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Marillion: Sounds That Can't Be Made

As 2012 is entering into its final stretch, I can confidently say that Marillion have provided me with some of this year's finest memories. I had the pleasure of seeing them perform an inspired and purely magical concert in Philadelphia this June, I've rediscovered some of the band's classic albums and gained an entire new appreciation for them, and to top it all off, they've also released one of their strongest albums in recent memory with Sounds That Can't Be Made. From my perspective, this has been a great year for Marillion (without even mentioning Steve Hogarth's killer collaboration album with Richard Barbieri released earlier in 2012), and anybody who's been 'on the fence' about the band's recent material owes it to themselves to check out Sounds That Can't Be Made. In what I can only call the band's strongest effort since the 1994 masterpiece that was Brave, Sounds That Can't Be Made is a breath of fresh air in the modern progressive rock scene that offers the introspective sound that Marillion has become known for, as well as a few more progressive twists than we may have come to expect from the band recently.

Although Marillion have generally distanced themselves from any form of 'traditional' neo-prog in recent years, the band's fragile and emotional style of rock music has appealed to me greatly on albums like Happiness Is The Road; that album may have been met with fairly mixed criticisms, but the meticulous attention to atmosphere grew on me to the point where I consider it a truly great observation. Sounds That Can't Be Made focuses on the same sort of subtle beauty and intense ambiance as its predecessor, while incorporating more progressive twists and bombastic atmospheres. This is still an extremely mellow listen compared to most prog bands on the scene today, but the exceptional songwriting and brilliant arrangement makes it no less satisfying. Sounds That Can't Be Made may take a few listens to 'click', but it's the sort of album that leaves a huge impression when given the time it deserves - I still find myself discovering new subtleties with every listen, and the emotional impact of some of these tunes rivals the best material that Marillion has ever produced.

My first experience with Sounds That Can't Be Made was through "Power", the single released some time before the album's actual release date. The thick bassline and powerful chorus immediately grabbed my attention, and by the time I heard the entire album, I was actually really impressed. Tasty musicianship and professional compositions are to be expected from Marillion at this point, but this album had an extra edge that really set it apart from the band's other material. The epic songwriting and thought-provoking lyrics in "Gaza" shows Marillion taking their art to a new plateau, "Montreal" is one of my favorite songs in the band's entire discography, and "The Sky Above The Rain" is a perfect example of a 'goosebump song' - whether I want it to or not, Steve Rothery's soulful leads and Hogarth's mesmerizing vocal performance never fail to send chills up my spine. This trio of epics accurately represents Sounds That Can't Be Made's highlights, and although "Lucky Man" doesn't do a whole lot for me, the entire seventy-four minute running time is captivating and powerful.

Sounds That Can't Be Made may not have an ambitious concept like Brave does or the same classic potential that the Fish-era recordings have, but the quality of the release alone is enough to have it regarded as a high point in Marillion's career. A remarkably strong effort indeed, Sounds That Can't Be Made has been on my rotation for dozens of spins now, and it still packs a massive punch every time I take it out for a listen. I think Marillion fans will be delighted to hear this one, and folks who haven't been too enthusiastic about other recent albums may also want to check it out - this is one of the strongest albums that these British legends have ever released for sure! While it would probably take an album crafted by some supernatural force to dethrone Brave and Clutching at Straws (for me, at least), Sounds That Can't Be Made is the next closest thing. In a few short words, Sounds That Can't Be Made is an essential landmark in Marillion's discography - and all I have left to say is "well done, gentlemen!".

Track Listing:
1. Gaza (17:31)
2. Sounds That Can't Be Made (7:11)
3. Pour My Love (5:59)
4. Power (6:07)
5. Montreal (14:00)
6. Invisible Ink (5:44)
7. Lucky Man (6:54)
8. The Sky Above The Rain (10:34)

Added: November 7th 2012
Reviewer: Jeff B
Related Link: Visit
Hits: 4090
Language: english

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Marillion: Sounds That Can't Be Made
Posted by Pete Pardo, SoT Staff Writer on 2012-11-07 12:50:18
My Score:

Regular readers of this site are probably pretty aware of how critical I've been of recent Marillion releases, and how I've practically pleaded with them to start showing a little life and kick things up a notch after a slew of what I consider bland, boring, and listless atmospheric rock albums. Sure, I'm a longtime fan who still cherishes the Fish era, but I've long ago stopped wishing they would return to that sound, and actually I quite like many of the early albums with Steve Hogarth, who I think is a marvelous singer. But, in recent years, I'm just finding each album sounding pretty much the same, filled with their brand of emotional, atmospheric modern rock, devoid of anything that resembles 'prog' , and I've been losing interest really fast.

So, in saying all that, as I popped in their latest CD Sounds That Can't Be Made (which I had zero expectations of mind you), I was immediately surprised and shocked at the opening 17 minute prog-rock epic "Gaza", which is easily one of the finest songs that this band has recorded in many years. Dramatic, atmospheric, damn heavy in spots, with Hogarth's warm, soaring vocals, melodic guitar solos from Steve Rothery, and loads of keyboard tones & texures from Mark Kelly. It was like reliving the days of Season's End, Afraid of Sunlight and Brave all over again, which in my opinion are three of the finest releases from this version of the band. Could Marillion be back to making stimulating and adventurous music again that will bring back all the naysayers like myself? Well, yes and no.

Just as much as I was riding high listening to "Gaza", the following title track brought me down a few pegs. "Sounds That Can't Be Made" is a decent enough pop tune, with a nice hook and some alluring textures, but I'd just assume go listen to some of my late '70s ELO records for the same effect. "Pour My Love" nearly puts me to sleep every time, and again, not a bad song, but it's bland pop, nothing more, nothing less. "Power" very nearly follows the same trend, but thankfully there's a soaring chorus that brings some life to this otherwise stale song. The haunting ballad "Montreal" features some shimmering keyboards from Kelly and Hogarth's gentle crooning, making for an appealing yet way too understated delivery, and "Invisible Man" is a quirky little pop tune with another memorable chorus, but I find the opening and closing segments a little lacking. Look for some nice organ & electric piano colors from Mr. Kelly on "Lucky Man", a tune that features another fine chorus driven by the powerful vocals of Hogarth and Rothery's lean guitar lines, and the closing number "The Sky Above the Rain" once again sees the intensity level drop off back to first gear, though there are some nice melodies to be found in the tune.

So, yes, there are some good tunes here, but Sounds That Can't Be Made, just like the last few releases to come before it, just seems to be lacking continued excitement to these ears. After the opening burst of "Gaza", things just settle back into a safe, bland, pop and atmospheric rock mode, and things never really break any barriers at all. For some, this CD is sure to be wonderful and all that, but as much as I've tried it's just not doing all that much for me, despite a couple of strong tracks. It's safe, been-there-done-that Marillion to my ears, and that's just not good enough.

» Reader Comments:

Marillion: Sounds That Can't Be Made
Posted by Steve Pettengill on 2012-11-09 11:52:00
My Score:

Marillion's last few releases have stirred up a small amount of controversy among fans and I suspect "Sounds That Can't Be Made" will prove to be no exception. The band's approach to songwriting apparently hasn't changed, but the arrangements continue to favor lengthy passages of atmospherics and mellowness. This works quite well on tracks such as the opening 17 minute epic "Gaza", which at times sounds like psychedelicized Peter Gabriel. There are lots of twists and turns and guitarist Steven Rothery turns up the heat quite a bit here. The album is bookended by one of the most gorgeous ballads Marillion have ever written in "The Sky Above The Rain". Vocalist/lyricist Steve Hogarth really does an admirable job at getting to the heart of the intracies of long term relationships and how they change over time. In between these two tracks, we get many songs that range from merely good ("Pour My Love") to very good (the title track and "Power"). At times, the 13 minute "Montreal" meanders to the point where I find my mind wandering, but the sincerity of the track and the band's obvious love for the city shines through.

At 75 minutes, "Sounds That Can't Be Made" is a long CD and sometimes I can't help but think a few more bursts of energy would have helped tremendously. Still, there are many things to recommend, including the production, which, as always, is one of Marillion's great strengths. Steve Hogarth is still in great voice and Mark Kelly proves once again that he's one of the most underrated keyboard players in the business. Likewise, I applaud the band for not simply trodding down the neo-prog path so many of their contempories never left, as very little of this album remotely resembles the Marillion of the 90s, let alone the 80s. For anyone who enjoyed "Happiness is the Road", I think they will find much to admire on the latest album as well. While I enjoy Marillion's new offering for the most part, here's hoping we'll get something a little more uptempo the next time out.

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