this record. Instead, ‘Brave’ became a highly complex and richly layered Prog record telling the story of a troubled girl in seventy minutes of immaculately produced, stunning music.

Marillion is one of those bands that produce concept albums that you want to listen to in their entirity. Especially because many of the songs are so linked with the concept, that it would be hard to single a couple of them out. Sure, ‘Misplaced Childhood’ had the monster hit Kayleigh and this one has ‘Hard As Love’, ‘Paper Lies’ and ‘The Lap Of Luxury’ that – admittedly with some imagination – could be seen as singles, but eventually, hearing this album leaves you unsatisfied when not hearing the whole thing. But then again, isn’t that the essence of a good album?

Those of you looking for something easy to bang your head to should better look for something else, but they wouldn’t end up with a Marillion album anyway. ‘Brave’ is an introspective, yet very dynamic album with a perfect tension build-up, so that when Steve Rothery’s guitar adds even a slight edge to its lyrical, David Gilmour-like sound, you really feel it in your gut. Steve Hogarth has the flexible voice to move along with every direction the album takes, able to take the listener with him trough both fragility and melodrama, and Mark Kelly adds most of the atmosphere with layers of subtle keyboard work. However, it’s the fact that no one ever takes the lead that this album works so well; everyone is extremely servicable to the music and the concept.

Selecting separate highlights for an album like this is really senseless, but there are a few standout moments. Hogarth’s passionate vocal delivery on ‘Runaway’ is a guarantee for goosebumps, the climax of ‘Paper Lies’ is simply thrilling, the sparse instrumentation of the title track is hypnotizing and captivating (check out Pete Trewavas’ brilliant bass line!), ‘Living With The Big Lie’ contains a couple of brilliant leads courtesy of Rothery and the epic, multi-part suite ‘Goodbye To All That’ features the entire band firing on all cylinders.

As is the case with the best concept albums, everything is taken care of on ‘Brave’. The production is flawless. Of course you can’t expect any less from a production that took a year and a half, but the sound has just the right amount of reverb and allows you to be a part of the whole thing. And then there’s the iconic album cover. To sum it all up: ‘Brave’ is one of the greatest concept albums of all time. It just needs to be heard and according to Steve Hogarth, it works best in the dark with headphones on. A sound system with a good subwoofer works quite well too.

Recommended tracks: ‘Goodbye To All That’, ‘Runaway’, ‘Living With The Big Lie’

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