As the many thousands of fans who regularly flock to see the band live or buy their records are all too aware, there really is no other band like Marillion. Refusing to compromise their music by bowing to marketing pressures, focus groups or record labels seeking a chart-busting single, Marillion have pressed on to create their own unmistakable and unique music whilst amassing a huge "underground" following around the world.
If you haven't heard them before, listen up...Whatever you're expecting, this band just keeps growing and changing.
Their new CD 'Marbles' is a creative milestone of atmospheric and stirring songs. Intense, deep-seated and musically multilateral - you'll either "get it" or you won't. The choice is yours.
'There are a million bands who kick ass, but just a few, like Marillion, who really move people' - Kerrang
1. The Invisible Man
2. Marbles I
3. You're Gone
5. Marbles II
6 . Don't Hurt Yourself
7 . Fantastic Place
8. Marbles III
9 . Drilling Holes
10 . Marbles IV
11 . Neverland
12. Bonus Track: You're Gone (Single Mix)
Jon Hotten, Classic Rock, May 2004 (5 out of 5 Stars)
Sounding increasingly assured, can one of the progressive rock world's most enduring and undervalued treasures finally convince the mainstream of their true worth?
For the early part of their career, Marillion were arguably over-rewarded (their second album 'Fugazi', for example is probably their worst but it was a considerable hit), while their latter years have produced some bold and beautiful music that has been ignored by the commercial mainstream.
But unfashionability brings its own comforts. Buoyed by a large cult following (13,000 people who've provided the up-front working capital will be rewarded with a name-check in the CD booklet and a special two-CD edition of the album) and with no idiot A&R man in their ear about demographics or hot producers, Marillion can simply make records. Which is what it's all about. Or should be.
With 'Marbles', Marillion have played to their strengths and cut one of their very best records. It is in the style of 'Brave', their high-water mark, and it might yet exceed it. 'Marbles' is old-fashioned in the sense that it grows with each listen; the more you listen, the more you hear. It is mature and sincerely wrought, and a balm to the senses.
The other great boon of unfashionability is that every so often, things turn back toward you. The trend at the moment is for album artists who offer some bang for your buck – a record that you're still going to want to play in a couple of months' time. 'Marbles' is certainly one of those.
With their innate sense of drama and pomp tempered by a winning melancholy – there's an indefinable feeling of sadness to some of these songs – Marillion have produced a set of rich and vivid soundscapes. They've pulled off the great Pink Floyd trick, too: the whole is far greater than the sum of its parts. Simple pop songs like 'You're Gone' and 'Don't Hurt Yourself' ease you through the richer dramas about them: The 'Invisible Man' and 'Neverland' – bookends for the record – are long and jagged in relief; 'Drilling Holes' offers some harshness to leaven the sweeter melodies. Taken in one go, these songs move over the whole like water on glass; there is less substance to them in isolation. The exception – and the exceptional track here – is 'Fantastic Place'. Grandiose and sad too, it's tooled out with the kind of Steve Rothery guitar solo that sounds as if it was recorded on a cliff top at sunrise, and it's sung exquisitely by Steve Hogarth. In all, it's the kind of thing that is beyond the reach of all but the best bands in the genre.
That genre thing has been a bugbear of Marillion's, but it no longer seems relevant. What are Radiohead if not a progressive band? (And you can be sure that those little Oxford boys have a Marillion record or two in their collections.) And what are Pink Floyd, for that matter? Fans of either of those two bands would find much to enjoy in 'Marbles'. Ultimately, though, it's not a derivative record, and Marillion are no longer a derivative band. They are making strong, singular music with the courage of their convictions, and we should treasure them more than we do.
Simon Gausden, Powerplay, June 2004
I've been a fan of the Marillos since I first caught them at the '82 Reading Rock festival. I was there primarily for the likes of Iron Maiden and Blackfoot, but Marillion's early afternoon set was a blinding revelation, and I've followed them from that day to this. Now, let me be succinct: there are times during the Steve Hogarth era that I've lost faith in the band, their last (2001) studio album "Anoraknophobia" left me stone cold, in fact thoroughly bewildered…Was this indie sounding thing really the Marillion I knew and loved? As a consequence, I had very few hopes or expectations at all of any future product but I'm now more than happy to prostrate myself at the band's feet and publicly chow down on a meal of humble pie, for in "Marbles", Marillion have created something really very special indeed. If it fits in anywhere amongst the band's past repertoire, it's as a distant cousin of "Brave": the themes, textures, and links all hint at that most extraordinary concept album.
By now, if everything has gone to plan, you should have all have heard the debut single, the achingly beautiful "You're Gone", which should be scaling the upper echelons of the UK charts giving the band a top ten hit (or more) for the first time since the great albatross "Kayleigh", and also the first single to get anywhere near the charts cine the wonderful "Beautiful" gently tried to nudge them many moons ago now. To us a somewhat strange analogy, you could compare Marillion's music to a form of exercise: it may not have the impetus of jogging but it has the smooth liquid grace of yoga and the effects of long-term are far more lasting and beneficial…make of that what you will. Of course few albums stand or fall on the strength of a single and Marillion are positively spoiled for choice with an almost embarrassing wealth of timeless songs. It's still an album that is totally cutting edge but the band seem also to have drawn strands of influence from all of the best parts of the "H" era, melding all the magical elements together to stunning effect.
Listening closely, I can hear other subtle nuances creeping in – Pink Floyd, Barclay-James Harvest, The Cure, XTC, and during "Drilling Holes" Hogarth fleetingly evokes the memory of Sid Barrett both lyrically and vocally. It's unnerving stuff and still the one song I find testing. Interestingly, "Don't Hurt Yourself' wouldn't sound out of place if played by Mostly Autumn, and the epic and emotionally powerful album coda "Neverland" can't help but draw comparisons to the Floyd at their most statuesque and emotional. Lush, perceptively elegant, powerful, coolly refreshing and emotionally charged. "Marbles" is a genuinely remarkable testament to Marillion's enduring creativity and crystal vision and Pete Trewavas, Ian Mosley, Mark Kelly, Steve Rothery, and Steve Hogarth have yet again proved that they are slaves to no-one, instead being prophets calling proudly in an uncaring musical wilderness.
A study in mature brilliance, "Marbles" is indubitably a heavyweight contender for "Album Of The Year 2004" and in summation, all I can say is: gentlemen, I salute you.
EYES RIGHT FOR MARILLION
Mark Sorensen, Bucks Free Press, 11 May 2004
When I heard Marillion had beaten a host of teen pop stars to no. 7 in the UK singles chart, I was a little shocked. Like most, I had become desensitised to the homogenous corporate airhead pop that climbs up and down the charts each week. So I was amazed to hear Marillion's new single You're Gone had shot straight into the Top Ten. Was this a revolution? Clearly something special had happened. So I decided their new album Marbles deserved a listen.
The opening track Invisible Man is an ocean away from their 80s single Kayleigh. The drum intro is fresh and incisive; more drum 'n' bass than classic rock, then Steve Rothery pierces the pounding with characteristic fret slides. The track is lengthy, reminiscent of Marillion's 1994 album Brave, but with chord complexities and temp changes that would tear strips off bands half their age. Steve Hogarth's vocal range is impressive as he switches between anthemic hooks and melodic verses.
There are shorter songs, such as Genie and Angelina, two nicely written ballads, which could be possible follow-ups to You're Gone as hit singles. For me the standout track on first listening is Fantastic Place. This is a song I have waited to be written for years. It is beautiful in sound and incredibly vivid in the images portrayed. If Marillion had half the radio airplay of Oasis, this song would become as big as Wonder Wall.
Marbles is an album that will grow on you. Two and half years in the making, this album is characterized by its high quality production, emotive lyrics, soaring guitar riffs and uncompromised self-indulgence. A week ago, if you had told me that I would be getting shivers down my spine over a Marillion album, I would have laughed. I am not laughing now. Marillion have matured into a serious band that is setting standards by which others must follow.
The Star, June 2004
Some people thought they had lost them years ago…Fact is, 21 years on from their debut the archdeacons of prog-rock are very clued up.
More so than many acts tied to major labels. After all, few can lay claim to a top 10 hit with no major backing other than the fiscal support of their fan base.
Seven years after followers in the US had a whip round so the band could tour there, Marbles has been helped along by fans shelling out before the record was made. Not for the first time.
You're Gone gave them a triumphant hit but, bar a catchy Don't Hurt Yourself, is as commercial as it gets. Donny boy Steve Hogarth's quality voice gives the likes of Invisible Man a dark, even operatic richness while the piano-led recurring Marbles song and atmospheric Angelina confirm Marillion are a very different band to the one a painted-face Fish fronted in the '80s. The theme may be nostalgic, but the lesson is one labels should note: fan power matters.
MARILLION, MARBLES, MAGNIFICENT
Roger Newell, Guitarist, June 2004
No-one could accuse Marillion of losing their marbles. Their musical sense speaks for itself while their business sense kept the band together and productive during difficult times with EMI. With all that behind them they have continued to produce great music but this latest epic is one of their best albums to date. And with a couple of tracks exceeding 12 minutes, epic is the word. Strong lyrics and superb performances all round, and much of it will translate well to live performances too.
The single pull will be You're Gone and the remixed version is included as a bonus track. Lots of atmosphere here and Steve Rothery is well on form throughout.
Standout tracks: Don't Hurt Yourself, Fantastic Place, You're Gone
Guitar Magazine, June 2004
The fact that the music press has largely deserted Marillion (who are now on their 13th studio album), has not deterred their fan base. For Marbles, like the previous few albums, was funded by the fans pre-ordering and paying for it a year in advance via the band's website. And listening to it we can understand the enterprising devotion.
If you haven't been familiar with Marillion since, ooh, the Fish days, shake the cobwebs of 'prog' out of your mind and try opening it instead. Marbles is a brooding collection of cinematic mood music, flavoured by eastern, ambient, country, rock and folk influences. The lack of record company funding allows the band to throw away the rule book, with the result that some tracks clock in at over 13 minutes. For a more palatable starting point, check out the bittersweet, haunting Angelina or the radio-friendly You're Gone.
ROLLING WITH IT
Philip Wilding, Classic Rock, October 2004 (London Astoria)
Having hit something of a purple patch with latest album 'Marbles', Marillion barely put a foot wrong live, and show why they deserve to be inhabiting a more elevated pedestal.
"I admit we liked being in the charts," Steve Hogarth says with a grin. He offers this as a verbal nod to the Top 10 success of Marillion's single "You're Gone', and as a precursor to its follow up, 'Don't Hurt Yourself'; he suggests selling something in order to buy it. And judging by the uproarious, good-natured response he gets in return, half the audience will have set up a car-boot sale double-quick the next day.
Marillion encourage that kind of thing. These are the fans, remember, who are happy to help the band finance albums. They attend conventions at holiday camps they thought they'd left behind when they moved out of the family home. They turn up and sell out the Astoria on a seriously hot night and don't mutter, complain or wilt through the entire two-and-a-half-hour show.
Marillion have rewarded their fans well, however, 'Marbles' (available as a single or double CD – they are Marillion, after all) is a wonderful thing. Recorded over the best part of three years, it has borne fruit like no other Marillion album I can think of. Impassioned and light of touch, dashed then determined, 'Marbles' is gusto and regret, the maddening dark and the first hopeful ray of light.
As a band, they seem to sense this too, opening the show with the single-disc version of the album played in order, from beginning to end. Startling it may be, but there's still time for jokes. Hogarth is especially emboldened, cajoling and occasionally camp. He lays his head on the electric piano at the front of the stage as dramatically as Noel Coward might have done after a fall. He is as theatrical, too, all animated arms and arching eyebrows atop a Cheshire-cat grin.
"Beautiful guitar sound Steve Rothery has," a friend of mine notes, jabbing me with his elbow. "It is Dave Gilmour's guitar sound, though. Then again, I can't remember the last time I heard Dave Gilmour make that sound." (The friend in question once played guitar in a band that almost signed to Suede's label, and is prone to making pronouncements like these. Especially about guitars and the people who play them.) Rothery's playing might reference Pink Floyd, and Marillion – even the brave-new-world Marillion – still play songs a durable 10 minutes in length, but in a world where Muse headline Glastonbury and Radiohead top the American chart none of it seems so out of place. It's arguable that if Marillion had changed their name after Fish left, those would be the kind of worlds they would now inhabit. Rumination over such things is for another time, though.
The set is split into two, giving everyone the chance to draw breath after "Marbles" before they return with the mid-paced 'This Is The 21st Century', which causes the set to dip in the middle somewhat. But it' the closest they come to stalling all evening. The deliciously malicious (and quite unexpected, excuse the pun) 'Uninvited Guest' points and sneers, "Bridge" is a reminder that the concept album isn't such a tawdry notion, and 'Easter" may still be the best song any incarnation of Marillion have ever recorded.
They take gleeful bows, Hogarth persuading an abashed Ian Mosley down from behind his drums to link up with the band before a baying audience. There is still a glittering sheen from perspiration on the walls as the house lights come up.
A SPRING IN THEIR STEP
Ian D. Hall, The Evening Mail, 2 July 2004 (Wolverhampton Civic)
Marillion are one of the most under-rated bands of the past 20 years and they had the crowd at the almost sold out Civic Hall still with anticipation and longing.
During the first hour of the set, which revolved around the current album Marbles, they played the moody and atmospheric Invisible Man, their recent top then single You're Gone and the next release Don't Hurt Yourself. After a short break they wowed the audience by playing selected classics from Anoraknophobia and Seasons End, including the seminal Uninvited Guest.
Singer Steve Hogarth was on top form. He and the rest of the band had a spring in their stop that made them seem15 years younger.
An incredible evening was rounded off with two encores which included Cover My Eyes.
OH TO BE EMBRACED BY MARILLION
Greg Nixon, Lancashire Evening Post, 2 July 2004 (Manchester Academy)
Some people just don't get Marillion and their lives must be an emptier place for it. Marillion isn't a band. It is an addiction and for many, a religion. They come from far and wide to worship at the altar, and tonight's church is the Manchester Academy.
Marillion's music embraces you then engulfs you. Once they get their hooks in you, there is no escape.
And tonight, you get the feeling something special is in the air. The band seemed to have been freed from their shackles by the recent success of a Top 10 single – You're Gone – which received a five minute ovation from the followers that took even the band by surprise.
All the weight of expectation has been lifted from their shoulders and they are out there to enjoy themselves.
It is a celebration of Marillion's battle against the odds – not so much to be accepted as respected.
Critically acclaimed album Marbles provides the first half of the set, singer Steve Hogarth shambling on stage dressed as a mild-mannered clerk underlining the darker menace of The Invisible Man.
Every soul-searching note wrung from Steve Rothery's guitar is received with rapturous appreciation.
Marillion combine their consummate musicianship with an energy and passion sadly lacking in the majority of today's so-called stars. They romp through set part one, lifting the spirits with Don't Hurt Yourself, then bringing the audience down with Fantastic Place, building to the crescendo of Neverland.
Then, it's a brief respite before they return with classic Hogarth-era Marillion.
As the foghorn strains of The Bridge echo across this hall, there is the false hope the band are launching into Brave – perhaps their finest moment to date – but after a brief dalliance with Hollow Men, The Party kicks in to start this little party in ernest.
After an encore of Uninvited Guest and Cover My Eyes, the evening is cruelly cut short by a curfew. A minor setback on a glorious night for Marillion and it's faithful legion.
Ashleigh Wallace, Belfast Telegraph, 5 July 2004 (Belfast Empire)
The ghost of Marillion past was well and truly exorcised last night with an intimate gig at Belfast's Empire.
Suited lead singer Steve Hogarth led the band on stage to perform a first half dominated with songs from their new album Marbles. And with a flawless voice, extremely charismatic stage presence and an intimate relationship with the audience, it proved to be an emotional evening for band and fans alike.
Recent top ten single You're Gone went down a treat as did Don't Hurt Yourself – which hits the shelves next week. And with all of the songs from Marbles lasting for a minimum of five minutes, the five-piece showed what masterful musicians they really are.
Some fans at last night's gig demanded Marillion play some Fish classics but there was no room for the former lead singer in 'House of Hogarth'.
After a brief break, the band were back to treat the packed Empire to some of their past hits.
Quartz and Between You and Me, taken from their last album Anoraknophobia, had the audience eating out of their hand.
But it was an encore that proved the high point of the evening. A clearly emotional Hogarth told the chanting crowd, who had been waiting for the climax, that it has been 17 years since Marillion had played Easter – written about Northern Ireland – to the people of Belfast.
"If this doesn't make me cry, then I'm a harder man than I thought" pronounced Hogarth, before launching into the song which had fans old and new alike singing with one voice.
The reaction of the audience of the audience after the final chords of Easter were played seemed to stun the band, who seemed loath to leave the stage.
And leave they did – but after the reception they received it might not be too long before they're back on these shores.
Kenneth Hodgart, Glasgow Evening Times, 7 July 07 2004 (Glasgow Barrowlands)
The Barrowlands crowd hadn't grown any younger since Marillion's last visit some five years ago.
Ageing men were in the majority.
With the gig played in two halves, the interminable rock ballads and hits of yore aired later in the night went down a storm with the faithful, but it was the new album Marbles, played in it's entirety, that really shone.
Singer Steve 'H' Hogarth crept on stage like Darth Vader, performing the three opening numbers, including the 15-minute burner The Invisible Man, in his pained madman poet guise.
The new material – mostly intense, stretched out pop songs with almost techno edge here and there – quite different to their abiding image as folky rockers.
Recent top ten single You're Gone sounded excellent. The jazz-tinged Angelina showed the band's musical maturity – surely their greatest asset. Much of the older material seemed overblown in comparison.
With interest from the likes of Radiohead and Paul Oakenfold, the world might be ready to re-evaluate this band. The grey pound may prove triumphant. Marillion seem poised to cash in.
Jay Richardson, The Scotsman, 8 July 2004 (Glasgow Barrowlands)
To Joe Public's surprise, the recent top-ten troubler You're Gone revealed that not only are Marillion decidedly not gone, they're no longer fronted by a man called Fish. Last seen floundering in the terrible Brit comedy Nine Dead Gay Guys, the Piscean one watched long time replacement Steve Hogarth lead the band through the latest album, Marbles, then a trawl through their back catalogue. The Invisible Man set the tone, an epic whale-call of a song morphing into a crashing sonic assault, Hogarth rasping authoritatively. It's unlikely to convert the uninitiated like the baubles of Marbles parts I to IV. But Marillion's fans are a passionate legion and a shimmering You're Gone and forthcoming single Don't Hurt Yourself deserve adulation. Fantastic Place, meanwhile, lost some of its understated elegance live, and the sweeping Neverland could have been pruned to little loss. Angelina, an early morning radio DJ tribute is dreamy and no better than she should be, while an unexpected highlight is the rocking B side The Damage, with Hogarth possessed by the spirit of Brett Anderson and guitarist Steve Rothery just possessed. Post-interval, This is the 21st Century bubbled with Mark Kelly's ambient synths, while Quartz resembled heave Crowded House. The Party was poundingly insistent, but Between You and Me had unfulfilled pretensions to U2 stadium rock. Finally, Hogarth cradling his cricket-bat guitar, the band encored with a thunderously received Uninvited Guest, Cover My Eyes and Easter