As another reviewer remarked, it's so easy to hate this kind of album. An opening lyric like "We stand amongst you / in the guise of mortal men" just begs to be mocked mercilessly. Then as "Chosen" continues like a frowning, air-punching 80's action-movie theme, you might expect this to be overwhelmingly cheesy. But their spirited performance transcends any cliches it might exhibit and the song becomes compelling stuff. As is most of the material on "Immortal".
The band includes Clive Nolan, keyboardist from Pendragon, who brings a lot of their sound to his attractive work on this album. John Mitchell's guitar solos are predictably broad and searing. Original Marillion drummer Mick Pointer is still behind the kit. Rob Sowden's vocals are strong-toned. Although he tries too hard to have impeccable diction, and hams it up in some strange places. Also, like with so many neo-prog vocalists, the shadow of Fish looms large over his singing style. For example the slow middle section of "Moviedrome" with one-fingered piano lines, clearly harks back to the wordy excesses of Marillion's "Fugazi". "What did you expect", I hear prog snobs scoffing.
So it's typical neo-prog. But despite the album's dodgy image, the songwriting is consistently good. The reflective ballad "Waiting for the Flood", along with many other moments on "Immortal", may sound like Pendragon, but it's up with their best. There are some great contrasts between creepy and powerful on the dramatic "The Butterfly Man", climaxing in massive sections of guitar pomp. Another 80's air-puncher "Ghost in the Firewall" and the Moog-laden "Climbing Up the Net" pass the time well before the twenty-minute "Moviedrome". Its themes of souls being sucked by technology may be on the cheesy side, but its dark melodrama reminds us why Marillion were once considered a metal band. The echoing power-ballad "Friday's Dream" closes an album that's firmly on the better end of the neo-prog genre.
December 30, 2004