Sounds That Can't Be Made - Introduction

Introduction: 2012’s Sounds That Can’t Be Made was the seventeenth Marillion album, the thirteenth with Steve Hogarth. A CD & DVD version of the album in luxurious hard slipcase form, featuring a book full of the names of those who had pre-ordered.

The album had a difficult conception, with the band reportedly nearly splitting when a writing session in Portugal coincided with a period of serious illness for Steve Hogarth’s partner and son, meaning the vocalist was unable to contribute. After some time off from writing, they recommenced at Peter Gabriel’s Real World studios where the writing was unforced, and the songs started to flow. However, the delay to recording eventually resulting in the band compiling the later additions while on their US tour for the album – hardly ideal.    

The album’s eight tracks offer a fine summary of Marillion playing to their strengths across the board. In seventeen minute album opener Gaza, the band are the most savage they have ever been, conjuring the mayhem and destruction of a sudden missile strike with scream, atonal soloing over a punishing riff. The song was considered sufficiently controversial enough to require an explanatory note in the accompanying booklet to point out that it is not anti-Israeli, nor pro-violence. Despite this, some fans claim that they would never listen to the band again.

The title track is a fabulous epic that somewhat calls to mind the big music of The Waterboys. The ‘aurora borealis’ section is quite simply fabulous. Pour My Love sees the return of John Helmer as lyricist after a gap of more than ten years, on a song that is part Prince, part Todd Rundgren. Power is a classic rocker in the tradition of Whatever Is Wrong With You and was accepted as an instant classic. The quirky Invisible Ink didn’t convince everyone, but I’ve always liked it as a new side to the band’s sound.

Among the fan base only one song appeared to disappoint a significant number of fans, Lucky Man, which is a bit like a retread of Three Minute Boy. Montreal also had its detractors, though mainly for its lyrics, which some disliked for being like diary entries and rather gauche.

Personally, I am rather unconvinced by the final song, The Sky Above The Rain, finding that it fails to really get under the skin, yet there are plenty that think it is a true masterpiece. Only Gaza, Sounds That Can’t Be Made, Power, Montreal and Lucky Man have explanations.

Cover notes: The cover, designed by Simon Ward, featured a 3D printed object called a cardioid. The actual thing is pretty small, as you can see from this photo of me at Racket Records holding it! To the left of the cardioid is a logarithmic scale in Hertz. 

The box of the deluxe edition also featured a horizontally-reversed version of the Arecibo message. This was a signal broadcast into space from the Arecibo radio telescope in Puerto Rico in 1974, and featuring encoded versions of the numbers 1-10, information about the make up of DNA, a graphic of a human, a model of the solar system and the graphic of the Arecibo telescope.

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