Selling over 15 million copies over 17 previous releases, Marillion is back with their latest album F*** Everything and Run (F E A R). Like their past couple albums, F E A R was initially available as a pre-order through the Pledge Music crowd funding site with both deluxe and special editions, it is now available as a limited edition multi-channel 5.1 Hybrid SACD.
Featuring 5 new tracks consisting of 17 parts, the band proclaims that they may have created their best ever album. For some the album title is rather provocative, yet it wasn’t meant to be offensive. They’ve used “F*** Everything and Run (F E A R)” as a title with some relish. Hogarth says, “There are two basic impulses behind human behavior: Love and Fear, and all the good stuff comes from love.”
Without delving deeply into the music, fans will likely notice that Mark Kelly is way more prominent on this album, and the surround mix absolutely brings out his synth, piano and organ parts. However, Steve Rothery’s guitar parts are somewhat restrained and quite subtle at points throughout the album. Naturally we still have the solid bass and drums from Pete Trewavas and Ian Mosley, with Steve Hogarth’s vocals belting out politically and socially compelling lyrics that speak of ageing, the transient lifestyle while on the road, along with the migrant crisis and the crippling effect of global capitalism.
First, let’s lay a few things to rest. Although the SACD states on the outer cover that it is 5.0, both my Oppo and shakin’ sub-woofers tell me otherwise. I find it very odd though that the band released a DVD with the 5.1 mix along with extra features as an exclusive to the Pledge Music campaign, only to turn around and both master and license their multi-channel 5.1 mix for SACD, each in different packaging. However, like the crowd funding campaign, the SACD is a limited edition, so don’t say you haven’t been warned.
I write these reviews to answer the question of worthiness, specifically for sound quality of surround sound mixes, and let it be known that producer, engineer, and mixer Michael Hunter has done a brilliant job. Fans will get both a DSD 5.1 and DSD stereo layer, along with a standard CD layer to enjoy F E A R, packaged in a nice digipak.
The first part of “El Dorado” opens the album with sounds of nature and a finger picked guitar along with vocals upfront. Organs fade in from the rear, and you already know you are in surround heaven. The song progresses with a wave of keys and guitars, very reminiscent of later day Pink Floyd, with subs really kicking in as the bass and drums are added. The lows are smooth and give a lovely rich bottom to the surround mix. The five parts that make up El Dorado take us through the dynamic lows and highs which mirror the story told within this piece.
“Living in F E A R” could be considered their title track and pop tune, albeit with a progressive twist and another fantastic multi-channel mix. With its many parts encompassing the listener and truly rich dynamics that pierce through the listener as the song peaks on the choruses. Guitars squeal from the front channels echoing off the rears, while the keyboards and additional vocals push from behind.
Their second multi-part piece “The Leavers” starts with a pulsating bass and heavy hitting drums. The tonal balance remains consistent with a smooth top end, rich mids, and full bottom. I especially like the bubbly Tangerine Dream like keyboards that accompany the first segment to this piece which emanate from the back channels. More dreamscapes can be found here as we reach the third part to this piece, where the keyboards are stretched from the front to the back. Vocals are intimate with a touch of reverb added that expands their reach across the entire sound stage.
Entering the final segment of F E A R Marillion explores capitalism in the ambitious multi-part piece “The New Kings.” This continues to demonstrate how wide and expansive the 5.1 mix is, allowing the listener to purely enjoy a wonderful aural experience. I am delighted to see Marillion finally embracing surround sound, especially as an option for their current release.
Strongly recommended for all progressive and neo-prog fans, especially those who seek quality multi-channel mixes. Of course this is a must have for Marrrilion fans, and collectors of high resolution 5.1 audio releases. Conversely, if you want to search out a copy of the DVD, I wouldn’t blame you, but probably be ready to open your wallet pretty wide to get a hold of that version limited to campaign funders.