It’s been four years since Marillion’s last studio album (five years if you don’t include their acoustic album, Less Is More), their longest gap between albums. So it’s fair to say that, after being away for such a while, Marillion had something to prove with the release of this album.
And prove it they did. Sounds That Can’t Be Made reaffirms that Marillion are still one of the greatest progressive rock bands out there. Not that I ever doubted that fact, mind.
Sounds That Can’t Be Made opens with Gaza, the longest song (17:31) on the album. It’s somewhat odd for a prog album to open with its epic song, as they are usually saved for the end (see Genesis’s Foxtrot, Pink Floyd’s Meddle, Frost*’s Milliontown, and even Marillion’s own This Strange Engine). But like I said earlier, Marillion had a point to prove with this album, and Gaza is a Hell of an opening statement. Some people think that they have jumped the gun and made a mistake by not following the aforementioned hallowed prog tradition, but I think that it works. By opening with a song as strong as Gaza, it grips you straight away, making you sit up and pay attention. You immediately know that you are listening to something different and special.
Gaza gives all five members of the band a chance to shine, particularly Ian Mosley, who uses his drums to emulate guttural and predatory sound of a marching army. Steve Hogarth nails the vocals, and Steve Rothery delivers some blistering guitar work. When Hogarth sings ‘For us to have to live like this, it just ain’t right‘ and Rothery starts up an haunting and atmospheric guitar solo, it’s enough to bring tears to your eyes.
The album’s title track, Sounds That Can’t Be Made (7:16), bursts from the speakers with a strong and rhythmic drumbeat that gets the heart pumping. From there, the song just gets better. With complex, riveting music and stirring vocals, this track also features one of Rothery’s best solos on the album.
I have to admit that, despite featuring lyrics from Marillion’s frequent collaborator, John Helmer, I found the choruses of Pour My Love (6:02) to be a little uninspiring, but the rest of the song more than makes up for that fact, especially Mark Kelly’s understated keyboards and Steve Rothery’s very tidy and beautifully tonal guitar solo.
Power (6:07) is probably one of my favourite tracks on the album, with its slow verses and powerful (no pun intended) choruses. Musically brilliant, particularly Pete Trewavas’s hypnotic bass line, it builds into a fantastic crescendo with raw and powerful vocals from Hogarth.
Montréal (14:04) really plays to Steve Hogarth’s strengths, showcasing the level of emotion and range in his voice. Like Gaza, it’s a chance for all the musicians to really show what they can do as well. Slow in places, dynamic in others, and enchanting throughout, the song is fantastic, and intricately unfolds like a story. It’s a fitting tribute to a city that the band love and their passion for the place really shines through.
The slow starting Invisible Ink (5:47) initially showcases Mark Kelly’s keyboards before gradually expanding into something truly powerful and emotional, and features one of Steve Hogarth’s strongest vocal performances on the album.
Lucky Man (6:58) starts off with a strong guitar riff from Rothery that immediately grabs your attention. From there it goes into a slow yet compelling verse, before kicking off into a fantastically rousing chorus. Hogarth sounds great in this song, both in the subdued verses and the energetic choruses.
The Sky Above the Rain (10:34) is probably the most emotional song on the album, with Hogarth’s vocals first ringing with the pain and heartbreak of featured in the lyrics, then soaring to new-found emotional heights come the song’s cautiously hopeful ending. Mark Kelly gets a chance to shine on this song, with his keyboards dominating the first half of the track. Rothery really goes for it on this track as well, and you can feel the passion behind his every note, resonating like a pluck on the heartstrings.
Each one of the eight tracks is an absolute corker, and the album gets better with every listen. While it might not actually feature any sounds that can’t be made, it is definitely packed with sounds that only Marillion can make. Conclusive proof the prog isn’t dead, Sounds That Can’t Be Made was well worth the four year wait.
Stand out track: Lucky Man – An absolutely fantastic track, with a chorus that makes you want to sing along at the top of your voice. With excellent vocals, moving music, and another of Rothery’s excellent guitar solos, this song is an absolute treat.