Posts Tagged ‘ Marillion ’

Album of the Week 44-2017: Marillion – Seasons End


When original singer Fish left Marillion, it was considered the end of an era. However, it was also the beginning of a new era. Steve Hogarth, who still fronts te band to this day, has an emotional depth to his voice that Fish just did not have, allowing the band to branch out even further away from the strongly Genesis-inspired neo-prog of their earliest work. Along with its predecessor ‘Clutching At Straws’, ‘Seasons End’ can be seen as sort of a transitional phase. Not because of the singer change between the albums, but because it signals Marillion’s shift towards the most emotional progressive rock created to date.

Most of the music had already been written before Hogarth, himself a great composer, joined the band, so it’s not too surprising that ‘Seasons End’ is stylistically similar to ‘Clutching At Straws’. The record has a dark, passionate vibe, with occasional lighter or more upbeat moments keeping the darkness from becoming too overwhelming. The ‘Incommunicado’-rewrite ‘Hooks In You’ is the most obvious example of this, but the opening one-two punch of ‘The King Of Sunset Town’ and ‘Easter’ is remarkably positive as well, even though the lyrical contents – about the turmoils in China and Northern Ireland respectively – are at times quite bleak.

As usual though, Marillion shines brightest in their darkest moments. Especially the finales of the original vinyl sides are nothing short of incredible. The moving ‘Seasons End’ has been built upon a haunting clean guitar line by Steve Rothery – who still has the most beautiful clean guitar sound in the world – and features bone chilling performances by both Rothery himself and Hogarth. Closing the album is ‘The Space…’, Hogarth’s first major compositional contribution to Marillion along with ‘Easter’. This synth-driven masterpiece works its way through multiple climaxes and features some incredible vocal work.

Despite those closers being the undisputed highlights of the record, most of Marillion’s albums are remarkably consistent and ‘Seasons End’ is no exception. Each and every one of the seven other songs are worth hearing. ‘Berlin’ in particular is a bit of a beautiful suite of shifting moods and building intensity. ‘Holloway Girl’ and the surprisingly short ‘After Me’ both start out as moody ballads and gradually turn into something more bombastic, while there are excellent performances by everyone involved all around. Steve Rothery in particular truly delivers. He is easily one of the most tasteful and melodic lead guitarists in contemporary music.

Though the singer change would spark an endless “who’s better?” debate, it was exactly what Marillion needed around the time ‘Seasons End’ was released. The album was an essential step in refining their own sound and evolving from their neo-prog beginnings into a truly progressive rock sound that encompasses various influences from the alternative pop and rock field. And even more importantly, ‘Seasons End’ shows that Marillion consists of a group of excellent songwriters that can do more than just play their instruments really well. They can carry a memorable tune much better than many other bands in the genre.

Recommended tracks: ‘Seasons End’, ‘The Space…’, ‘Berlin’

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Best of 2016: The Albums

No album of the week this week, because new year’s day is coincidentally on a Sunday. Also, I suspect you might be tired of my ramblings after reading all of this. When talking about 2016 in music, people tend to focus too much on the popular musicians that have died and as a result, call it a bad year. And sure, I have been a big fan of Prince for ages, but let’s keep in mind that most of the great musicians from the sixties, seventies and eighties aren’t getting any younger, so there’s a chance worse years are ahead in that matter.

When focusing on the actual music that has been released, I would say 2016 has been the year of heavily overrated western releases. Metallica released a record with a couple of good songs and one great one (‘Spit Out The Bone’, while two minutes too long, is amazing), Beyoncé’s ‘Lemonade’ is definitely not better than ‘I Am… Sasha Fierce’ and I feel that a lot of records by deceased musicians have done better simply because of their deaths. There will be one of those in the list though. With all this in mind, you probably won’t be surprised that my number one is not from Europe or North America and still very much alive.

1. Myrath – Legacy

With ‘Legacy’, the English translation of their band name, Myrath is finally showing its full potential, which in all honesty I thought they were already showing on ‘Tales Of The Sands’ five years earlier. The basic progressive power metal sound of their previous albums is still there, as are the beautiful string arrangements that are heavily inspired by the mal’uf music of ther native Tunisia, but the songs are more streamlined and melodic Zaher Zorgati’s voice -which was already amazing – has made tremendous progress. Every song has a strong identity of its own and yet, the record has a very nice flow. That sounds like everything about the album is very close to perfect and honestly, that describes my feelingsa bout this one perfectly; ‘Legacy’ is a masterpiece of fine songwriting and excellent musicianship and therefore, my album of the year.

Recommended tracks: ‘Nobody’s Lives’, ‘Through Your Eyes’, ‘Get Your Freedom Back’

2. The Answer – Solas

After their amazing ‘Revival’ album in 2011, I sort of lost track of The Answer. The following albums were good, but missing the magic of ‘Revival’. The Northern Irish band must have realized that as well, because they have radically changed direction on this monumental record. The bigger emphasis on the band’s Celtic roots is often highlighted in reviews and while that is true, the albums as a whole is an exciting, atmospheric rock record with very diverse influences. Interestingly, it takes until the eighth track ‘Left Me Standing’ until you get something resmbling a “typical” The Answer song. The Led Zeppelin influence is still there, but think ‘Houses Of The Holy’ and ‘Physical Graffiti’ instead of the first two records this time around. The band has seriously outdone itself on this record and every fan of good rock music should have this one in his collection.

Recommended tracks: ‘Beautiful World’, ‘Solas’, ‘Untrue Colour’

3. Gargoyle – Taburakashi

Vicious as ever? No. More vicious than ever! Honestly, I don’t know where the members of Gargoyle – the youngest of which is in his mid-forties – get this unbridled, hungry energy from, but it has resulted in yet another mindblowing record – their third in this decade alone. It does seem like they’re exploring the extremes of their sound more and more; the hyper-aggressive thrash metal riffing starts this album with what is probably the most intense succession of five tracks ever on a Gargoyle record, but Kentaro’s classy guitar melodies – often dual harmonies – give the band a classic heavy metal or even power metal edge. Of course, with this being Gargoyle, there’s some crazy experimentation going on during the second half of the record, but it all stays pretty heavy. Gargoyle is about to hit their 30th anniversary this year and it sounds like there’s no slowing them down.

Recommended tracks: ‘Crumbling Roar’, ‘Ichi’, ‘Yaban Kairo’

4. Saber Tiger – Bystander Effect

Though released as a Tower Records exclusive in late 2015, Saber Tiger’s new record was released publicly this year and it’s almost as good as their recent masterpiece ‘Decisive’. Their perfect blend of classic heavy metal melodicism and contemporary progressive influences makes them more relevant than ever and that in itself is an impressive feat for a band that’s been around since the early eighties. The direction on ‘Bystander Effect’ is slightly more melodic than on the previous record and that makes the songs highly memorable. But fear not: all the rhythmic intensity and guitar solo euphoria is still there and Takenori Shimoyama’s raw, passionate vocal work is the icing on the cake. ‘Bystander Effect’ is proof that dwelling on nostalgia isn’t necessary as an eighties metal band; if your songwriting and musicianship is as good as it is here, there’s no need to do so.

Recommended tracks: ‘Sin Eater’, ‘RinNe’, ‘What I Used To Be’

5. Yossi Sassi Band – Roots And Roads

Since Yossi Sassi left Orphaned Land, he suddenly could use his heavy material alongside his more world fusion oriented stuff in his own solo band. As a result, ‘Roots And Roads’ is heavier and contains more lead vocals than the two albums that preceded it. That doesn’t mean Sassi has gone full oriental metal on this album though. In fact, it just means that his brand of world fusion – the term he has chosen himself is oriental rock – has gotten broader. And that’s really what Sassi’s music is about: exploring different styles from different regions and simply denying the fact that boundaries exist. In the hands of more pretentious musicians, the result could have become an incoherent mess, but as good as Sassi is on any of the struing instruments he plays here, he is a songwriter first and foremost. This makes ‘Roots And Roads’ both musically interesting and highly listenable.

Recommended tracks: ‘Palm Dance’, ‘Winter’, ‘Root Out’

6. Esperanza Spalding – Emily’s D+Evolution

Esperanza Spalding is a musician I had been following for a while, because she is a brilliant bassist and she always seemed to have interesting ideas on how to fuse jazz with somewhat more contemporary music. However, nothing could have prepared me for ‘Emily’s D+Evolution’. A fusion masterpiece if there ever was one. But if that gives you the impression that this record is full of self-indulgent soling, think again. The album is full of unconventional, but also concise and memorable songs. Spalding’s vocal performance is her best yet and Matthew Stevens’ “what if Hendrix played in a jazz band” approach gives the album something irresistible for me. The strong and rhythmically dense, but swinging interplay between the surprisingly limited number of musicians is simply excellent. Also, the part jazz concert, part performance art performance of this album at North Sea Jazz is probably the best concert I’ve seen this year.

Recommended tracks: ‘Funk The Fear’, ‘Good Lava’, ‘Judas’

7. Epica – The Holographic Principle

From a surprisingly limited number of musicians to a huge amount of them. Epica was never devoid of bombastic arrangements, but ‘The Holographic Principle’ sounds simply huge and somehow, that hasn’t occurred at the cost of the band’s heaviness. In fact, I don’t think my attention was ever drawn towards Epica’s riffing as much as I was here. I would almost say that the riffs are even more memorable than the choruses. And that’s why the album is a bigger masterpiece than I expected it to be. I love symphonic metal, but often, it’s too much of either to be very interesting. ‘The Holographic Principle’ manages to be Epica’s most symphonic and most metal record thus far and it just works. It doesn’t fight each other, it complements each other. And for that, they deserve all the praise they can get. Due to a couple of big interviews, this is one of the albums I’ve had to listen to most all year, but I can’t say it’s been an ordeal in any way.

Recommended tracks: ‘Ascension -Dream State Armaggeddon-‘, ‘Tear Down Your Walls’, ‘Edge Of The Blade’

8. King Of The World – Cincinatti

Just when I thought that it’s been a while since the last King Of The World album, the press release of ‘Cincinatti’ reached me. What makes this band stand out from the rest of the blues scene is that they’re not just excellent musicians, they’re amazing songwriters as well. And that’s why their records have a deal of variation and memorability that’s quite uncommon in the scene. ‘Cincinatti’ is no exception. In fact, adding horns to the mix makes the album the next step in the evolution of King Of The World. I’d like to give a special mention to the amazing ‘World On Fire’, which doesn’t really sound like anything the band has ever done before, but still feels trusted. Still labelled a supergroup due to the band members’ previous involvement in some prestigious acts, King Of The World has proven these last few years that they are much, much more than just the sum of their parts.

Recommended tracks: ‘World On Fire’, ‘Voodoo’, ‘No Way Out’

9. Gackt – Last Moon

Gackt is probably the biggest rock star in Japan and although I’ve always appreciated him as a singer and songwriter, ‘Last Moon’ is probably the first of his records that I can listen to start to finish. Most importantly because he’s largely let go of his bombastic intro-soft verse-big chorus approach, which really got on my nerves after a while. Ironically, his diminished focus on those dynamics has made ‘Last Moon’ his most dynamic set of songs thus far. In addition, ‘Last Moon’ is still a highly polished product, as we’ve come to expect from Gackt, but it feels more organic and that’s largely due to his interaction with his fantastic backing band. One could wonder if it was a good decision to close the album with two ballads, but since they’re both excellent, I’ll give Gackt the benefit of the doubt. Possibly the best J-rock album released since Luna Sea’s last album.

Recommended tracks: ‘Zan’, ‘One More Kiss’, ‘Returner ~Yami No Shuen~’

10. Insomnium – Winter’s Gate

Insomnium’s typically Finnish blend of melodic death metal and doom metal was something I always sort of liked, but lost track of due to my fading lack of interest in extreme metal. The idea of a one-track forty minute album did sort of attract my interest and I don’t regret checking it out. The lyrics tell the story of a group of vikings’ travel to an Irish island in a particularly severe winter and like any good concept album, the atmosphere of the music changes along what happens in the story. This makes ‘Winter’s Gate’ quite an immersive experience and also the most dynamic thing that Insomnium has recorded thus far. What makes this record so good is that no single element within the music overpowers the overall picture, though I do think that the lead guitars and the subtle keyboards work wonders for the atmosphere. ‘Winter’s Gate’ was a surprising highlight of 2016 for me.

Recommended tracks: ‘Winter’s Gate’ (there aren’t any others, after all)

11. Beth Hart – Fire On The Floor

‘Better Than Home’ was a good record, but a little too subdued for my taste. ‘Fire On The Floor’ luckily shows Beth Hart exploring all of her registers again, both musically and vocally. Honestly, Beth Hart is the best female rock singer alive today, so it would be a waste of her talent not to hear her rock out a little. She also puts many a blues man to shame with her slow blues performances and started experimenting with some show jazz-like tendencies remarkably successfully in recent years. All of this and much more can be heard on ‘Fire On The Floor’. In addition, Hart’s backing band for the sessions consists of giants like Michael Landau, Rick Marotta, Waddy Wachtel, Dean Parks and Ivan Neville. Again, I’m not sure if closing the record with three ballads was the right decision, which is also why I think it falls just a tiny bit short of the incredible ‘Bang Bang Boom Boom’, but it’s a great album nonetheless.

Recommended tracks: ‘Love Is A Lie’, ‘Baby Shot Me Down’, ‘Fire On The Floor’

12. Ningen Isu – Kaidan Shoshite Shi To Eros

Although Ningen Isu has been recording some fine material on the intersection where doom metal, psychedelic rock and progressive hardrock come together for the last thirty years, they just keep on getting better. For me, the increasing heaviness – quite clearly influenced by Black Sabbath and Budgie – has given their recent material a consistency that earlier material lacked and therefore, their brand new ‘Kaidan Shoshite Shi To Eros’ turned out to be their best album yet. The heavy, Sabbath-ish riffing is front and center here, but there’s sparse folky elements, strange chants and other stylistic detours that still make the material unmistakably Ningen Isu. And despite this weird combination of styles, the album has a very pleasant flow. It shouldn’t work, but it does. Exploring Ningen Isu’s discography may be a bit intimidating because of all the Japanese titles, but it’s a very rewarding quest as well.

Recommended tracks: ‘Chounouryoku Ga Attanara’, ‘Madame Edwarda’, ‘Ookami No Tasogare’

13. Marillion – F.E.A.R.

The acronym in the title is a little more crude than their subtle and intelligent music warrants, but luckily that’s the only problem I have with Marillion’s new album. Musically, it’s easily their best record since ‘Marbles’ twelve years prior. It shows the band all over the place: from folky to abstract and from highly accessible to almost impenetrably progressive. Because, in deed, after a decade of getting closer and closer to alternative rock – almost dangerously so at times – Marillion is first and foremost a progressive rock band on ‘F.E.A.R.’. It’s a 21st century take on the genre, but it’s highly progressive nonetheless. The band’s greatest assets – Steve Hogarth’s expressive vocals and Steve Rothery’s sparse, highly tasteful lead guitar work – are in full effect here and with three long, dynamic suites, there’s a lot to immerse yourself in here.

Recommended tracks: ‘Russia’s Locked Doors’, ‘Why Is Nothing Ever True?’, ‘Wake Up In Music’

14. DeWolff – Roux-Ga-Roux

Despite still not being particularly old, the three members of DeWolff have overcome the stigma of being “those three very young kids” in their early career remarkable well. Continuing to reinvent themselves musically has contributed to that as well. Where they sounded like British bands on their debut – Deep Purple and Pink Floyd quite prominently – their sound has gradually become more American, whilst still always sounding like DeWolff. On ‘Roux-Ga-Roux’, there is a strong New Orleans influence, if the title didn’t make that clear yet. The bigger emphasis on groove has considerably improved the band’s sound and while there are still a few inspired, semi-psychedelic jams, the more concise songwriting gives the record a somewhat more timeless edge, in addition to making it a very pleasant for those who aren’t as familiar with exercises in psychedelia. I’m very curious to see what they’ll do next.

Recommended tracks: ‘Sugar Moon’, ‘Stick It To The Man’, ‘Tired Of Loving You’

15. Vektor – Terminal Redux

Out of the whole retro thrash scene, Vektor was always one of the very few bands that could offer more than just nostalgia. They’ve always been labelled Voivod clones because of their sci-fi themes and use of dissonant chords, but that’s really where the comparison stops. Vektor plays hyperspeed progressive thrash metal that often borders on extreme metal, not in the last place due to David DiSanto’s screeching vocals. ‘Terminal Redux’ ups the ante in terms of the progressive side of the band, because almost all of the songs are very long, but because a lot happens within them, you’ll hardly notice. But no matter how intricate or complex it gets, Vektor seems to prioritize proper headbanging over a display of their dazzling capabilities. ‘Collapse’ isn’t just the Pink Floyd-ish highlight of the record, but also what happened to their line-up last week. DiSanto promised there’ll be more of this though.

Recommended tracks: ‘Collapse’, ‘Ultimate Artificer’, ‘Psychotropia’

16. Prince – Hit n Run Phase Two

Believe it or not, but this release was already planned before the completely unexpected death of Prince. In fact, members of his fan club already had this release for a while. The first “phase” was released about half a year earlier and a little too electronic for me, but this is Prince as I like him best. It may not be very remarkable in terms of songwriting – despite the baroque ‘Baltimore’ being the best pop song of the year – but these are highly organic jams where Prince and his band audibly feed off each other and basically just let the music be what it wants to be. That results in a handful of jazzy pop tracks and light, shimmering funk grooves. Sometimes surprisingly bare bones, at other times lushly arranged. It probably wouldn’t have sold as much as it did if Prince hadn’t died about two weeks prior, but this is one of the cases where it definitely should have.

Recommended tracks: ‘Baltimore’, ‘2 Y. 2 D.’, ‘Stare’

17. Textures – Phenotype

Textures has a great reputation worldwide because of their contribution to the genre that is apparently now known as djent. They have always been able to write a good song or two (or nine, in this case) though and having a downright amazing vocalist may have made that particular job a little easier. Seriously, I thought Daniël de Jongh got the job down admirably on ‘Dualism’, but hearing him on a track like ‘New Horizons’ really shows how good he is in many different registers. The balance between heavy, choppy riffs and beautiful, atmospheric sections is better than ever on ‘Phenotype’ and the production of former guitarist Jochem Jacobs is remarkably organic for a contemporary heavy band. It’s surprising how a band can make such a refreshing album by simply improving upon what they have always done, but ‘Phenotype’ is one of such cases. I’m very curious to hear ‘Genotype’, the second part of this diptych.

Recommended tracks: ‘New Horizons’, ‘Timeless’, ‘Illuminate The Trail’

18. Santana – IV

Working for a guitar mag, you can probably imagine that the news of Carlos Santana reuiniting with Neal Schon and most of the other musicians that played on his untitled third album creates quite a stir. Luckily, the music backed up the hype. Most of ‘IV’ displays the almost reckless blend of psychedelic rock, blues and latin that the original Santana band was known for and seems to have evolved from jam sessions. Especially the instrumental tracks have spontaneity to them that isn’t very common on mainstream rock albums anymore. The only complaint I have about the album is that the clean, modern production is a little too glossy for some of the material, but luckily, not so much that it ruins your listening pleasure. With Schon and Santana jamming together, there’s enough spectacular guitar work for the magazine, but if you’re more of a rhythm junky, there’s more than enough to enjoy for you here as well.

Recommended tracks: ‘Yambu’, ‘Echizo’, ‘Filmore East’

19. Mary’s Blood – Fate

Highly anticipated for me, because I consider its predecessor ‘Bloody Palace’ a near-masterpiece. It doesn’t quite reach that level, but ‘Fate’ is once again a strong heavy metal, bordeline power metal record. Saki’s stellar guitar work will always be a point of interest for people who are into Mary’s Blood, but what really set this collective apart from all the other all-female bands that are currently conquering Japan – apart from their music having more power than many of their contemporaries, male or female – is the powerful, slightly raw voice of Eye. She is once again in excellent shape here. Some of the more experimental moments on the album are a subject of debate, but the record is full of driving rhythms, energetic riff work, catchy melodies and of course amazing vocals. There’s only so much hype a band can create; I strongly believe Mary’s Blood has a bright future due to having the musical value to back it up.

Recommended tracks: ‘Change The Fate’, ‘Queen Of The Night’, ‘Counter Strike’

20. Gorguts – Pleiades’ Dust

Another one-track album. This time a 33 minute one with lyrics about the rise and the ultimate destruction of the House of Wisdom in Baghdad. Gorguts has taken that story and accompanied it with their trade-mark avant-garde death metal sound. While that style normally isn’t for me, Luc Lemay’s compositions full of guitar and bass lines that crawl and circle around each other have always intrigued me. This time, it’s no different. Even in the very subdued, tranquil and abstract middle section, there’s this tension that keeps me hanging on to the song. Very skillfully crafted and very powerfully performed. The production is surprisingly good as well; Patrice Hamelin’s drums actually sound like drums instead of computerized signals and it isn’t quite as “all loud all the time” as many modern death metal albums are. A very interesting piece of art with an interesting narrative to boot.

Recommended tracks: ‘Pleiades’ Dust’ (again, there aren’t any others)

Another Gitarist cover story!


Personally, I was quite surprised that I got another cover story this month. Yes, Kensington is one of Holland’s biggest bands at the moment and I did have a very interesting chat with their guitarists Eloi Youssef and Casper Starreveld about their new album ‘Control’, but seeing the former on the cover surprised me pleasantly. Also, I interviewed Animals As Leader’s guitarists Tosin Abasi and Javier Reyes when they played in Holland three months ago. Now that their new album ‘The Madness Of Many’ is almost released, it’s finally published. It’s easily one of the most technically tinted conversations I’ve had in the past years and let’s be honest: what better band to do that with than the band with two eight string guitarists, one of which has an outlandish signature model?

And there’s more interesting stuff. Steve Rothery gets some deserved space in the magazine and the time is right, because Marillion just released an album that is easily their best since 2004’s ‘Marbles’. And Allen Hinds just released ‘Fly South’ and extensively tells us about his history with guitars. Sadly, I didn’t write either story, but reading them was very interesting. Besides that, there’s a load of album reviews – most of which I did write – and more gear reviews than you can imagine. And if you’re an acoustic guitarist and wonder how to improve your live sound, we have a feature that is tailor made for you.

It’s on the shelves now. I can give you more reasons to get it on request.

Album of the Week 36-2016: Marillion – Marbles


Last week, I wrote my review on Marillion’s new record ‘F.E.A.R.’ for Gitarist. Without giving too much away: I called it their best record since ‘Marbles’. Which may have been a bit lazy, because ‘Marbles’ is the designated “best since” reference for the Brits, since they’ve moved a bit too close to alternative Pop on subsequent releases. Those influences are quite prominent here as well, but somehow they blend with Marillion’s progressive roots much better here. Ironically, while it sounds less cliché Prog than some of their peers, it made Marillion one of the few bands to actually do something progressive in the 21st century.

As musicians, Marillion has become increasingly understated since the early nineties. Steve Rothery is one of the world’s most tasteful lead guitarists, but most of the time, he takes a backseat to the song and provides color through sounds that sometimes don’t even sound like a guitar. But most illustrative of the musical development is Mark Kelly. Remember the somewhat shrill keyboard leads on their eighties output? Kelly went along with the times and is more interested in laying down textures these days. The relevance of no one taking the spotlight can’t be emphasized enough.

Centerpieces on ‘Marbles’ are – maybe somewhat predictably – the three epics. ‘Ocean Cloud’ – the longest, clocking in just under 18 minutes – is perhaps the most traditionally progressive of the lot, with it’s clear movements, distinctly Pink Floyd-like ambient sections and quiet-loud dynamics. Closing track ‘Neverland’ is a downright beautiful ballad with one of Rothery’s finest guitar solo’s of all time and though the band hasn’t sounded like Genesis for the better part of three decades, I consider ‘The Invisible Man’ the ‘Musical Box’ of this century; singer Steve Hogarth’s emotional range strengthens the increasing intensity in the music and the band very creatively links highly different sections together.

The shorter songs lack the lasting power of those three monuments, but there’s still plenty to enjoy here. Influences from U2 (‘You’re Gone’) and The Beatles (‘The Damage’) are quite obvious, as is Radiohead’s influence on the sonic possibilities of the instruments, but Marillion stubbornly refuses to copy a formula and consistently turns it into their own thing. Highlighting the more concise side of the record are the jazzy psychedelia of ‘Angelina’ and the schizophrenic composition ‘Drilling Holes’, in which highly rhythmic sections with excellent bass work by Pete Trewavas are contrasted by calmer, late sixties Beatle-esque passages. The four short titular interludes are nice, calm pieces of music as well.

Make sure you check out the double cd version of ‘Marbles’, or else you’ll miss four songs, one of which being the amazing ‘Ocean Cloud’. Also, albums like these are just worth hearing the way the artists intended them to. It never was artistic vision that Marillion lacked and ‘Marble’ is one of the best examples to illustrate that fact. While it’s not their best record – ‘Brave’ will forever hold that title for me – it is one of the very few satisfying examples of a band with a “progressive” label actually still progressing. And one of the few that can make simpler songs work.

Recommended tracks: ‘The Invisible Man’, ‘Neverland’, ‘Ocean Cloud’

Many heroes new and old in Gitarist and Slagwerkkrant


Gitarist’s last issue for this year (well, technically it’s the January 2014 issue…) contains a lot of interesting stuff. And you certainly won’t hear me say that all of it is mine, because it isn’t. First of all, Adrian Vandenberg – “Adje” for fellow Dutchies – is back! My chief editor Mark van Schaick has written a long and informative feature on his new band MoonKings. I certainly can’t wait to hear the album, but I’ll have to wait until February 24th in order to do so. My compliments to mr. Vandenberg for working with young musicians rather than taking the easy way out and ask a couple of big names to join him.

As for my contributions, there are interviews with some brand new heroes. I talked to Eric Campbell from Vancouver’s No Sinner about their fantastic debut album ‘Boo Hoo Hoo’. To tell you the truth, I have an incredible weak spot for Colleen Rennison’s fantastic vocals and the general old school Rock ‘n’ Soul sound of the band. Check this band out if you haven’t yet! Also, I spoke to brand new Legion Of The Damned guitarist Twan van Geel about his contributions to the band’s brand new ‘Ravenous Plague’ album. I have been a fan of Van Geel’s playing and writing ever since I heard him with Flesh Made Sin and this is definitely Legion’s best album yet!

In addition, I had an interesting conversation (and somewhat decent photo shoot) with Marillion’s Steve Rothery, whose hero Andy Latimer is also featured in the magazine (that interview was done by my colleague Stefan Heger, however). The interview my colleague Martine Sipma had with master repair man Hans Pluut is well worth your time as well. If you wonder what to spend your most recent salary on: there’s loads of reviews as well, among which quite a few from my hand.

If guitars aren’t your thing, but drums are, get Slagwerkkrant instead. I had an interesting conversation with Damian Lopez of Amsterdam’s Red Eyes that is published, but be sure to check out the interviews with new Dream Theater Mike Mangini – who also drummed on Annihilator’s ‘Set The World On Fire’, an album I listen to quite a lot – and Peter Gabriel’s most amazing drummer Manu Katché as well!

And if that’s not enough to cure your new year’s boredom, I will publish my end-of-year list tomorrow, hoping to entertain you a little further with that.

The Shorties: this month’s new DVD’s

So many new high profile music DVD’s these last few weeks. It’s quite obvious that holiday season is coming up. To help you decide which ones to buy and which ones to avoid, I’ll try and serve you with a few short reviews.


Deep Purple – Perfect Strangers Live

‘Perfect Strangers’ was the very decent comeback of Deep Purple’s famous Mark II lineup, with Ian Gillan singing and Ritchie Blackmore playing guitar. This recording from the tour to promote that album proves that this lineup still had its chops back then. This was before Gillan’s vocal deterioration and all of the ‘Perfect Strangers’ highlights are on here. Except for ‘Wasted Sunsets’. Classic work like ‘Strange Kind Of Woman’ and ‘Speed King’ sounds very good too. It looks like not much has been done to upgrade the picture quality, but the music and the audio is just fine.


Peter Gabriel – Live In Athens 1987

‘So’ catapulted Peter Gabriel from underground favorite to mainstream hero. This enabled him to take his music to bigger audiences and have more opportunities to film gigs. It may be caused by Gabriel’s fascination with modern technique, but the picture quality on ‘Live In Athens’ is ridiculously good for a 1987 concert. In addition, he is backed by his best band yet, playing fantastic versions of songs like ‘Intruder’, ‘The Family And The Fishing Net’, ‘No Self Control’ and basically all the ‘So’ highlights. Obligatory counterpiece to ‘So’.


Steve Hackett – Genesis Revisited: Live At Hammersmith

Another former Genesis musician who became a hero of his own field. Steve Hackett is easily one of my favorite guitarists. I love his beautiful tone and tasteful melodies. His second collection of Genesis reworkings was a success and the tour that followed had him and his fantastic backing band (including Gabriel and Collins soundalike Nad Sylvan on vocals) playing Genesis songs only. Fantastic renditions of the best Genesis songs are a result, on this best looking DVD Steve Hackett has done so far. Highlight: Hackett doing a non-competitive and utterly beautiful solo duel with Marillion guitarist Steve Rothery on ‘The Lamia’.


Marillion – Brave Live 2013

It’s one of my favorite Prog albums – and certainly the finest Prog record released in the nineties – performed in it’s entirity. What can go wrong? Especially with this crisp and clear image and sound quality even if you purchase “only” the DVD instead of the BluRay. The band is in fantastic shape, the encores contain some incredible performances of non-‘Brave’ songs, Steve Hogarth sings the material surprisingly well despite the passing of almost two decades. A must for anyone into Progressive Rock.


Megadeth – Countdown To Extinction: Live

Another album performed in its entirity. This one should be approached with a little more caution though; Megadeth lowered all the songs to a D-tuning, apparently to better facilitate Dave Mustaine’s voice. I don’t think anyone listens to Megadeth for his voice. Rather for his riffs. And it’s those riffs that get a whole different vibe because of the different tunings. Some of the songs are almost unrecognizable until the lyrics start, ‘Public Enemy No. 1’ in particular. The lighting is a bit dark too. However, the band plays extremely well. Like they always do.


Ted Nugent – Ultralive Ballistirock

Ladies and gentlemen, Derek St. Holmes is back! And his voice still is fantastic, which is somewhat remarkable as he is 60 years of age. This – along Uncle Ted’s fantastic backing band – accounts for some of the most incredible renditions of ‘Just What The Doctor Ordered’, ‘Turn It Up’, ‘Dog Eat Dog’, ‘Stormtroopin” and of course the legendary ‘Stranglehold’ we’ve heard in a long time. What can go wrong? Oh right, if Nugent’s right-wing pro-gun rants annoy you, avoid this like the plague. If you either agree with him or – like me – are able to see past this, this is a very worthy addition to your Bluesrock collection.


Testament – Dark Roots Of Thrash

Despite opening this show with the atrocious ‘Rise Up’, the song that strives for any worst lyrics award, ‘Dark Roots Of Thrash’ is a pretty entertaining DVD. Most of the rest is positive. The picture quality and editing is fantastic, Gene Hoglan is behind the drum kit, the band finally remembers they did an incredible album called ‘The Gathering’ about a decade and a half ago by playing four songs off of the album and Chuck Billy delivers a surprisingly great vocal performance. ‘Burnt Offerings’ alone would be worth the buy.


Devin Townsend – The Retinal Circus

‘By A Thread’ would be a better buy than this one. Townsend took things too far over the top here. The CD version is a little easier to digest, because it doesn’t have all the extremely long narrative parts that really disrupt the flow of the show. It doesn’t show the overblown stage show either. Having said that, this is still Devin Townsend, which means there’s a bunch of weirdly brilliant songs executed by a group of very capable musicians. It’s just that I’ve heard and seen them better.

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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