“Marillion, that’s that band with that Fish bloke in, did that song called Kayleigh…?”
If you’re a fan of the very long career of UK progressive band Marillion then you’ll have heard that question many a time. They have made it fashionable to be unfashionable in an ever changing industry that rewards the latest thing, in fact they’ve made a successful career out of it.
So then, how is it that a band most people seem to think ceased to exist in the mid 80’s can sell out the holy grail of live venues for two nights? There’s two reasons really, first because of a fan base that revere and love them (almost obsessively, if last night was anything to go by) and, secondly, because they are a live experience that should be on your bucket list!
Having played the RAH two years ago with a six piece orchestra, Marillion have decided to reinvent some of their tracks that they feel fit especially well in that format and are releasing an album (Marillion With Friends From The Orchestra) at the end of this month.
So it made sense to go out on a UK tour to promote the album and play in venues that would give the format some stunning backdrops? Of course it did!
The evening started with a short support set of cleverly crafted singer songwriter material from the talented Harry Pane, whose short but enjoyable acoustic guitar and double bass material was warmly received by the building audience.
However it was the main event that everybody had come to see and as the six piece orchestra walked on to the stage, followed by the band, the anticipation of the audience could literally be felt.
Marillion launched into an intense version of Gaza with frontman Steve Hogarth prowling the stage like a tormented soul, his on stage persona and antics are always an integral part of the band’s superb live shows.
The light show and backdrop graphics added to the intensity of proceedings as the band played a set littered with their greatest songs, twenty minute plus tracks that flew by leaving the audience at times speechless and at others rapturous and raucous, the alcohol maybe giving vent to some 50 and 60 year old fan’s long years of admiration where normally they would be more reserved.
The orchestra fitted in seamlessly with the strings bringing a euphoric feel to the somber brilliance of Estonia and lifting my all time favourite Marillion track, Season’s End, to incredible new heights, Steve Rothery’s solo bringing a lump to my throat and I’m sure I had something in my eye…
A wonderfully theatrical version of The New Kings from the band’s latest album F.E.A.R had the audience hooked on every word, engrossed as Hogarth led us through the mire of the modern world and this was followed by a brilliantly spirited Man of a Thousand Faces that had the audience singing along.
This once in a lifetime experience was finished by a two piece encore starting with a rocking take on Seperated Out with an excerpt from Led Zep’s Kashmir that even had the orchestra rocking out.
Things finally came to a close with an emotive and tumultuous version of long time fan favourite This Strange Engine that ebbed and flowed superbly for over twenty minutes before bringing the house down with heartfelt applause and adulation.
Thirty years on from when Steve Hogarth joined the band, Marillion still do things there own way. They did crowd funding before it was fashionable and they put on a live experience like no other. On nights like these they are untouchable to their fans and long may it continue. Now, who’s that Fish bloke…?
“Play Seasons End, play Seasons End, please.play.Seasons.End…Fuck, they’re playing Seasons End!!”
And that, my friends, made what was already an incredible, emotive and stunning gig by one of my all time favourite bands the best gig I’ve ever been to. Yes, it was that bloody good!
Now I know I’m a lucky sod, I get to go to all sorts of live music events for free just because I write (hopefully, pretty well) about them but this was something different. I’d gone with one of my oldest friends (and a Marillion gig virgin) and we were meeting my great friend Iain Sloan of Wynntown Marshals and Abel Ganz fame (to name but two!), who had made the long journey down from North of the border, for a quiet beer or two before the show (see picture above).
York Barbican is a great venue, quite intimate while also having a very decent capacity and brilliant sound. This created a suitably intense atmosphere as the crowd built awaiting the support act Roxanne de Bastion. This talented singer/songwriter came on to a big round of applause from an already three quarters full venue.
Roxanne had broken her left ankle before the tour began but took it all in her stride as she sang her haunting and beguiling songs with more than a flavour of roots music to them. With stories garnered from personal experience she managed to keep the attention of the crowd and her voice and pared back, simple guitar and piano playing were pretty impressive. The only issue for me being that she did look slightly out place on her own in what is quite a big venue, not that this affected her performing in any way. As an appetite whetter before the main event, I was very impressed and this gifted musician is one I will be seeking out in the future.
A quick nip back to the bar to re-imbibe before the anticipated brilliance of Marillion…
A dynamic and powerful opening salvo of El Dorado got the crowd going immediately and you sensed that the band were on good form as an ebullient Steve Hogarth prowled around the stage, his animated delivery a real highlight. This was immediately followed by a seriously compelling version of Power that had electricity sparking around the venue, Steve Rothery’s superb guitar playing making the hairs on the back of my neck rise, you just knew tonight was going to be a mesmerising experience.
All of the band were playing with fluidity and an almost carefree attitude, perhaps it was because it was the last night of the tour but, for me, they were putting all of their heart and soul into every note and every word.
Captivating versions of Quartzand The Party followed as the band went through their repertoire of carefully chosen tracks from over 30 years of making emotionally charged music and the adoring audience lapped it all up. It was like being in the middle of a cult but a wonderfully civilised one. There were standing ovations at the end of every track, Marillion could do no wrong tonight…
And then they played bloody Seasons End…What a spine-tingling, jaw dropping eight minutes that was, one of my favourite all time songs played by one of my all time favourite bands and with a guitar solo that soared to the heavens and was so full of emotion that I was lost in reverie. After the rapturous applause had died down Marillion delivered a thunderous performance of Living In Fear, the second track from current album ‘F.E.A.R’, one that seems to have given the band a new lease of life and attracted quite a few new followers to these veterans of the progressive scene.
The setlist took a ninety degree turn next as a band full of the confidence of a succesfull tour traded banter with the appreciative audience, Steve Hogarth asking Mark Kelly if they could swap Out of This World for a fan suggested White Paper and, to the cheers of the audience, they did! There was a real warmth and humour evident throughout the evening, the band were relaxed and obviously enjoying themselves and that came through in the performance.
A stirring rendition of The Leavers followed by Wave and Mad ramped the atmosphere through the roof, here is a band at the height of their not inconsiderable musical powers, Pete Trewavas bouncing around the stage and engaging in some gentle banter with Hogarth while Ian Mosley was an animated demon behind the drum kit, as ‘h’ would say, a bloody impressive pub band indeed!!
The set was completed by a blistering Afraid of Sunlight and a truly emotive performance of perennial fan favourite The Great Escape that surely had more than just a few eyes moist. At the end of every track virtually the whole theatre were on their feet cheering and clapping, just lost in the wonderful moment.
You know when the band leave the stage that there is going to be an encore and what an encore it was, a poignant and evocative Easter which contained possibly Rothers’ most impassioned solo ever and then a reverently received version of Sugar Mice that left the audience emotionally charged.
At this point I left, hoping to avoid the crowds but the opening notes of Garden Party had me rushing back in to the side of the stage to experience what was a group of friends enjoying themselves and playing music that they truly love, it was just magnificent!!
This time the crowd really did go wild…
So, there you have it, Marillion live at York Barbican, music really has the power to move you and bring a lasting joy to your heart and soul and, on this night, I had my most special musical epiphany ever and it just doesn’t get any better than that.
2nd March 2018 – On 2nd April Marillion release ALL ONE TONIGHT the live DVD of their Royal Albert Hall Show filmed in October 2017. On 26th March, there will be screenings of the show in 6 Everyman Cinemas across the UK. Marillion will host the screening at the Kings Cross Everyman. Tickets available from:
On October 13 2017 Marillion played the Royal Albert Hall for the first time in their near forty year career. The show sold out in minutes, a full year before the band took to the stage at the iconic London venue. The audience, many of whom had travelled over oceans for the show, were treated to a Marillion show like no other.
In two parts, ‘All One Tonight’ firstly showcases the band’s acclaimed 2016 studio album ‘F E A R’ in full. Accompanied by an awe inspiring light show and films, Marillion perform their incisive and era defining zeitgeist with unparalleled passion and power.
The second half introduces In Praise of Folly and guests, a string quartet with flute and French horn that throughout the rest of the show inject an extra depth and emotion to some of Marillion’s best loved live material. Once again, with amazing lights and audience participation, Marillion steal the night, proving that they more than belong on the stage that has been trod by the most acclaimed musicians. Directed and edited by Tim Sidwell, recorded and mixed by Michael Hunter, ‘All One Tonight’ is a Racket Records and Toward Infinity production.
Marillion embark on their UK tour on 8th April.
FULL 2018 Tour Dates are:-
Date City Venue
Sun 8th April Belfast Ulster Hall NEW DATE
Mon 9th April Dublin Vicar Street NEW DATE
Wed 11th April Gateshead The Sage last few tickets available
Fri 13th April Cambridge Corn Exchange SOLD-OUT
Sat 14th April Birmingham Symphony Hall SOLD-OUT
Mon 16th April Brighton Dome last few tickets available
Tue 17th April Bristol Colston Hall SOLD-OUT
Thu 19th April Reading Hexagon SOLD-OUT
Fri 20th April Liverpool Philharmonic Hall SOLD-OUT
Sun 22nd April York Barbican NEW DATE
Tickets available from myticket.co.uk, seetickets.com & venue box offices.
Prog rock giants MARILLION announce 7 new UK dates in April 2018 on the back of their October show at The Royal Albert Hall, which sold out within four minutes of going on sale, and The London Palladium in November, which also sold out in record time.
MARILLION’S music is more than prog, it’s musically-experimental and yet-emotional. Within the genre it has a uniquely soul-baring aspect which sets the band apart and has elicited an almost religiously zealous following. After nearly 40 years, the band has evolved into a vibrant and international musical force, flourishing seemingly outside of fashion and mainstream media exposure. Since their formation, they have had 19 Top 30 singles, four of which made the Top 10.
Their most recent album, F E A R (Fuck Everyone and Run), peaked at No. 4 in the UK album charts and No. 1 in the rock chart last year and was given a 5-star review by The Guardian.
Steve Hogarth says: “I have been part of this band now for 27 years and it barely feels like 10. I think we’re as inspired as we ever were, and we’re still enjoying creating together. Luckily our music has remained free to evolve and change without the constraints of a corporate music business which otherwise might have killed us.
By reinventing the business-model we have maintained a one-to-one relationship with our fans, and that feeling is never more apparent than at the live shows. It’s always a pleasure to share a room with “the family” and exchange the passion on stage with the passion off stage.
We’re playing a few places we haven’t visited for a while. Long overdue. ‘Really looking forward to this little outing.”
MARILLION are not just musically innovative… they are widely acknowledged to be the first band to use the-now-commonplace crowdfunding scheme. Pledge Music and Oxford University have acknowledged that the band invented the business model. In the late 90s, fans sponsored an entire US tour. Their first crowd-funded album was Anoraknophobia, released in 2001.
Winners of a staggering EIGHT Categories in 2016 Prog Mag Awards (see Notes to Editors), MARILLION elicit remarkable devotion from their international fan base. To those who already love MARILLION, the band is something special. To the uninitiated, it’s a love affair waiting to happen.
2018 Tour Dates as follows:-
Date City Venue
Wed 11th April Gateshead The Sage
Fri 13th April Cambridge Corn Exchange
Sat 14th April Birmingham Symphony Hall
Mon 16th April Brighton Dome
Tue 17th April Bristol Colston Hall
Thu 19th April Reading Hexagon
Fri 20th April Liverpool Philharmonic Hall
Tickets available from myticket.co.uk, seetickets.com & venue box offices.
On October 13th, MARILLION released an EP on earMusic featuring a live version of their epic “Living In F E A R” “Living In F E A R” which hit the no. 1 spot on the physical singles chart for 2 weeks. The EP comes in limited CD Digipak as well as in a limited and numbered 12” Vinyl Edition, which includes three additional unreleased live songs.
Steve Hogarth – lead vocals, lyrics, keyboards, guitars, percussion
Steve Rothery – electric guitars, acoustic guitars
Pete Trewavas – Bass, Guitar, Backing Vocals, Piano.
Mark Kelly – keyboards, samples and effects, backing vocals, programming
Let’s get this out of the way first, I have been a Marillion fan, since ‘Market Square Heroes’, not as fanatical as some but have every album from both eras and solo projects. I have seen them many times live and they have seen me through the highs and lows of my adult life, always there to bring wonder, amazement and comfort. I refuse to choose which era I prefer as both are in their own right part of a greater whole that make this band not only one of the greats of Progressive music, but one of the best bands I have ever heard. Pioneers of crowd-funding they created a whole new ecosystem in which to survive and prosper, where others fell to the whims of the press when the genre stumbled to the fickle fancies of the general great unwashed.
If we are to believe that life is one big cycle, everything must come around again, as in fashion and also the popularity of music. The quality of Marillion’s output and personal symbiosis with their adoring fans have carried them over a 38 year career and eighteen albums, quite often against all odds, and shown the way for others to follow. Free from the shackles of large labels and self sufficient it has enabled them to create under their own rules a beautiful distinctive sound. They have never really ‘gone away’ or ‘made a comeback’, producing consistently strong material. It is to be expected then that a band who have always been able to make social comment, (‘Easter’, ‘Season’s End’, ‘Brave’….) and are not afraid to tackle uncomfortable subjects, should go all out on the new album to try and prick the conscience of the human race and open our eyes to the mess we are making of this wonderful planet on which we have the privilege to be born.
Why is it we, who consider ourselves the ‘superior’ race continually attempt to waste all before us with greed and want, when in reality there would be plenty for all if only we would look after the world we live in and work with and not against the planet and everyone on it. Such is the constitution of man, but there is no fantasy in the fact we are pushing ourselves to destruction and there will be no happy ending if we do not change our ways, Mother Nature will have her revenge on the pretentious, foolish notions that we can control her.
Can the New Kings save us from ourselves through the message of music, it would be naïvely sweet to think so and the intention is sincere. Whether it does depends on you dear listener, but for myself the lyrics may serve to open my eyes, but the music opens my heart. Listening to Marillion makes me feel I want to be a better person and fills me with a warm glow. Previews and internet gossip may, erroneously lead you to believe this is decidedly different from previous albums, it’s not. What you will hear is the culmination of personal experience spread over four decades, condensed and poured like liquid gold into your ears, on what many may feel are some of the best tunes the band have ever written. All brought together on an album that dares to try and topple ‘Afraid of Sunlight’ from my ‘favourite’ spot.
Let me try and convince you a little further, are you sitting comfortably? Then I will begin….
Our first story warns of an impending dramatic change in the five piece El Dorado. The album title sung so sweet a chorus, you could almost be forgiven for mistaking the impact it aims to create. This is not flippant or irreverent comment meant to shock, rather to indicate the evil that men and women do and what it generates in humanitarian, ecological and financial terms. Ignorantly disregarding the warnings of disaster we are bringing on ourselves, the analogy of a devastating, approaching storm illustrating our shame exquisitely. What future are we creating and what legacy will we leave our children and future generations?
The next tale urges us to seek an end to wars and work to universal peace, no longer to be Living in Fear. You could be forgiven for thinking the band were trying to create a ‘Hippy’ utopia with the 60’s echoed sentiments, but in a world that that has grown increasingly bitter and violent, maybe those with flower power had something greater to offer us after all. Mocked, before their time, and over-dramatic with portents of an all too scary real life in which we now live. Who are we now to cast aspersions, seeing them as just a quirky trend in the past only makes fools of us now. An infectious chorus will dig into your consciousness, lodging there and carrying the new day message of hope, should we ignore it or join hands across the world in harmony?
Almost an antithesis to Thankyou Whoever You Are from the album ‘Somewhere Else’, as a pentagonal prosopography, The Leaversis the narrative of a band and crew’s life from a behind the scenes perspective. The constraints of a life on the road, showing a more personal tale of the strain on all involved. Constantly on the move, setting up/packing up and repetitive routines. Hardly ever home and when you are, restless, never fully settled whilst something tugs at you, drawing you back to the nomadic world you have become accustomed to. The testing of relationships as you struggle to fit into the family dynamic and their daily rituals, the feeling of being an intruder. Each section of this extensive song segues into the next as the band smoothly slide between passages.
Steve Hogarth’s heartfelt vocals perfectly catch the requisite emotion for the rest of the band to feed from, creating layers of luscious strings at the fingers of Messrs Pete Trewavas rhythmic bass and Steve Rothery’s soaring guitars, intertwining with the percussive symmetry of Ian Moseley’s drums, all laid on a quilted bed of Mark Kelly’s delicious keys. The coherence of the the band’s music on this album has never been more tangible and a further fitting analogy as to what we could all achieve if we worked in harmony together for the common goal, in their case this beautiful thought provoking album.
The delicate piano and wistful vocals illustrate our ageing, which can creep up on us as the realisation dawns we can no longer mentally or physically do all we could or would like to. We all too soon become observers of The White Paper on which we have painted our lives. Visiting our past whilst we innocuously watch the world pass by. Bitter-sweet, verging on regretful reflection of what we lose, as the music builds for the yearning of youth when everything was fresh and colourful, rapidly resigned to greyer shades of obscurity. Could we, should we have done more whilst we were capable?
What have we not unearthed in dark depth from our tales so far? Ah, yes, greed and corruption. There is no ‘need’ for some but a ‘want’ to own, take control, hold dominion over those below and less fortunate at any cost. There is always someone whose avarice will override their common sense of decency in a corrupt corporate society where power matters to The New Kingsabove all else. Revelling in others’ misfortunes whilst building empty steel and glass castles to their vacuous domains, in which the echoes of the titled chorus ring. Any assumed pleasantries in previous tracks are disregarded on this epitaph of the evil that men do, dispensing with the subtleties to expose the core of this world’s impropriety.
This album resonates on every level of my senses, be it my own advancing years that force me into the realisation that in my humanity I too have been guilty, on however a small scale, to some of the above at some stages in my life. Before I put my soapbox away I would like to end on this. It is not someone else to blame, it is not someone else’s fault. We are all accountable. Wake up and smell the roses, whilst they still grow. Stand up and be counted. Do not live in F.E.A.R.
A scary picture to get things started, it’s that time of year again when everyone puts out their ‘Best of 2015’ album list and I’m no different to every other music journalist, budding or otherwise.
Lists like these are very subjective, after all, one man’s poison is another man’s wine but they’re fun to do and give a real retrospective of some of the great music that has been released over the past 12 months or so.
First off, the usual disclaimer, I won’t include any Bad Elephant Music releases as some people might say I’d be slightly biased. However, once again, this tiny independent label has given us some mighty impressive music from the likes of The Room, Tom Slatter, Simon Godfrey, The Fierce and the Dead and Twice Bitten, among others, all of which can be sampled at the link below:
I tried to get it down to a top 15, never mind a top ten, but that proved too difficult so, here it is, Progradar’s top 20 albums of 2015. Don’t see the position as being too indicative as, really, albums 20-6 could be in any given order on any given day, the quality is that close. The top 5, however, are my definitive top 5 albums for 2015.
Enough pre-amble, here we go……
20 – Transport Aerian – Dark Blue
A deeply dark, disturbing and highly original work of art from this talented, serious musician. Well worth a listen but, be afraid, very afraid!
19 – Steve Rothery – The Ghosts of Pripyat
Marillion’s guitarist is venturing further afield with his solo work and it’s simple, faraway beauty is quite inspiring. Put your feet up, get your headphones on, lay back and relax.
18 – Barock Project – Skyline
An unexpected highlight of the year, hopefully the fourth album by this extremely talented and still relatively young band will see them break into the mainstream of the progressive rock market. I for one think that, with music as deeply enjoyable and illuminating as this, that they definitely deserve it!
A new release full of sophistication and depth and powerful, thoughtful songs that resonate deeply with you. An album about duality, darkness and light and imbued with intricate compositions, complex arrangements and virtuosic performances, you will want this delight in your collection, trust me…..
16 – Mystery – Delusion Rain
2015 saw Canadian prog-rockers Mystery return with a new album and a new lead singer and it was as if they’d never been away. Jean Pageau has a voice that fits perfectly with the melodic progressive rock that the band deliver with aplomb. The epic track The Willow Tree is a superb, intricate and emotional hit of passion and takes the album from merely good to very good indeed.
15 – Hibernal – After the Winter
Mark Healy’s cinematic and evocative soundscapes waft over a post-apocalyptic spoken word storyline to deliver an immensely visceral listening experience.
14 – Built for the Future – Chasing Light
‘Chasing Light’ is one of those rare albums that grabs you immediately AND keeps on getting better with every listen. Built for the Future’s debut release is a thing of rare wonder that resonates with me on a personal level, their commitment to delivering music that connects deeply with the listener has produced a record that shines brightly.
13 – Sylvium – Waiting for the Noise
Superb progressive rock with tones of Porcupine Tree and Riverside. A musical experience that emphasizes emotions rather than the eternal quest for a perfect pop song.
12 – The Wynntown Marshalls – The End of the Golden Age
Scottish tinged Americana with powerful and haunting songwriting and outstanding musicianship.
11 – Echolyn – I Heard You Listening
Storytelling by music, getting to the heart of the matter and opening up small town America. A band I have heard little of in the past, this new album will definitely change that, a melting pot of sweet melodies and delicious harmonies.
10 – Tiger Moth Tales – Storytellers Part One
An album that is even better than the delights of ‘Cocoon’. My inner child is brought to the fore by the magic, charm and allure of ‘Story Tellers Part 1′, it takes me away to an inner nirvana where nothing can touch me or spoil my mood.
9 – Comedy of Errors – Spirit
Do you believe music has soul? I do and, when it is as deeply involving and emotionally uplifting (and draining to be honest!) as this, it becomes life affirming in many ways. All the songs were written by Jim Johnston but I’m sure even he would agree that they are given life by the whole of Comedy of Errors.
8 – Glass Hammer – The Breaking of the World
It could have been this studio album or the equally impressive ‘Glass Hammer – Live’, recorded at this year’s RosFest but, first, let’s get the Yes comparison out of the way, these guys do traditional progressive rock so well they have transcended that to stand in their own circle of praise. A highly impressive effort once again.
7 – Karnataka – Secrets of Angels
The first album written specifically for vocalist Hayley Griffith’s voice, a symphonic prog- rock masterpiece with towering anthems and delicate ballads concluding with the epic twenty-minute plus title track.
6 – The Tangent – A Spark in the Aether
A return to traditional progressive rock, incredibly addictive, flippant and irreverent and, well, just darn good fun!
5 – Big Big Train – Wassail (yes, I know it’s only an E.P. but I like it!!)
You can put your heroes on a pedestal to be knocked off when they don’t reach your lofty expectations but, with ‘Wassail’, Big Big Train have just enhanced their reputation as purveyors of unique and sublime progressive rock which is founded on the elemental history of this blessed isle. A history that is fundamental to the everlasting allure of this captivating group of musicians.
4 – Arcade Messiah – Arcade Messiah II
‘Arcade Messiah II’ takes all that was good with the first album and enhances by taking the raw, coruscating energy of the first release and developing it into a superb sound that, while holding nothing back, is full of nuances and intelligence. A ‘Wall of Sound’ that makes Phil Spector’s look like a diminutive picket fence and it is quite possibly the best thing this highly talented musician has ever produced.
3 – Maddison’s Thread – Maddison’s Thread
Folk is rooted at the core of Maddison’s Way but this album is all about the music and the way Lee can diversify with aplomb is very impressive. A contender for album of the year for me and one that will stay with me for a very long time.
2- Subsignal – The Beacons of Somewhere Sometime
See, this is why these bloody lists are only subjective. I had mine all worked out and then I listened to the fourth album from German band Subsignal and it was blown out of the water. Arisen from the ashes of the great Sieges Even, the first three albums by the band failed to really hit the heights for me. Well, all is most definitely forgiven as ‘The Beacons of Somewhere Sometime’ has just hit me right on the correct spot and elevated them to a higher level. It has a real emotional depth to it and is one that is highly, highly recommended, nearly making it to the top spot…..
1 – Riverside – Love, fear and the Time Machine
So, after a tough fight it is Polish band Riverside that take the crown this year. I have always been a fan of this band without actually loving their work. All that changed with this years beautiful release. There is a depth and maturity to this release that resonates deep to the core. The fragile, breaking vocals and signature sound have taken the band to the forefront of the progressive rock genre and, in this album, they have left behind a musical legacy of which anyone can be proud.
Let me get one thing out of the way straight away, I don’t think The Dave is the best name for an artist. Only Dave Foster will know why he didn’t use his own name for this solo project but I just wish he had, my opinion only, mild rant over.
Dave Foster will be better known to you lot out there as the guitarist with noted Northern rock band Mr So & So, progressive stalwarts Panic Room and for being the guitar player and co-writer in legendary Marillion guitarist Steve Rothery’s band. It goes without saying that his CV is pretty impressive.
Now Dave is currently in the process of writing and recording a new solo album (thankfully using his own name) called ‘Dreamless’ so it seemed the right time to visit his debut release from August 2011, ‘Gravity’, and give it the Progradar ‘going over’.
I’m a sucker for great album art and the cover design for ‘Gravity’, by leading artist Antonio Seijas, is very striking indeed. A good start then but let’s check out the music and see what The Dave has in store for us….
‘Gravity’ is mainly an instrumental album but there are a few vocal tracks and my first impression is that it gives something more than your average guitar guru’s solo album.
First track Tesla could be straight out of the Joe Satriani songbook with intricate guitar histrionics. There are enough searing licks, riffs and solos to keep even the most avid guitar nut happy and it shows straight from the off that Dave Foster is one sublime guitar player. Convoluted and extremely intense, it is a thrill-a-minute hell ride on the flaming vapour trails of Dave’s fluid guitar playing. You just know from the title that Summer Sky is going to be a real feel good track and it doesn’t disappoint. Like a gentle amble on a lazy summer’s day it asks nothing of you other than to listen and enjoy. The keyboards and drums lay down a silky smooth foundation on which Dave can build with his supreme guitar playing. There is a fluent feel to the music as it flows serenely around your mind. Fast paced but never hectic, you set off on an unhurried journey and arrive calm and collected.
Paradox is the first track co-written by and featuring Dinet Poortman on vocals. This is a more straightforward rock track, very much in the Panic Room vein, and, as such, the guitar takes a step back. Dinet’s vocals are rich and luscious and add a velvet coating to this thoughtful song. Not what you were expecting on a guitar based album? Does it matter?, not one jot, it actually adds another dimension to this already impressive album. Back to the instrumental but with a much more serious and sober feel, Liberty Bridge is dense and pensive as a whole. The guitar drips sincerity and ennui then, occasionally, the light seems to break free and shine brightly. There is something crucial and weighty at the heart of proceedings, the sense of adventure generally reined in but, when it does manage to break the stranglehold, it illuminates with a fiery light.
Polarised is an electronica edged pulsating industrial metal track that feels like it has the weight of the world on its shoulders. Dave (I think it’s him) provides a downbeat vocal that is all determined and no-nonsense and the guitar riff could have come from the depths of Motorhead’s debased mind, all dirty, edgy and darkly humorous. Fans of 90’s band Ministry will love the thundering guitars and restless keyboards and the guitar solo that closes out the track is pure, sublime theatre. Dinet Poortman returns on Only A Lullaby, a halting track that takes on a symphonic, female fronted metal mantle. Within Temptation and Nightwish come to mind but this is taken to a higher level. There is something dark and dangerous hiding in the shadows, an alien intelligence that gives this song something special. Once again, Dinet’s vocals are really special, she has voice that infiltrates your whole being and it works brilliantly with Dave’s coruscating guitar note which, on this track, burns slowly igniting something infernal inside you.
Apollo 13 is the most complex and elaborate song on the album, blending intricate, brooding sections of music with voice overs from the original space mission. It has a real sense of history and nostalgia to it and occasionally opens up into a heightened and passionate outpouring of brilliant guitar playing. Where the other tracks on the album seem to leave you to get on with your life as you enjoy them, this one demands you stop what you’re doing and give it 100% of your attention. A mesmerising, winding musical journey through space and time and one which clearly showcases the incredible talent that this man has. Shall we do smoky, burning blues guitar? Indeed we shall, Shining Light is a little gem of a track, heartfelt vocals and acoustic guitar lay the heart on the sleeve but it is the fiercely intense guitar that is the star of the show as it affects every fibre of your being. Lay back, close your eyes and enjoy this ardent piece of music.
Despite being only fifty-nine seconds long The Wait is much more than just an interlude. it is one minute of acute musical pleasure as the effects laden guitar leads you into a place of calm contemplation from which you really have a hard time leaving and it segues perfectly into the final track The Bride. To my ears there is a little sense of loss and melancholia to this delightful song. It is not immediately evident but it is there hidden under the graceful layers of guitar that are presented to you. A slight sense of regret that soon fades perhaps, this song brought up hidden emotions and a lump to my throat as the elegant and exquisite guitars lightly dance across your aural receptors. A real cornucopia of guitar playing delights, as it comes to a close I just sat there in silent appreciation.
So, if ‘Gravity’ is anything to go by, we are going to be in for some hell of a treat with Dave Foster’s new album. Admittedly I am a huge fan of instrumental guitar albums but this one is up there in a higher echelon than most of the rest. An album that, if you don’t already have it in your collection, you should head to the link below post-haste and buy it immediately.