Reviews in this issue:
Marillion - Marillion.Com
Tracklist: A Legacy (6.16)*, Deserve (4.23), Go! (6.11)*, Rich (5.42),
Enlightened (4.59)*, Built-in Bastard Radar (4.52)*, Tumble Down the Years (4.33),
Interior Lulu (15.14)*, House (10.15).
* = mixed by Steve Wilson.
One year after the released of the critisized Radiation
album Marillion has returned with a new album called marillion.com. The name, which
is far from original and comes just after the recent J-Tull Dot Com album, seems to
emphasize Marillion's recent focus on marketing their products through their web site.
The Internet has become increasingly important to Marillion and the recent e-mails from the
band are signed off with the dubious pay-off marillion.com: not so much a website, more a
way of life. marillion.com: not so much an album, more a new instalment.
On the web site Steve Hogarth explains: "Now there's a medium by which you can keep things that are precious to yourself, and you can have a network of members of a global gang that have nothing to do with what's necessarily going on in the high-street or what's being sold and what's being marketed. The album isn't obsessed with the internet. The title is more to do with the sense of family, and also of kicking back."
The album contains nine tracks (5 of which were mixed by Porcupine Tree's Steve Wilson), which three DPRP team members listened to closely. Their resulting reviews resulted in a stunning difference in opinions. We have included some notes taken from the web site as well. Marillion.com in the words of the band and their (ex-?) fans.
marillion.com: The music chops and changes, punchy here and delicate there, from
film-noir through funk, grunge and The Beatles, with an accidental Beach Boys moment.
Ed: This is a song of extremes. It starts out very quietly with ballad vocals and a keyboard soundscape. After less than a minute it suddenly changes into a rock song with Hogarth's voice switching between multivocal overdubs and the speaker voice we've come to know from Radiation. The song features several more switches between quiet and heavy parts. After a heavy part with bombastic keyboards and a roaring guitar solo the track ends with acoustic guitar and Hogarth's vocals.
This diverse song could easily have been taken from Radiation. Unlike most of the songs on that CD I really like this one though.
JJ: After a romantic introduction, this song kicks in with a heavy beat and Hogarth singing through some sort 'distant' microphone. A great, almost Pearl Jam-jam riff seems to take the song to a heavier part, but a break leads to a quieter part, which is followed by a almost funky interlude. A very diverse, and hence interesting track and a great opener of the album. After a bombastic climax, an acoustic outtro brings back the romantic mood of the beginning.
Dirk: A very modern straight-ahead rock song without a Marillion feeling. Just plain rock with no emotion and a very cliche guitar solo by Steve Rothery. Very disappointing song !
marillion.com: A strumalong, singalong song which began its life as a "scrunchy, quite
Ed: Great sing-along rock song with an energetic drive, complete with saxophone solo. Very catchy. Love it.
JJ: Starting with a 'breezing' saxophone, this is a mid-tempo song, with layers of sounds and vocals, which create a very thick sound. Although their are some nice breaks, this song mainly consists of an rather uninteresting, on-going melody. Paper Lies comes to mind; not my favorite song. Towards the end it speeds up and a horns section is introduced.
Dirk: Well .. I thought that the fist song was very disappointing but this is even worse. Is this Marillion I am listening to ? Bad lyrics and very relaxed music .. is this what I deserve (again saxophone in a Marillion song) ?
marillion.com: Gentle, breathy harmonies, tinkling keyboards and some lyrical guitar
playing from Steve Rothery deliver a contrastingly energetic message: "Change your life, why
don't you? What harm could it do?".
Ed: This took a while to get used to. In the beginning I found it incredibly boring, but after several spins I began to see the beauty in this ethereal piece of work. Just a keyboard landscape, some guitar and Hogarth's vocals for the first one and a half minute. Quiet drums come in later. The song slowly builds in power and ends with the vocal overdubs, like the ones they have been using a lot since Brave (for instance in Brave itself and Man of a Thousand Faces.
JJ: Mysterious sounds and soft guitar-chords with a lot of reverb, accompany a fragile vocal-line. Afraid of Sunlight comes to mind. Rothery plays a very untypical, but gentle guitar-solo, which develops into a Hammond-sounding guitarsound. The end of the song is building to a more bombastic sound, but regrettably this is ending in a fade-out.
Dirk: First song where I can say that it is sounding like Marillion. Quite good song with different moods and emotions. Good guitarplay by Rothery and very functional keys by Kelly !
marillion.com: A sprightly number that you may well end up whistling in the bathroom.
It emerged from a poppy Doors-style jam. Steve's words combine a series of personal thoughts
and quotations compiled by Mark's girlfriend Angie.
Ed: A very joyful pop-rock song with lots of tu-du-doo's. Not bad, but not as good as Deserve. The end reminds me of bits an pieces from the Brave album with vocal overdubs and a chaotic style of music and singing reminding me of the end of Paper Lies.
JJ: This very unlike Marillion, and most of you will probably hate it, but I really like it. It's almost a Joe Jackson-song with a Doors-like keyboard riddle. A joyful song with some sing-a-long parts, doo-doo-doo parts, hand-clapping, etc. Regrettably the end is a bit messy, which doesn't fit the song.
Dirk: Oh my god .. handclap .. Beach Boys ? Again a very bad song .. nothing more to say !
marillion.com: Steve Rothery's laid back and soulful guitar, pitched somewhere between
Peter Green and Hendrix in a mellow mood, gave birth to this "positive love" song.
Ed: This track could be described as the Estonia of this album. Not bad but not one of my favourites either.
JJ: Starting with a typical romantic mood, in the vein of Estonia, this ballad balances between the fragile verses and the more bombastic choruses. The middle part is very recognizable Marillion, from Rothery's solo to Mosley's drum-fills. Nice, but not as good as some other slow songs...
Dirk: A song that goes more in the direction of the Radiation album. Although I don't think Radiation is a very bad album I don't like this song because it has nothing to say .. it starts and it ends and in between nothing happens !
Build-In Bastard Radar
marillion.com: Riffy, buzzy like the bee in its lyrics.
Ed: Another rock tune in the vein of Paper Lies and Hard as Love, including a distorted guitar solo. The drums at the end of the song sound awfully lame (has a former Marillion drummer returned without us knowing about it ?). Nice, but again not one of my favourites.
JJ: 'Look on the bright side', Hogarth says and off it goes! Rothery starts off with a great guitar riff and Kelly plays a nice Hammond-organ. The song slows down into the verses, and speeds up in the choruses. A variety of sounds (harpsichords, answering machine-voices) and many brakes make this song interesting and well-sounding. I end with a very Cockerish organ-sound.
Dirk: I don't know what I can expect with a song named like this. Steve Rothery is playing a very bluesy theme and does some very good guitar playing in this song. Very rocky track but again nothing special.
Tumble Down The Years
marillion.com: Marillion swing through another of the albums most melodic moments.
Ed: This left-over from the Radiation sessions is probably my least favourite track from the album. It hasn't changed much from the version which was included on the 1998 Christmas CD (that arrived around Easter). It sounds like some of the poppy tunes on This Strange Engine and hasn't got anything interesting to offer as far as I'm concerned. A very average song.
JJ: The guitar in the intro reminds me of The Beatles' Here Comes The Sun. However, the promising introduction isn't followed by a great song. It's just a nice upbeat track, but nothing very special.
Dirk: Very good song ! It makes me think of the Holidays In Eden album. Especially the first minutes of this track are very good with a very emotional singing Steve Hogarth followed by a superb solo by Steve Rothery.
marillion.com: The marathon. It opens quietly, to pattering drumbeats, before plunging
wildly into a Keith Emerson-esque keyboard explosion. From here on in the moods and tempos
fluctuate, with the guitars, the vocals and an intuitive rhythm section taking turns to create
the drama in each new development.
Ed: Another left-over that changed quite a lot, musically. The first five minutes feature delicious conga percussion, combined with the original dreamy vocals and a groovy new fretless bass line. Great stuff !
Then after about five minutes all hell breaks loose with a ELP-like keyboard solo. From there on it's one big rollercoaster ride through quieter and heavier bits and pieces. This makes the later 2/3rd of the album sound a lot like This Strange Engine. Even the lyrics are the same at a certain moment ('It's happening again !!!'). The whole thing sounds a bit to fragmented to really stand up as a good 15 minute song. JJ: The magnum opus of this CD starts with strange drums and sounds. In the next minutes Hogarth is in story-telling mood, and he's doing so in a very gentle way. I like his voice a lot when he's singing like this. Over the last years, I think his voice has changed a bit and has lost some of its depth.
After 4-and-a-half minute a fast and heavy part disrupts the atmosphere completely and a bombastic passage inspired by ELP and Pink Floyd awakes everyone who had fallen asleep during the quiet first part. The second part of the song is one of classic Marillion bombast, very nice indeed. It leads into a nice acoustic part, not unlike 'Man of a Thousand Faces', which regrettably ends quite soon already, followed by a slower part with whispering voices and strange sound-effects. Slowly a great bass-line by Trewavas comes in, followed by bombastic drumming by Mosley.
Interior Lulu is more symphonic, or progressive than anything on Radiation, but I think it has the same shortcoming as This Strange Engine: it's not really one track, but more string of songs. Nevertheless this song grows by playing it several time.
Dirk: This is it ! The best Marillion song with Steve Hogarth ever ! Very moody intro, followed by ELP a-like mid piece (hey .. Mark Kelly can still play a solo !) , folk guitar and a very This Strange Engine finnish. I thought this album would turn into a disaster but this song is a reason this album. Can I hear Steve Wilson (Porcupine Tree) influences in this song ?
marillion.com: Marillion pay homage to Massive Attack! Chilling into a dub groove, they
add mute trumpet and keep us up late at night in a jazzy rainy backstreet somewhere in the
city. Marillion's first experiment with a dub reggae groove.
JJ: House is a slow, atmospheric ballad, with some jazzy elements, vaguely reminding me of Simply Red at moments. It even features some trumpet parts, which are quite nice indeed. The chorus is really very beautiful, although at some moments Hogarth is a bit too much in 'screamy-mode' trying to reach the high notes. For me this 10-minute song is a bit too long, I'm sure they could have done it a bit more effective, since not much happens really. Nevertheless, a nice song.
Dirk: Very relaxed song. I never expected to hear such a song recorded by Marillion but they have done it and I must say the result is very good. Maybe the annoying saxophone parts could be replaced by Mark Kelly's keys but that's the only critism. Again a very good song !
Ed: Marillion.Com combines the best things of the post-Brave period into
one album. In a sense it's a logical follow-up to Radiation because some of the raw
approaches and the vocal effects are still present. On the other hand it's much more accessible
and more of a step back into the direction of Afraid of Sunlight.
The album cleverly switches between uptempo rock songs and more quiet and symphonic tracks, which gives the album a very natural feel as a whole.
JJ: To be honest, this record didn't grab me by the throat at first hearing, and even after some listenings it still doesn't catch me. I really like A Legacy, Interior Lulu has some great parts and also the very unusual tracks Rich and Built-in Bastard Radar are quite nice. The slower songs bring nothing new and Deserve is nothing special either. I think this album is more 'progressive' than Radiation and all band-members have got more room, but it isn't a return to the 'real' Marillion, which, in my opinion, died somewhere in a Strange Engine...
Dirk: Next time Marillion should not only let do the mixing by Steve wilson but they should Steve Wilson let produce the album and I am sure they will deliver a great album !
The beginning of this album is far below Marillion rates but the last three songs makes it at least a listenable album.
Ozric Tentacles - Floating Seeds
Tracklist: Afro Clonck (Space Raiders Dirty Mouse Mix) (5.53), Meander (DJ BNX) (8.24), Neurochasm (Sparky Lightbourne) (5.22), Pteranadon (Hallucinogen) (8.49), Sploosh (Youth & Simon Hydrophonic Decimation) (7.06), Strangeitude (Eat Static) (8.22), Sunhair (System 7 Startgate Mix) (8.31), Wobglass (Will White of Propellerheads) (5.42), Eternal Wheel (Zion Train) (7.18).
Ozric Tentacles is a very special band. Their mixture of world music, reggae, progressive rock and dance influences is unique. It also appears to a wide range of audiences, among which prog fans. Since the Jurassic Shift album, the band has also been discovered by the club goers and DJs. From that point of view it was only a matter of time before the vinyl spinners would grab the Ozric music and remix it.
DJ's like Propellerhead's Will White, Youth, DJ BNX, System 7 and Zion Train and the Ozric offshoot Eat Static took their favourite Ozric tracks from their 15 year recording history and produced dance remixes. Floating Seeds is a 'fitting tribute from some of the most ground breaking remixers and musicians of 1999 to one of the most ground breaking and radical underground outfits of the last fifteen years'.
Let me start by saying that I'm not a big fan of 90s remix albums. While I was really into collecting 12" versions of song in the eighties and have some real amazing remixes in my record collection, most of the remixes of the current generation are just totally beyond me. The remixed re-releases of Frankie Goes to Hollywood's hits from the 80s could almost be considered to be an insult to the originals and the Marillion remix album Tales from the Engine Room was both a big joke and a strange attempt to get some more return on investment from a mediocre album.
So what's wrong with the 90s remixes ? Well, to put it short, 95% of them just draw out the composition in endlessly repeated segments which are 'modernized' with quick computer percussion. It's just not going anywhere and misses the creativity of the 80s. Having said that, that kind of music seems to do very well in clubs where people don't really seem to care what they're dancing to.
The Ozric remix album is not much different. Most of the songs indeed take part of the
originals, repeat the segment endlessly and add quick modern computer drums. There's hardly
any track which sounds as fascinating as the originals. Also, most of the tracks that were
chosen were not among my favourite Ozric tracks (not counting Sploosh and Eternal
The meldody of Afro Clonk doesn't start till the beat has been dragging on for 3 minutes, only to quickly disappear again. Meander, not one of the Ozric's most interesting songs to begin with, has been remade to something that basically is 8 minutes of pointless percussion.
One exception is the Youth remix of Sploosh, actually one of the tracks which
already had a pretty 90s sound. The remix adds to the original and even includes some
additions and breaks which make the track kick more ass than the original. Some interesting
things have been done with Strangeitude, but it just drags on for far too long.
Pteranadon is more adventurous and interesting than the original on Jurassic Shift, but hardly one of my Ozric favourites to begin with.
Sunhair has been dragged out, a typical 'boonka-boonka' beat has been added and the guitar solos have been pushed to the back of the mix.
Finally, Eternal Wheel, one of my favourite Ozric tracks, has been reduced to rubbish.
I can't judge about the remixes of Wobglass and Neurochasm since I don't know the originals. Anyway, these versions don't turn me on at all.
Only recommended for die-hard Ozric collectors and DPRP visitors who are really into modern dance music. Floating Seeds will be released on October 25th.
For some more conservative Ozric music, check out our Ozric Tentacles special.
Conclusion: 5- out of 10.
Ines - Flow
Tracklist: Feel the River's Dance (4.51), The River and Me (4.17), In a Space Made of Blue (4.43), Flow 1 (1.20), I'm Part of the River (4.38), After All These Moves (5.00), Downhill (4.10), Stranded (4.23), Flow 2 (1.44), On the Shore (5.26), Flow 3 (4.46), The Place by the Sea (2.53), Wishing Well (6.24).
Ines was formed in 1994 by Ines Fuchs and her husband. Influenced by the art/prog rock
scene, they produced very melody and complex music. Flow is Ines' third album, following
Hunting the Fox (1994) and Eastern Dawning (1996)
The international band line-up consists of Ines Fuchs (German composer of the album, keyboard, accordeon & backing vocals), Chicco Grosso (vocalist from Italy), Davide Piai (bass, Chapman Stick & producer), Massimo Michieletto (guitars), Marco Michieletto (drums & percussion) and Hansi Fuchs (Ines' husband, guitars and vocals, lyrics & producer).
To realize more unusual musical ideas the core of 6 often invite other musicians to join the recording sessions. On Flow this results in appearances of extra backing vocalists and instruments like violin, bagpipes, hurdy-gurdy and flutes.
On their web page the new album is described as: 'Complex, keyboard-orientated songs with emphatic vocals are enhanced by typical folk instruments like violin, hurdy-gurdy and bagpipe. A fascinating musical journey down the riverbanks towards the sea - THE FLOW.' Sounds fascinating, doesn't it ?
About the concept of the album Ines Fuchs wrote: 'When I started working on this album I
already had a certain idea of what it should be like. The music should flow, a metaphor for a
stream, a river and the sea and also a life`s journey from birth to death. I then realized that
there is another kind of "flow" always happening around me. Sometimes music comes to me, simply
without any effort but with a highly concentrated and motivated feeling, trance-like without any
disturbing emotions. I sit at the piano and suddenly a song "flows from my hands". You don`t
worry about how well you do and don`t think about success or failure- it is purely the pleasure
of doing. This happened again and again during the creative production of this recording.'
The concept is actually based on Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi's Flow Theory about a state of focussed consciousness resulting in people being totally involved and satisfied with what they are doing in the moment.
Personally I'm not that crazy about claptrap spiritualism, but this might actually be something we have all experienced quite often. Without a doubt you can name several albums that capture you in such a way that you are completely absorbed by the music and almost enter a trance-like state. However, writing a whole album about this and wrapping it in the metaphore of the flowing of a river to the sea is a bit over the top as far as I'm concerned. Conceptwise I therefore consider the album to be a big bore.
So what about the music ? It's very good indeed ! Chicco has a very nice voice, a bit on the
high side and maybe slightly fragile. Some more power in his voice would make the CD a bit
Feel the River's Dance is a gentle rock song with nice string-keyboard patterns, a
folkish feel and Nomzamo-like percussion. With The River and Me things get more
uptempo and rockier. The track also features a violin solo.
The first half of In A Space Made of Blue is a rather minimalistic with just vocals, keyboards and a soft bass drum. The second half features the full band, some nice percussion effects in a break and a short Gilmour-ish guitar solo. Flow I is the first intrumental Flow part and it's very folkish, comparable to Alan Parsons Jigue. It features some very interesting instruments like hurdy-gurdy and flutes. Unfortunately it's rather short.
Back to a typical enchanting prog sound with I'm Part of the River. This is a track that would have benefited from more powerful vocals. After All These Moves could have come straight from Gabriel's US album. Downhill is a rather straightforward AOR tune, the most commercial one on the album. The track features several guest backing vocalists and (slightly shaky) lead vocals by Hansi Fuchs.
In Stranded, an uptempo song, we are treated to backing vocals, bagpipes, accordeon and violin. It's another track that should have had more powerful vocals. Flow 2 is another short 'instrumental' that starts and ends with African chanting and features some beautiful violin playing. Simply enchanting !
More folkish flutes in the laid-back On the Shore. Later on we get a Camel-like fretless bass. The last minute features more rhythmic native chanting. Flow 3 is the longest of the Flow pieces and is a track with strange time-signs and some marvellous Floydian guitar. Later on we get more fretless bass accompanied by percussion and even a short drum solo. One of the best tracks on the album !
The Place by the Sea is one of the most folkish tracks on the album, featuring more flutes and violin, comnined with African percussion rhythms. The album closes with the longest track, Wishing Well. This atmospheric piano ballad contains echoing female vocals in the chorus. More than half of the song is formed by an extensive atmospheric keyboard outro.
On one hand the album can be a bit folkish at certain moments, while at other moments it's
rather Gabriel-ish because of the use of 'world music' influences. Personally I wouldn't have
minded if the tracks were longer and featured more solos and experiments. As a matter of fact,
most of the songs have a fade-out while they are still interesting.
As I've mentioned before, the only thing which could improve the tracks would be more powerful vocals, although Chicco's voice is at no time annoying.
The booklet is done well, complete with lyrics, pictures of the band members, a short biography
and atmospheric artwork.
All in all this makes the album a recommended recording. Musical diversity with different styles, good compositions and musicianship. The emphasis lies on the overall sound of the band and the atmosphere instead of the individual capabilities of the band members. If only more prog bands were like this. One of the most fascinating and diverse albums I've heard for a long time.
Check out the MP3 files at the Ines Homepage.
Conclusion: 8+ out of 10.
Cryptic Visions - Cryptic Visions
Tracklist: Phoenix Rising (6:57), Cemetary Man (5:09), Street Anger (2:31), Eternal Dreams (5:38), The Devil Showed Me (7:00), Rushed (7:14), The Band Plays On (6:00), Blood in the Sand (5:15), Can't Stop the Pain (5:51), Die For Me (4:17), Battles End (3:50)
Hard rock, metal. That's what Cryptic Visions debut CD is all about (eh, just look at the cover and the song titles). Indeed, Iron Maiden is a good reference point for the type of music that Cryptic Vision produced. Sometimes straightforward, sometimes complex. Minus point for me personally is the very "devil, hell and death" orientated lyrics/songtitles.
The CD opens with Phoenix Rising, which was supposed to be the band's name until they discovered there are at least two more bands with this name, a complex melodic metal piece, with good tempo changes and nice double bass drums. The vocals (which makes the difference between a succes and a failure) are relatively in order here. The vocalist has the correct metal voice, theatrical and accurate. Cemetary Man is less progressive than the previous song, more of a standard metal tune, as is the next Street Anger, reminding me in style of Iron Maiden's Killers album. Eternal Dreams is more melodic, with a more prominent keyboard role and a nice guitar solo.
The Devil Showed Me comes again closer to prog metal, a bit like Faith's Warning. Since the song is longer, a more elaborate and interesting composition is possible. It slowly drags forward, gathering speed as the song progresses. The speed metal background of the guitar and bass player can be heard clearly in some parts of the song. The same can be said about Rushed, which has some interesting rhythmic tricks in it. The Band Plays On, opening with fragments of various metal bands, is again a typical metal track, as is Blood in the Sand, although a bit more varied in rhythm. Can't Stop The Pain is an attempt to a ballad-like song, I guess, but it is not really convincing. Well, you can guess by now how the last two songs sound ;-).
If you're really into metal, and don't care or mind too much about the symphonic/progressive part, the rating given to this album can definitely be higher. For me, the album became a bit uninteresting halfway through, since the catchy melodic structure of for instance the first song could not be held up. Too bad, because they play tight and skilful and definitely have the capacity to grow to a bigger audience. The CD can be ordered through their website.
Conclusion: 6.5 out of 10.