Throughout their three-decade career, Marillion has carved out a place as one of the major players in progressive rock. Like their prog-rock brethren Genesis, the band survived a lead singer change and has forged on, creating critically acclaimed music. Their 17th album, Sounds That Can't Be Made, was originally released in 2012, reaching the top 40 in the Netherlands, Poland, Germany, Norway and France. Now it is being rereleased in North America with a bonus disc of radio sessions and demos.
The band wastes no time going for it musically on the opening track, "Gaza." A moody intro of keyboards and backwards guitars soon changes to a Middle Eastern-inspired riff. Steve Hogarth delivers an edgy vocal and the song, which clocks in at 17:31 and features numerous time changes, mixes heavy and light, adding electronic flourishes over dreamy backgrounds -- an impressive leadoff track for sure. The heavy drums and keyboards on the title track give it a bit of a Genesis feel. Hogarth's vocals are confident and strong on this number. He gives an equally heartfelt vocal on "Pour My Love," a pretty piano ballad.
"Montreal," another focal point of the album at 14 minutes, is a sprawling epic that builds in intensity and layers. Like "Gaza," the song takes many turns musically. This, like many of the other cuts on the album, is a densely layered song, revealing itself under repeated listens, especially through headphones. There's a lot going on during this album that isn't always apparent on the first listen.
"Power" features ringing guitars over a massive keyboard backdrop. A heavily layered track, it is one of the stronger songs on the album. This is also one of the radio sessions featured on disc two. There it is stripped of much of its production, featuring only guitar, vocals and piano, yet it works just as well in this format, proving that a good song is a good song.
The album closes with two somewhat Beatlesque numbers, "Lucky Man" and "The Sky Above The Rain." The former features a big chorus and leads off with chiming bells before moving into heavy guitars and organ while the latter is a piano ballad showcasing some fine, understated guitar playing from Steve Rothery.
Besides "Power," the bonus disc includes radio sessions for "Wrapped Up In Time" and "Pour My Love," a demo version of "Lucky Man" and live renditions of "Sounds That Can't Be Made" and "Invisible Ink" from Holland 2013. The stripped down radio sessions emphasize songwriting over production; while the live tracks show how faithfully the band reproduces their songs in concert.
The passage of time and lineup changes has not slowed down Marillion one bit. Now including a bonus disc that presents their music in a stripped down manner, offering a different side to the band, Sounds That Can't Be Made shows a band still willing to take chances musically and is a challenging, yet rewarding, listen.