Brave by Marillion
Released February 1994 on EMI
Steve Hogarth - Vocals
Steve Rothery - Guitars
Mark Kelly - Keyboards
Pete Trewavas - Basses
Ian Mosley - Drums
After trying and failing to reach a wider audience with 'Holidays in Eden', Marillion figured it was time to go back to their roots and make a more progressive rock-oriented album again. 'Brave' is a concept album, based on a news story Steve Hogarth heard on the radio about a girl who was taken into police custody after being found wandering the Severn Bridge. She did not know who she was, where she came from and refused to even speak. This inspired Hogarth to write a fictional story about this girl and what might have led to her being on Severn Bridge in this state.
The band relocated to Marouatte castle in France for the duration of the recording of 'Brave'. The influence of these surroundings can be heard throughout the album in a lot of haunting atmospherics. They even went into a cave which lay in the nearby area and taped some cave sounds which were used as background ambiance on the album.
As engineer, they got Dave Meegan, who had previously worked with Marillion on 'Fugazi'. As for EMI, they really wanted the band to do a "quick record" to gain some revenue, but this project would escalate and escalate. It took the band nine months to write and produce this album, partly because of Meegan who would go through every single new tape made every day each night listening for any riff or melody which sounded good enough to be included in the songs. This hard and tedious work paid off in the end.
Brave is regarded by many fans to be one of Marillion's best albums. It was, however, no public hit because of EMI's lack of promotion and the fact that it had no real single potential. However, three singles were released: 'The Great Escape' (February 1994), 'The Hollow Man' (March 1994) and 'Alone Again In The Lap Of Luxury' (April 1994).
- "Living with the Big Lie"
- "Goodbye to all That"
- "(I) Wave"
- "(II) Mad"
- "(III) The Opium Den"
- "(IV) The Slide"
- "(V) Standing in the Swing"
- "Hard as Love"
- "The Hollow Man"
- "Alone again in the Lap of Luxury"
- "(I) Now wash your hands"
- "Now Wash Your Hands"
- "Paper Lies"
- "The Great Escape"
- "(I) The last of you"
- "(II) Falling from the moon"
- "The Last of You"
- "Fallin' from the Moon"
- "Made Again"
'Brave' is simply a masterpiece. This is one of the darkest albums I have ever heard up to this very moment. I am not trying to exaggerate things: from the first note of opening track 'Bridge' until the final note of the 'Fallin From the Moon' segment of the 'The Great Escape'; it is all dark and depressing, complex and most importantly, ambient.
'Brave' is a concept album based on true events. Some parts are fictional.. others are not. The concept saw the light of day when vocalist Steve Hogarth heard a police broadcast on the radio about a girl that was found wandering on the Severn Bridge, near the city of Bristol. This girl refused to speak and therefore the police did not know who she was and where she was coming from. As a last resort they tried to approach relatives of the girl via the media.
Steve Hogarth came up with a fictional background of the girl, which is what you find in the contents of the Brave album. The story basically reaches back into the girl's childhood up to the very moment when the police find her on the Severn Bridge. Hogarth's lyrics are not as cryptic as those of his predecessor Fish on Marillion's other concept album 'Misplaced Childhood', but they still tell the story in a way that the listener is still a bit left in the dark about what is really happening. It is all a bit suggestive and perhaps this is the charm of the lyrics and story. The story is not given as a fact; it is left to your own imagination, with Steve's lyrics as a rough guideline for your own interpretations.
It is not an easy digestible album on the first listening, because it is quite intense and emotional, but it also centres on all kind of negative feelings. This is noticeable right from the start with the mostly instrumental opening track 'Bridge'. This introductory song is one out of two mostly ambient songs on this album. The thick keyboard atmospheres and sounds welcome the listener and it is immediately clear what the overall vibe will be on this album: DARK. Sounds of police broadcasts and water noises are great additions to this already very moody song. These samples also create a good introduction to the beginning of the story about a misplaced girl.
Slowly the keyboard layers disappear and a guitar starts to play. The sound of the guitar is very reminiscent of Pink Floyd's David Gilmour. 'Living with the Big Lie' is the first true album track. Lyrically, its more a general thought about society and its values nowadays, but musically, this is one of the heaviest songs on the album. Slowly the song progresses from the minimalist introduction into a heavier outburst of guitar soloing towards the end of the song, before the song slowly fades into the beautiful melodramatic ballad 'Runaway'.
'Runaway' is one of my favourite Marillion songs. Especially H (Steve Hogarth)'s vocals are great and accompany his wonderful lyrics in a superb way. His singing clearly projects the anger that is shown in the lyrics, but without sounding angry, simply emotional.
The twelve minutes long suite 'Goodbye to all That' concludes the album's first and perhaps most depressing half. This five piece suite starts off with the piano and vocal driven segment 'Goodbye to all That', before heading off into my favourite instrumental section of the album: 'Wave'. This piece starts off with a kind of 'jam session' in which all individual instruments create an atmosphere that slowly builds up to a climax which literally moves from your feet up to your your pit of your stomach; Hogarth says "Can you feel that?" and you certainly can as the bass levels reverberate through your guts and back down to shake your boots, before continuing with a more up-tempo interlude, that fluently crosses over into the dark and mad part 'Mad'. I am not joking; this song simply sounds as if Hogarth has literally gone mad. The final three parts of this lengthy suite are mostly ambient and spacey with a lot of use of effects on the various instruments. Especially Pete Trewavas' bass guitar performance on this section is great, very subtle but also very professional. The whole thing builds up into a gigantic climax towards the end of the suite; showing a huge contrast to the ambience of the previous minutes. And then all of a sudden the noise dies and there he is, Steve Hogarth and his little piano. Are you still with us? The outbreak of noise must have woken you up if you dared to fall asleep!?!
What is coming up next was a bit disappointing, even after a couple of listens. 'Hard as Love' is pretty much a standard rock song. It does not gain any momentum with the first half, but then, just when I though all hope for the track was lost: mid section begins: cello's and piano, this is still a progressive music piece! The composition changes from being an unoriginal rock song into an up-tempo, but interesting tune. It is partially quite aggressive to be really honest.
'The Hollow Man' is a nice change of pace and atmosphere after the previous rock segment. This is a semi-acoustic music piece. The vocals are lovely and the pianos sound great. When halfway through the song the sliding electric guitar begins to play the track really lifts you off this earth. Certainly one of the most intense songs Marillion has ever written.
Okay Marillion must have had their fingers twitching out of nervousness, because that was the end of our little quiet and gentle section. 'Alone Again in the Lap of Luxury' picks up where Hard as Love ended and shows again that these guys can rock, but with added drama and emotion.
Yes it is one of the 'poppier' songs -also being one of the album's singles, but it is definitely are more memorable and coherent track than 'Hard as Love'. The song consists of three different movements. The first part is a pop rock song with a great sound in the verses and a great guitar solo included. The second part is where the band begins to improvise with the composition of the first part and the song is steadily getting heavier and heavier with some nice soloing by Mr Rothery. The final segment of the song is called 'Now Wash Your Hands'. This little piece of art is a short dark interlude that connects the song to the next up tempo rock 'Paper Lies'.
Despised by most Marillion fans, this is a tune that does not seem to have connection whatsoever with the concept of this album. I personally do not dislike the song, but I do agree it is a bit misplaced in the album's context and therefore spoils the mood a bit. It would be better off as a b-side to one of the singles. As a plus point: this song includes Mellotron sounds! But it might as well be an organ, I can hardly tell the difference.
Now the most depressing part of the albums starts. Beginning with the album's title track 'Brave'. This is the other mostly ambient track. It starts off pretty weird, but in this case that is a good thing. The song lifts the listener up to higher regions after the ambient rhythmic session begins. This song includes bagpipe, but don't let that put you off!
What should have been the last song on the album, if it was up to me. is the song 'The Great Escape'. This the most emotional track on the album (it never fails to bring tears to my eyes) and it suggests that girl in the story eventually commits suicide on the Severn Bridge, by jumping from it in the deep dark water. I suppose this is not what the record label wanted so they included the final track 'Made Again' on the album, to have a more optimistic and uplifting ending.
The closing track is a mostly acoustic song that shows some obscure kind of relief to the album's concept. Although I'd rather it not included on the album, it is a great song on its own. Especially the last minute of this song is highly regarded.
As you might have noticed, this is quite an intense album and I personally, with it being my favourite Marillion album, have to be in a darkened room with the volume on full and not be disturbed at any cost, to fully enjoy it as it should be.
Tristan Mulders / Jim Powell