WHAT’S UP PROG-NATION?!?! It’s your boy, Terry DeLien, sometimes guest-host of PROG-WATCH and I am out to strain the shows relationship with Progradar even further by expecting Martin to publish my half-baked reviews!!!!
Marquette (Markus Roth and Achim Wierschem) have just blown my mind! An unwritten axiom of prog rock is that instrumentals are either the exception or the rule. When a prog group does a lot of quality instrumentals then their vocal pieces are almost always lower quality. (Anglagard, Tangerine Dream, lyrical Focus… etc.) A lot of times an otherwise vocal band will start off instrumental for the first track and then do nothing but vocal tracks afterwards (I am looking at you Ciccada and Druckfarben, et. Al.)
So ‘Human Reparation’ came as a bit of a surprise. It looks like it’s going to follow a fairly standard prog formula when it begins, starting off with the rocking instrumental, Mystery Train, and then moving into a strong vocal track, Awaken in a New World, with good lyrics and vocals by Roth. It then takes a turn for the unique by giving us THREE MORE exceptional instrumental tracks before Markus sings again. Track 3 is Adam und Eva, a slow, solo, piano piece,followed by The Mirror, a mostly up tempo suite that clocks in over 9 minutes and is one of my favorite bits on the album. Next we get a piece that, down to its name, says “Hi, we are from Germany and we like Tangerine Dream!!!” Syncope of Obscure Nature is a title that could have fallen off of almost ANY of Dreams “Pink Year’s” albums, indeed, most of their 70’s albums. The music on ‘Syncope’ tends to represent bits of TD style from the 80’s on into the 2000’s distilled into a cohesive 4 minute piece.
Hold up, It’s time to rock’n’roll again with another vocal piece called Mass Hysteria. Don’t misunderstand, though! Marquette expertly set the stage between the slow, mellow and the hard rocking pieces to keep the mood throughout the album, and they PROG HARD with the tempo and time signature changes. Cancer, another well-put-together instrumental suite, follows before we head into the slightly more ‘vocal heavy’ last half.
My Green Garden is not a bad track, there are none on the album, but it is my least favorite. It’s the one I would probably not play outside the context of the album. Sandwiched between Cancer and the amazing The Last Kiss, however, it fits perfectly. One last instrumental La Grande Vallee where Achim rocks out on the guitar to mellow keyboard support, and then it’s on to (BRING ON THE EPIC!!!) the epic of the album.
Here is the part where I would like to talk about the “five listens” rule. It is a belief of mine that music of any artistic merit cannot be judged on the strength of one hearing. I think you need at least five listens to a piece or album to judge and I have seen many opinions, including my own, revised over the course of five listens. (Sometimes, for the worse… I favorably reviewed one band’s 2015 prog effort after listening twice only to have it fail in my own personal playlist.)
That said, I think sometimes epics and concept albums require more than that. As I listen to Lost At Sea, the 18-minute penultimate track from ‘Human Reparation’, I can hear that it has everything a great prog concept piece needs in the music and the lyrics, but I am not at the point yet where it is making the same kind of connections in the brain as All of the Above or Echoes… Of course, neither did those, at first. I feel like, in this case, it will get there! Finally, we mellow out with a shorter vocal piece called Grandmother’s Music Box…The spell complete, Marquette fades out the magical trance and returns us to the real world.
This is my favorite prog album of this year, so far! Beautifully written, performed, produced and with no way to pigeonhole their sound. You can hear hints of influences (Porcupine Tree for example on Awaken in a New World) but the music is overwhelmingly original. Marquette have made an original, modern prog album, and that is so important because there are just too many bands with debut albums that are a total pastiche (RPWL, The Watch and I.Q. et. Al, not that they haven’t moved on to wonderful things). ‘Human Reparation’ also features a lot of good energy and can keep your attention for the full 78 minutes, which is also rare.
‘Human Reparation’ has been out since July of 2015 and currently holds the top spot on my list of 2015 new releases. (Sorry, ‘Skyline’… I love you, too but there it is!)
Nice job Markus and Achim… can’t wait to see what you do with Marquette #2!!!!!
Released 1st July 2015.
CD is available as an import from the usual suspects!
Terry DeLien is the sometimes co-host of Prog-Watch on Progzilla.com. Terry has been an aficionado of Progressive rock since he bought his first Prog Album, RUSH-“Exit Stage Left” in 1981. From Pennsylvania, USA, Terry has been a dj, karaoke show host and taxi driver. Currently he manages a restaurant.