Tuesday, May 21, 2019
Marillion - Radiat10n
This album is very special to me because it is what truly triggered my quest of rediscovering Marillion. Up until now my attempts had been half-hearted, but 'Radiat10n' blew the doors wide open. I ordered a copy online late in August 2005. Shortly afterwards I traveled to the magnificent city of Prague. Apart from the immense beauty there I fell in love with the majestic St. Vitus Cathedral. Upon my return to Sweden, 'Radiat10n' was waiting in my mailbox. As I unpacked my bags, this new purchase was the soundtrack although much attention wasn't paid, well that is until 'Cathedral Wall' came on. From then on Marillion was back in my life fully again. But more on this song a little bit later.
'Radiat10n' was the second album Marillion released being free from the shackles of a major label, albeit they were still with Castle/ Raw Power for Europe while other imprints handled the rest of the world. Because of this Marillion were honing their skills of basically standing on their own feet, which we know by now they have mastered quite well. Prior to the recording began, the band expanded and improved the Racket Club and Racket Records. Not only was it their creative space, it was now online on a pretty large scale, something which these days is a godsend for the supporters and the band alike. At the same time a change of management occurred with long-serving manager John Arnison departing with none other than Rod Smallwood stepping into his role.
‘Costa Del Slough’ is an anti-opener, in lack of better words, but bold and very Marillion-esque. Starts out in apocalyptic fashion with Steve Hogarth screaming on top a layer of white noise before turning into a 1920s music hall number. Definitely refers to the album title. ‘Under The Sun’ picks up the thread immediately dealing with the “ignorance is bliss”-attitude people held at the time. Most thought the diminishing ozone layer, the heightened levels of radiation and the increasing demolition of Mother Nature was only a hoax. Sharp guitar playing from Rothery with a foreboding keyboard courtesy of Kelly while Trewavas and Mosley as always lays down a great foundation. ‘The Answering Machine’ is a thumping rocker, especially in the world of Marillion. The music is upbeat and electrifying while the lyrics are dark and pleading. It’s as if our protagonist – Hogarth, perhaps - is trying to stop the beginning of the end of a relationship but only talks via the answering machine. ‘Three Minute Boy’ is a huge nod to The Beatles, especially in the verses and the harmonies, only to explode into a heavy rocker in parts. A fantastic solo from Rothery. This is a story of rags to riches where the protagonist obtains his/ her fame and 15 minutes of fame and then struggle very hard to maintain it. ‘Now She’ll Never Know’ is soft and delicate musically with mainly an acoustic guitar and keyboards leading the way. The song is a big apology for doing your partner wrong. Very intimate and very candid as Hogarth sings about the cracks in his personal life.
‘These Chains’ brings out the upheavals in Hogarth’s home life even more and is definitely a continuation of ‘Now She’ll Never Know’. Though in the darkest of times he is trying to find hope. Musically there are big nods towards the sound of the 60’s. ‘Born To Run’ is very bluesy, slow and reflective, while talking about one’s upbringing, where you’re from. And while making a class journey, moving away and changing your ways, you still belong where you were born. We make our choices whether it means staying or going. Great solo from Rothery! As mentioned briefly in the beginning, ‘Cathedral Wall’ is the song which brought me back to Marillion completely, and what a song it is! The apocalyptic feel from Kelly’s keyboards at the start sets the mood immediately, and then Hogart’s double-tracked vocals adds even more to the sinister atmosphere of the song. Again dealing with Hogarth’s personal struggles, which has increased, he sits leaning up against a cathedral wall, trying to come to terms with his situation and life. Personally, my immediate reaction was a clash of feelings and emotions Having just experienced St.Vitus Cathedral, the beauty, the majesty and also the evil which brought that magnificent building together, Marillion’s song simply hit me like a freight train. Like Hogarth pouring his heart out, I had a lot of baggage weighing me down at the time, so ‘Cathedral Wall’ was my catharsis. Rarely has a song meant so much to me and to this day I still get chills every time I hear it. Ending with a piano and vocals-only reprise of ‘These Chains’ hope is at hand. ‘A Few Words For The Dead’ is a two-sided song which, after an Native American medicine man has spoken amidst a hypnotic, repetitive passage, is first evil and dark offering no hope at all, in a way I have never heard Marillion before. And they are certainly not shy about subject matters. Then, all of a sudden, it all switches to hope, forgiveness and happiness. Just open up, let the bad stuff out and embrace all the beauty around you.
Don’t really know how ‘Radiat10n’ rates amongst the supporters, but for me it is a defining moment personally as explained above. But that’s not all. The band was finding their way into what and where they are today. The business side was reshaped here which has helped the band immensely ever since and musically they broke free of any lingering corporate chains. All members are fantastic in their own right but on this album they did only what they wanted, and you can tell. Rothery is playing blues and heavy rock and it works so well with the songs. Kelly adds layers of emotions with his keyboards like never before, while Messieurs Trewavas and Mosley are impeccable in guiding the band along. Absolutely amazing! Before finishing this piece, regardless what fans and media think, this is MY album. Thanks to ‘Radiat10n’ Marillion was brought back to me and opened my eyes to the Hogarth-era. Back-tracking the albums with him made sense, and I appreciate and love those just as much as the Fish-era albums. But it also meant I embraced every single album after this with open arms. Amazing!