Being a fan from the very beginning - after listening to Marillion's first epic song called Grendel (1982) I was “addicted” - it never seizes to amaze me that this band, after 38 years in the music business, can still produce such a wonderful new album. Of course the band has its up and downs, but I still cherish and listen to classic Marillion albums like Misplaced Childhood (1985), Clutching At Straws (1987), Brave (1994) and Sounds That Can't Be Made (2012, see review).
F.E.A.R., Fuck Everyone And Run, a superb title by the way, is Marillion's 18th studio album and it is a master piece in the classical sense of the word; it is also my absolute favourite album of this year; go figure! The more I listened to F.E.A.R. the more I liked, appreciated and understood it and after trillions (not really...) of spins I can say that I am “slightly” addicted to F.E.A.R.. This new album “only” consists of five tracks, being El Dorado, Living In F.E.A.R., The Leavers, White Paper and The New Kings. Let me start with the latter, as that song was the first track that I heard from F.E.A.R.. The New Kings is an epic Marillion masterpiece that runs to almost 20 minutes and does not contain one boring minute at all. This is Marillion at its best, meaning: luscious, progressive melodic rock with breathtaking keyboard melodies, heavenly guitar melodies and stunning vocals by H. The lyrics are extremely critical and up to date, dealing with the new power of rich people and the widening gap between the rich and the poor of this world (“We are the new kings; we do as we please, while you do as you are told”). The new album kicks off with a song called El Dorado, which is also a very long track, clocking over 16 minutes and this song brings back memories of the excellent track Gaza from Marillion's previous album Sounds That Can't Be Made. El Dorado is split into five parts and it contains beautiful musical passages that give me goosebumps every time I listen to it. The lyrics, just as on Gaza, are rather dark and melancholic, dealing with some very disturbing changes in our society, think of the problems with migration, financial crisis and ecological crisis. (“the thunder approaches, the heavy sighing of the monster”). Living In F.E.A.R. is the shortest track of the album, featuring a very nice, almost singalong chorus and the other “short” track of the album is called White Paper. This song again contains lots of dazzling melodies - I know I am repeating myself here, but it is what it is - and lyrically White Paper deals with the fact that everyone is getting old(er) and how to deal with this fact of life. Steve Hogarth sings: “I used to be the centre stage; time I should act my age”, and I think that says it all, actually. Last but not least you can enjoy a song called The Leavers, which is my favorite song of the album. Again a very long track, the longest of the album, with some extremely melodic, heavenly guitar solos by Steve Rothery, proving that he is still one of the best guitar pickers on this planet. The Leavers is probably one of the best songs that Marillion have released for a very long time. Lyrically the song deals with the life of a musician, which can be very hard and tiresome: “We are the leavers and the road rolls beneath us, we sleep as we're driven, we arrive before dawn, we wait in grey truck stops, for the night to release us. Then slip in from ring-roads and our work starts again.”
Conclusion: F.E.A.R. is a new jewel in the Marillion collection, the best progressive rock album of 2016 and a must for all lovers of great melodic rock music with a message!! Since 2004 my Marillion top 3 albums were: Misplaced Childhood, Brave and Clutching At Straws, but now 12 years later F.E.A.R. will definitely enter this top 3, making it : F.E.A.R. at pole position, Misplaced Childhood as second best and Brave as third. I never thought that this was going to happen, but it goes to show that Marillion is always in for a spectacular surprise!! Buy or die is my last advice!!
***** Martien Koolen (edited by Robert James Pashman)
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