Album Review: Isildurs Bane & Steve Hogarth, Colours Not Found in Nature

A few weeks ago, Marillion’s Steve Hogarth announced his latest project, a collaboration with Swedish chamber-rock band Isildurs Bane (IB)* titled Colours Not Found in Nature.  He confessed that the last year had been a busy one.  He had written the lyrics and recorded the vocals in hotel rooms around the world while on tour with Marillion.  He also announced that Marillion’s Racket Records would be selling 1000 signed copies, which sold out within hours of their release.  Even here at Progarchy, it took us about a week to track down a copy to review.

If the album’s immediate popularity reveals one thing, it’s the deep, unwavering affection Marillion fans have for Hogarth.  I count myself in this camp, and I’m not sure I could actually dislike any musical effort that included him.  Marillion fans already know what makes Hogarth so special, much of which he displays in the lyrics and vocals of this latest album.

But what this album showed me, what I assume it showed many of us who found it through Racket Records, is the detailed, intricate, classical-progressive sound of Isildurs Bane.  IB formed in 1976 as an experimental rock band.  Through many years and many line-ups, they’ve become a mini-orchestra, led by songwriter and keyboard Mats Johansson.  Johansson met Hogarth in 2013 through their mutual friend and collaborator Richard Barbieri, and Johansson wrote the music for this latest album with Hogarth in mind, hoping the singer would join the project when he had some time.

 

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This is an interesting, near-perfect collaboration.  Hogarth brings all of the charm and passion he has with Marillion to this album, but with the music of IB, he also becomes a different artist.  The instrumentation allows him to be more introspective, personal, and even playful than he has been on Marillion’s latest releases.  In the upbeat opener “Ice Pop,” he laments “too cold, too sweet” as guitar, keyboard, and even trumpets carry the song.  “The Random Fires” is equally lively and bright, before transitioning to the more relaxed ballad “Peripheral Vision,” which opens with voice and strings.

“The Love and the Affair” is an example of what Hogarth the lyricist does so well, using the mundane to show us the transcendent (reminiscent of Marillion’s “The Sky Above the Rain”).  And in this, IB’s classical-contemporary sound fits him perfectly.  The string arrangements at the beginning of “Diamonds of Amnesia” are haunting, and the album concludes with the energetic, urgent “Incandescent,” where you can hear the full range of IB’s ensemble.

I’ve been listening to the album non-stop for days, and between Hogarth’s lyrics and IB’s rich instrumentation, there is always something new to find.  My only complaint is that, at 41 minutes, I wish there more.

IB features:

Katrine Amsler – Keyboards, Electronics
Klas Assarsson – Vibraphone, Marimba, Percussion
Luca Calabrese – Trumpet
Axel Crone – Bass, Clarinets, Saxophones, Flute, String Arrangements
Samuel Hällkvist – Guitars
Mats Johansson – Keyboards
Christian Saggese – Classical Guitar
Kjell Severinsson – Drums
Additional Musicians:
Liesbeth Lambrecht – Violin & Viola
Pieter Lenaerts – Double Bass
Xerxes Andren – Drums
John Anderberg – Choir Vocals (on The Love and the Affair)
Anneli Nilsson – Backing Vocals (on Peripheral Vision)

*Yes, I know this should be a possessive, but the band says otherwise.

“We Come Together”: An excellent review of a Marillion Weekend

I came across this wonderful review of what attending a Marillion Weekend is like, when the band plays 3 nights in a row, each with a different setlist and theme.  It perfectly captures what it means to be a fan, and what a privilege it is to be at a Marillion live show (or three, if you’re lucky).  I wish I had written it myself.

http://www.krakowpost.com/14394/2017/04/marillion-lodz-music-triumph

Pre-order Marillion’s 18th Studio Album

The band that brought us crowdfunding has partnered with PledgeMusic to launch the pre-order campaign for their upcoming album, to be released in early 2016.  The campaign began today (September 1st) and fans can pre-order everything from an mp3 download to the “ultimate signed edition” (I managed to restrain myself and ordered something in the middle).  Fans who order before December 1st can have their names printed in the album credits.

Benji Rodgers, Pledgemusic’s President and Founder, cited Marillion as an influence in the formation of PledgeMusic in 2009:

“Partnering with Marillion in 2015 is an incredible honour for me personally and for the team at PledgeMusic. Their pioneering approach to direct-to-fan was both and inspiration and a guiding light for PledgeMusic from business plan to launch and beyond and we could not be more excited to have them as part of our story.”

Unfortunately, we don’t get any previews of new music quite yet, but fans who pre-order get an all-access pass to any teasers or videos the band posts as the album comes together.  Following the album’s release, Marillion plans to tour North and South America in 2016.

You can pre-order here at PledgeMusic and watch the band’s recent interview on their decision to return to the crowdfunding model.

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Thank you, Marillion.

A few weeks ago, I had the privilege (I don’t use that word lightly here) of attending Marillion Weekend in Montreal, Canada. For those who aren’t familiar with the weekend conventions, the band play three straight nights, each with a different setlist and theme.

Friday night featured the Anoraknophobia album in full, plus a few extras. There was a well-intentioned attempt to open the weekend with “Montreal,” a love letter to the city and its fans, but a blown fuse in the venue cut the performance short. (Not to worry, we eventually heard it during Sunday’s encores.) Unfazed, the band returned to the stage after a few minutes and launched into “Between You and Me.”

Marillion weekend joy

In my experience, Anoraknophobia is an album best enjoyed with headphones on a quiet evening, so it doesn’t exactly make for the best live album. Still, “Separated Out” and “If My Heart Were a Ball” were obvious standouts. The encore performance of “This Strange Engine” was one of the highlights of the weekend, as Steve Hogarth’s final lyrics – “is true, is true” – rang through the venue long after the lights came up.

On Saturday, the band performed the entirety of Marbles, probably the most beloved album from the Hogarth era. And unlike Anorak, nearly every song on the album lends itself perfectly to a live show. After the opening performance of “Invisible Man,” I looked around the venue and saw people literally holding their heads in disbelief, still in awe at a song they had likely heard hundreds of times. And it went this way for most of the night, from “Ocean Cloud” to “Neverland.”

It’s no exaggeration to say that everything – lights, sound, atmosphere – is in its rightful place at a Marillion concert, and the Marbles night showcased this perfectly. At the end of the show, I remarked to friends that the band’s lighting tech (whose name I embarrassingly can’t recall)* truly gets every song. The performances are as visually striking as they are transcendent.

On Sunday night, the band returned to fan favorites with a “charting the singles” theme that reached all the way back to 1982’s “Market Square Heroes.” I snuck a look at the setlist from the band’s earlier conventions in Holland and the UK, so I knew what songs were to come, but it was obvious from the reactions in the room that many other fans had waited to be surprised. As the band counted up the years from “Garden Party” and “Kayleigh,” they revisited a few rare tracks: “Sympathy,” “These Chains,” and the alternate, more hopeful version of “The Great Escape.”

The Sunday night show confirmed what I suspect those of us in attendance already knew: how deeply personal much of Marillion’s music remains to the fans, as long as 30 years after first release. As the crowd continued singing the last lines of “Easter” – “forgive, forget, say never again” – well after the song had ended, it was obvious that all of us in the room, band included, felt and appreciated the truth of those words.

Even weeks later, all I can think of is how grateful I am – grateful to Marillion for revealing elements of the human experience that are so often lost and obscured, and for helping us to remember that such experiences are still there to be had.

Edit: Marillion’s lighting designer is Yenz Nyholm, who deserves serious recognition for the lighting production. 

Marillion Christmas Album

Every year, Marillion release a Christmas song exclusively to fan club members.  Some are goofy (see last year’s Carol of the Bells video), but it’s always a treat to get the latest Christmas release.  This year, the band compiled several of these songs in A Collection of Recycled Gifts, available for purchase at marillion.com.  I’ve always loved their take on “Gabriel’s Message”:

You can get the album here. £1.00 from each CD sold will go to The Teenage Cancer Trust.