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An Hour Before It's Dark


Introduction: An Hour Before It's Dark is Marillion's twentieth studio album (including Less = More and With Friends from the Orchestra) and the sixteenth with Steve Hogarth.

Pre-release Information
On 03/08/21, Marillion announced a pre-order campaign for album 20. Unlike the campaign for FEAR, Racket will be handling this campaign themselves
in conjunction with Ear Music and Townsend Records. PledgeMusic, who did the FEAR campaign, having collapsed and been declared bankrupt in 2019.

A range of options including deluxe CDs, coloured double vinyl and Ultimate Box set and even a cassette(!) were announced. It was subsequently announced that a downloadable version of the album will be available to all purchasers on the day of release, but that this would not be the same quality as the hi-res files in the Ultimate Box.

The band had a title and a tracklisting for the album but opted not to share those with fans just yet. It was anticipated that the album would be released in early 2022.

Comments made by Steve Hogarth on his The Corona Diaries podcast and by the band on various Marillion YouTube videos have suggested that the album might be slightly more upbeat than recent albums, though manager Lucy Jordache sought to play those claims down slightly in comments on social media.

In a social media video released on 16th August 2021,
h said, "It's going to be an interesting record. Very different from FEAR... a lot of up tempo stuff on there this time, but also some really beautiful, artier stuff. I hesitate to use the word 'ballad', but yeah, arty. Some really nice, beautiful stuff, but a lot of high-energy stuff as well."

On 31st August 2021, Marillion put a message on social media about the new album: "We are also now delighted to say that we're almost ready to reveal the title of the album. However, we thought we'd try and make it a bit more interesting than just putting out the usual press release. What we're going to do is announce the initials of the title via our social channels and website and then we're going to let you guess what you think the album is called."

A coloured version of the tally marks cover with the initials AHBID (right) was posted with it. Any correct answers would be entered into a draw to win a pass for entry to the entire tour.

Fans' guesses were suitably outlandish, but perhaps some will be correct.

Also on 31st August, Marillion released a social media video of Pete talking about the competition. He also said, "I must say the album is sounding remarkably good. It's an amazing album. It's quite rocky in places, actually, which is good for people of our age, I think." He added that Rothers was in the studio that day completing the final guitars and then the band would meet to discuss their ideas for mixing, which included leaving Mike Hunter to his own devices or giving him direction.

On 3rd September, the band revealed AHBID stood for An Hour Before It's Dark. No further comment was made at this time.

On 20th September, an update was posted from h:
Hello everyone,

"An Hour Before it's Dark"

It would seem that much of the foreboding in our last album FEAR turned out to be well-founded.

For this one I set out to avoid writing about the pandemic at all costs because I thought every other artist would be. When push came to shove though, it was impossible not to reference it. It has become part of life so there’s no ignoring it creatively just as there's no ignoring it, period.

However, the pandemic isn't our biggest problem, the mass extinction and the climate-gone-mad is where we really need to blow our economies - personal and national.

We're going to have to save the earth whether we're hippies or billionaires. That's got to be our number 1 priority. We're gonna have to be hard on ourselves. It was this thought that shaped the overall lyrical arc of this album.

Despite the bleak concept, musically it's rich and perhaps our most upbeat work for many years.

(There is also a love song to Leonard Cohen and a song about a big diamond).

On 22nd September, the band thanked fans for ordering AHBID and a reminder that the deadline for getting names in credits was fast approaching. They went on to say:
The recording process is now complete and Michael Hunter will commence mixing any day now. As a collection of songs it's sounding very strong. All five of us are well-excited at what we've created and Lucy reckons "it beats FEAR". Praise indeed.

We don't have a 100% confirmed running order yet but we are happy to let you know the song titles which are:

1. Be Hard On Yourself
2. Murder Machines
3. Reprogram the Gene
4. The Crow and the Nightingale
5. Sierra Leone
6. Care

We will be playing 'Be Hard On Yourself' on the UK Tour and will be sending everyone who has pre-ordered the album an MP3 of the song before the tour starts.

Despite the album being finished in October, it's impossible to release this year so we're looking at early 2022. We wish we could release the album sooner but, owing to a worldwide shortage of cardboard and a scarcity of vinyl manufacturing facilities, the manufacture of physical records is currently taking many months! All artists are facing the same reality. We'll be as quick as we can.

It will be worth the wait...

Be Hard On Yourself fits in with h's previous comments about the environment. It seems possible that The Crow and the Nightingale is the tribute to Leonard Cohen, whose 2004 album Dear Heather contained a song called Nightingale. Joe Serge added that Joni Mitchell, with whom Cohen had a brief affair, referred to herself as a crow on a song entitled Black Crow from her 1976 album Hejira. Sierra Leone is likely to be the lyric about the big diamond - the SW African nation of the Republic of Sierra Leone has an economy that is substantially dependent on mining, especially diamonds. The civil war between 1991-2003 saw the rebel group the Revolutionary United Front largely fund itself from the sale of blood diamonds from captured mines. 

Paul Rose, on episode 40 of the Between You and Me podcast speculated that the diamond in question might be a very different one. The Sierra Leone Diamond is a 709-carat, alluvial diamond found in river sediment in the Kono district in 2017. Renamed The Peace Diamond, the man responsible for hiring the workers that discovered it,  Pastor Emmanuel Momoh, considered fleeing to Belgium with the diamond, but decided to gift it to the government to support development in the country. In December 2017, the diamond was sold to a British firm, Graff Diamonds, for $6.5m.

On 27th September, following a post inviting people to guess the length of the song Care, Lucy Jordache stated that the band had "decided not to release the track timings just yet as they may get shortened or lengthened during the mix that is taking place - only by a few seconds either way but as this is the internet it's best not to have the wrong information out there!:)

" the moment, I can announce that Care is 15:07"

On 30th September, Marillion posted the following to Facebook:
The Marillion and Fans Facebook group is holding a 'Marillion lyrics Day'. So we thought we'd join in - here's a snippet from a song on 'An Hour Before It's Dark.'

"These are the days that will flash before our eyes at the end
These are the moments burned into the sacred places of our hearts
Thank you for making me truly, truly alive"

Of course we're not telling you which song it's from yet:)
I'm going to speculate it's from Care or Be Hard On Yourself, but have nothing other than gut feeling to go on.

In an interview with Mark Kelly by Magnus Moar of The Progressive Aspect released 6th October 2021, Mark gave an indication of running times for the various songs; “Murder Machines is about six or seven minutes. Reprogram the Gene is the shortest at about five minutes.Care is a fifteen-minute track. Sierra Leone is about ten. The Crow and the Nightingale is about eight or nine as well. There are two shorter songs, and the rest are the usual, longer, episodic-type Marillion songs.”

That same day, 6th October 2021, Marillion asked their fans to pledge money to cover their insurance costs in the event that a band member contracted COVID-19 during their Light at the End of the Tunnel tour. This initiative was entitled Light Savers. Current government rules mean that if one band member were to become infected the entire tour would have to be cancelled.

The pandemic had resulted in no insurers being prepared to underwrite acts’s tours, meaning in the event of a cancellation, the band would be liable for lighting, trucks, PA, crew and other costs. 

Should the tour go ahead without incident, the money would be returned to the fans, who would also receive various rewards and benefits depending on the amount pledged. Should the tour be cancelled, the money would be used to cover those costs.

On 18th October, Lucy Jordache confirmed that £125,000 had been pledged.

On that same day, Lucy also confirmed that Be Hard On Yourself was 09:28 in length, that it would be the opening track on the album and an MP3 copy of the track would be sent to all pre-ordering fans on 1st November.

This means that as of 18th October, the tracks on the new album, order and timings are as follows;

1. Be Hard On Yourself - 09:28
x. Murder Machines - circa 06-07:00
x. Reprogram the Gene - circa 05:00
x. The Crow and the Nightingale - circa 10:00
x. Sierra Leone - circa 10:00
x. Care - circa 15:07

On the 29th October, Marillion released an mp3 version of Be Hard On Yourself to fans that had pre-ordered the album, with a striking cover image by Simon Ward, whom it can now be reasonably assumed will be responsible for the main album imagery. The original version of the release had the tracks broken between three parts (which is how it will appear on streaming services to maximise payments), but on Nov 1st, a version was released to fans with a single track.

Cover Notes:
The Pre-order announcement said that there was no cover art yet, but the various packaged options featured artwork with four sets of scratched 'five bar gates' tally marks in a two by two format. For all but the Ultimate Box, the image is grey on black, the Ultimate Box features the colours blue, green, cyan and orange.

Many commentators expressed how much they liked the image and hoped that if it wasn't the final cover, that it would at least be incorporated into the artwork.

Songs with a link have explanations.

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  1. I think Steve said "ballad" not "valid" also you state the album should be here for early 2021 not 2022. Just to help with the typos.

    1. Thanks - listening back, you're right about him saying 'ballad', and obviously the date thing is just plain wrong!

  2. I've listened to Be Hard on Yourself about 6 times now and I can't make out all the lyrics. Have you seen the lyrics posted yet?


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