Eagle Rock / Velvel Records, 1998


REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


One of the caveats of Marillion's career is that, on each new album, they try not to follow the same path they were on the previous album. On their last studio effort This Strange Engine, Steve Hogarth and crew created a wonderfully textured, layer-by-layer sonic approach. The richness of these arrangements captured my attention immediately, and the album made my "best of 1997" list.

Now, with the memories of that album behind them (as well as the lessons Hogarth learned when he cut his first solo album Ice Cream Genius), Marillion start out on a different path on their latest release Radiation. There are still some rich arrangements present here, but for the most part the music is shorter, more pop-oriented material. And while I am a bit disappointed that they didn't continue the sonic layering, it's still a very fine effort.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Following a brief opening interlude in "Costa del Slough", Marillion turns the corner towards a more rock-oriented approach. Punctuated by a whoop from Hogarth over the guitar work of Steve Rothery, "Under The Sun" introduces Marillion 1998 to the listener. While the listener who was expecting This Strange Engine-like songs may be taken back momentarily, the track is excellent; Mark Kelly's space-like keyboard effects lock this one in for me.

There is still plenty of challenge that Marillion offers its listeners; most noteworthy is the alternative rhythm pattern on "The Answering Machine" that takes a minute to click. And, if you're looking for the rich, textured music, you don't have a very long wait, as Hogarth and crew oblige on tracks like "Three Minute Boy" and "A Few Words For The Dead". ("Three Minute Boy" reminds me of one or two works off Ice Cream Genius, though I do wish that things had built up a bit quicker on this track.)

Throughout the musical changes that Marillion has gone through in the last year, the gentle beauty of their music that often comes through has not been forgotten about. Tracks like "Now She'll Never Know" and "Estonia" (the latter a bonus track on the American release) demonstrate this and remove any lingering doubts a listener could have.

Despite all the positives of Radiation, one can't help but still feel like something is missing on this disc. Granted, I'm probably being too hard on the disc; had I never heard This Strange Engine, I would probably think that this album was a masterpiece. Maybe so, but to be blunt, it was going to be hard for Marillion to top This Strange Engine, no matter what. This is an excellent effort to do so.

Interestingly enough, I found myself enjoying the bonus tracks (the acoustic version of "Estonia" previously mentioned and the "Big Beat Mix" of "Memory Of Water") more than a few tracks on Radiation. Had these tracks not been on the album, it would have ended leaving me feel empty (although it would have solidly closed with "A Few Words For The Dead"). Instead, these tracks fill that void, making the time spent on the album all the better.

Radiation is still a very enjoyable album that the diehard Marillion fans will undoubtedly swoon over. And though it holds its own quite well, it still is the album released after a tough act to follow.

Rating: B

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© 1999 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Eagle Rock / Velvel Records, and is used for informational purposes only.