Album review: MARILLION – An Hour Before It’s Dark

MARILLION - An Hour Before It's Dark

Intact/earMUSIC [Release date 04.03.22]

CD+DVD Digipak / CD Digipak / Jewelbox CD / Blu-ray Softbox / 2LP Gatefold / Ltd. Coloured 2LP (Orange)

The past two years of pandemic has understandably pervaded album releases, the most extreme outcome is a definite air of melancholy and introspection.

If F.E.A.R. was a reaction to Trumpian style politics and mores ‘An Hour Before It’s Dark’ is definitely another child of its time, informed by a concern that – whether by COVID or earthly catastrophe – we have to get our collective act together

The band’s previous album ‘F.E.A.R’ was very well received and reviewed.  My main gripe is that it was a little bit too bombastic, railing as it did against society ills and political shenanigans.

I suppose the truth is that you can’t expect guys approaching their state pension age to emote about unrequited love as they might have done thirty years previously.

‘An Hour Before It’s Dark’ for me is a total return to form for the band I have followed since 1991′s ‘Holidays In Eden’.  Throughout, the band create a sumptuous soundscape full of the gorgeous twists and turns we love them for.  There’s also the judicious use of a choir and the string quartet they performed with on the previous release.

The standout – apart from the wonderful ‘The Crow And The Nightingale’ – might well be ‘Care’ with its superbly slinky undertow blossoming into a classic Marillion anthem.  Hogarth’s vocals get better with each outing and the whole is topped by Rothery’s tasteful, soaring guitar figures.

The band previewed the opening track ‘Be Hard On Yourself’ on tour last year and the lyrics challenge conspicuous consumption versus saving the planet. The theme is continued on ‘Reprogram The Gene’ whilst Murder Machines (the only “single” length track) takes social distancing as a starting point for an aside about sexual relationships in general.

‘Sierra Leone’ again demonstates the immersive sonic textures (many created by Mark Kelly) that characterise the band’s music.

The overall vibe is closer to 2012′s ‘Sounds That Can’t Be Made’ than ‘F.E.A.R.’ and maybe all the better for that, at least for this listener.  Still relevant but without the ranting and – it has to be said – the rambling.

Full of lusciousness and loveliness, this is Marillion at their very best.  *****

Review by David Randall

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