Reviews Marillion Happiness is the Road Volume 1: The Essence

Marillion

Happiness is the Road Volume 1: The Essence

In their twenty-six-year or so history, Marillion have never released a shitty album. Think of other bands that have been around; can they make the same claim? I think not. Sure, there’s been albums that are less memorable, but actually bad? Not a one. Writer’s block has never been an issue – with a couple of exceptions, the releases are usually separated by only one or two years span of time. Last years’ Somewhere Else was a strong entry in an ever-growing discography. This album not so much. But as usual, it isn’t from lack of trying.

The Essence is the weaker of the two simultaneous releases, having an unfortunate AOR sheen that leaves the listener struggling to remember much about it. But after subsequent listens, volume one begins to leave more of an impression around the halfway mark with a beautiful but all-too-brief instrumental called “Liquidity.” Keyboardist Mark Kelly works his magic with this one – a sparse piano arrangement (sparse by prog-rock standards, anyway) that leads perfectly into “Nothing Fills the Hole,” a triumphant in tempo little ditty reminiscent of something off of 2001’s Anoraknophobia, which was probably (though in talking to others at a show of this tour, this opinion makes me “nuts”) the weakest in the band’s entire catalog.

Other highlights include “Trap the Spark” and the ten-minute title track. This is sadly tempered with the disc’s closer “Half Empty Jam,” the title of which apparently became a self-fulfilling prophecy. While it’s not easy to critique a band filled with such superior musicianship, this album is as close as they’ve ever come to being self-indulgent, something they’ve miraculously avoided thus far, and considering their genre this is even more miraculous. I hope they right the ship for volume two...

7.1 / 10Kevin Fitzpatrick
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Racket

2008

7.1 / 10

7.1 / 10

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