Credo - Rhetoric

Year of Release: 2005
Label: F2 Music
Catalog Number: 200509
Format: CD
Total Time: 69:38:00

Like the proverbial elephant in the room, let's get this bit out of the way first. Credo sound like where Marillion might be today if a) they hadn't entirely left their Script/Fugazi-era sound behind, b) Fish never left the band, and c) Clive Nolan were heavily involved (because there is also a strong Arena feel, on "?To The Grave," at times on "The Game," and on "Too Late?")*.

What makes this a MarilFish thing? There're the Rothery-esque guitar phrases from Tim Birrell. This isn't the only way he can play, as the mellow "From The Cradle?" demonstrates during the acoustic guitar solo, but often one can find a reference to some past work ("Skintrade" references parts of Clutching, for instance). Of course, I can't fault someone from playing Rothery-like leads, especially as I love that particular sound/style. There's the parpy keyboard phrases from Mike Varty, such as those that begin "The Game," which recalled for me at the beginning both "Market Square Heroes" and "Incommunicado;" it is a piece that has a similar rock energy that goes in a different direction (and lyrically recalls "Script?").

During an instrumental bridge in "Skintrade," we find ourselves surrounded by lacy guitar and Rhodes-esque keyboard phrases that seem borrowed from the Misplaced Childhood palette before Birrell launches a Script For A Jester's Tear-styled guitar solo, all this finally culminating in a throbbing "Script?"-like crescendo. Hear Fish (and a combo of Rob Sowden and Paul Wrightson) in Mark Colton's vocals, his writing style (often but not always), and song subjects. While addressing universal themes, they have a Fish-like approach. Fish examined troubled romances and socio-political themes; so does Colton - the former in "The Letter," "From The Cradle? " and "To The Grave" (to some degree at least), "The Game;" the latter in "Skintrade," "Turn The Gun," "Too Late?" and "?To Say Goodbye."

I don't really know if Credo embrace or eschew these Marillion/Fish comparisons. But it'd be pretty ballsy of them to deny it ? Fish had a song called "Credo," for heaven's sake? Just as 25 years ago it would have been ballsy for Marillion to have denied a Genesis influence, I?m sure. But I think it might be more true to say that Credo, at least here on Rhetoric, are trying to recapture an era in UK progressive rock music that has, for the most part, gone and bringing that into the 21st Century. There are moments where you might think of Pink Floyd (the swirly, slinky middle section to "Turn The Gun" for example).

Let's shove that elephant aside to see what else is here in the room. The more you listen, the closer you listen, there's a lot more going on that doesn't reference either Fish or Marillion. Not that they are more complex than Marillion, just different. You will find a rich tapestry of sound, elements that only resolve themselves on repeated listens. We hear this in the more varied bass lines, the breathier keyboards, and a groovier guitar rhythm during the main portion of "Skintrade." It is, by the way, a song about porn - but rather than it being a titillating "girls gone wild" in song, it is more of the harsher "behind the scenes" glimpse at the reality... and, in fact, that is an element to be found here, a certain grittiness. Even as the music and arrangements are rich and expressive, there is a certain rawness, directness to the music.

"From The Cradle?" is a gently swaying, slinky piece that, rather than being seductive, is melancholy and sad and we hear more of Credo's own "voice." What makes it special are all the little elements - some block-like percussion here; the constant presence of keys; and the arty, atmospheric outro/intro between it and "?To The Grave." The intro leads into a groovy, slightly throaty, noodly guitar phrase. Rather cool that, but it gives way to frosty keyboards, percussion, and chiming guitar (it does recur later in the piece). I think if I were going to hold up a piece of music and say "this is neo prog," this would be it. It's good, but in many ways "generic"? or maybe more true to say its sounds familiar and like many a track in this style (parpy keys, a steady drum beat). But it's little things that, while not unexpected, are the "difference maker" here - including that cool guitar phrase. Of course, because they are so very good at making this style work, the epic, crying guitar solo that begins at the 10-minute mark is a smile-inducing familiar, and yet not so familiar. (Or maybe I've just played this CD too many times now). Although there were hints of Arena in "From The Cradle?" they are stronger in "?To The Grave."

While the "The Letter" starts out soft and mellow, by the third verse, we have something much darker; sinewy, yes, but darker; most especially the ever-present mist of keyboards and the walking (stalking?) bass. The build up matches the aggression that builds in the protagonist, a rising bitter anger - the guitars get gustier, a bit edgier; parpy keyboards cut through like a laser? (or a laser show). Uh-huh, by the sixth verse (or bridge) you too will be spitting out the lines. Yes, not had this kind of building tension anger since? well, the classic days of Marillion, for one, but elsewhere, too, naturally.

"The Game" is an epic piece, moving through various moods and comes across as one part Marillion ("Script?") and one part Arena ("Crack In The Ice"). While the energy seems muted during the verses (a deliberate device, as in "The Letter"), it bursts into a high-energy, bouncy, parpy-keyboard lead piece for the choruses. And it ends sweetly with a tinkly piano, violin, and the fragile vocals of Colton. Quite diverse, but never straying from the neo-prog foundation.

Another two part piece is "Too Late?" and "?To Say Goodbye," a tribute to soldiers who left this earth fighting one war or another. "To Late?" is a vivid portrait of being "in the trenches" - whether those trenches are the literal ones of two world wars or the figurative ones of modern warfare. It's vivid yes, with a modicum of words, a repeated phrase, chant, that in a way forces you to look war in the face - the key repeated word is "the eyes?" Those aren't the only lyrics, but they're what will stay with you. The companion piece "?To Say Goodbye" is a softer piece, yet no less pointed. The first part, "Too Late?," is third person, this second part is first person? the voices of the dead. There is a bit of a hazy, dreamy atmosphere created by the keys, and a warm, sad acoustic guitar. It makes for a sad piece, though not quite maudlin or overly morbid. Ah, no, we got that in part one. But it does rather?eerily. A sense of final departure, their spirit leaving the mortal coil, but also the sound of an air raid warning, and the pop and rumble of gun fire.

You might think that another track following would spoil the mood, would make light of how the previous track ended, but instead the closing track, "Seems Like Yesterday," is more coda. It is not a brash piece - acoustic guitar arpeggios lead into swell of keyboards, allowing the song to build slowly. It is looking back, which, in a way, musically, this album was doing; even as Colton was taking us on tour through his observed or direct experience. By the time we get to the end, we have come on to full-blown epic, full of expansive, heavenly, choir-like keyboards over which we get crashing percussion, chiming guitar, and parpy keys. It ends "big," orchestral, triumphant.

I wasn't overly impressed with their performance at RoSFest - not from a performance point of view, but because I felt then they sounded too much like Fish/Marillion. But on hearing Rhetoric and hearing a couple dozen times now, I think I would have been more impressed at RoSFest because I wouldn't be just "surface listening." Yes, they wear their influences on their sleeve, but darn if they don't make this whole thing quite appealing. As I said, if they didn't do this well, it'd come off as hackneyed. Some might say it is, but no, I think they breathe new life into this corner of the genre. Thumbs up I say.

[*Incidentally, it was mixed by Karl Groom of Thin Ice Studios? and Varty has/had been touring with Arena's Mick Pointer (ex-Marillion, too) celebrating the 25th anniversary of Script For A Jesters Tear. Some other notes of interest; lots of challenges for the band to get to the point of recording this, their second release? 11 years after their first]

[Odd note: when I went to F2 Music to confirm the URL? the song that came up in the player on their site, Credo's "Too Late?" ? how coincidental is that!?]

Skintrade (6:52) / Turn The Gun (6:54) / From The Cradle... (7:25) / ...To The Grave (11:53) / The Letter (7:45) / The Game (11:39) / Too Late... (6:46) / ...To Say Goodbye (4:41) / Seems Like Yesterday (5:40)

Mark Colton - vocals, percussion
Jim Murdoch - bass, backing vocals
Martin Meads - drums
Mike Varty - keyboards, violin, backing vocals
Tim Birrell - electric and acoustic guitars

Field Of Vision (1994)
Rhetoric (2005)
This Is What We Do (2009)
Against Reason (2011

This Is What We Do (DVD) (2009)

Genre: Neo Prog

Origin UK

Added: August 5th 2008
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Artist website:
Hits: 2403
Language: english


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