Iluvatar - A Story Two Days Wide


Year of Release: 1999
Label: Kinesis
Catalog Number: KDCD 1026
Format: CD
Total Time: 58:27:00

For those who haven't been following the "story so far" (i.e. been reading all of my reviews), I must confess (again) my fond affection for the music of Marillion - at least up to and including This Strange Engine. That fact colours this review somewhat, in that what might be viewed as "points against" aren't "points against" for me. Here then is my review of the above named Iluvatar release:

Baltimore's Iluvatar have returned from too long a silence with A Story Two Days Wide (well, there was the live Sideshow to tide us over in 1997, of course). Those missing the neo-prog styling of UK favourites Marillion, Galahad or IQ, for example, will find the tradition alive in Iluvatar. The closer "Indian Rain" begins so much like Seasons End and Brave-period Marillion musically it's eerie. For the first part, think "The Great Escape" (a feeling echoed in "Even Angels Fall"). The arrangement follows a similar structure, the instruments have similar tones - Rothery-eque guitar lines are the most noticeable. And yet, also during the first segment of this 15 minute track, it will bring "King Of Sunset Town" to mind. Even though vocalist Glenn McLaughlin sounds more like a Phil Collins/Jon Anderson hybrid, his delivery is a lot like that of Steve Hogarth. This is the Marillion that Marillion left behind with and after Brave.

Having said that, the album's opener "Sojourns" begins in a Rabin-era Yes like fashion with hints of both Collins-led Genesis (early 80's), Emerson Lake and Palmer, and Spock's Beard, before a very Rothery-esque guitar chimes in. Though here again, Marillion forms the basis for some stylistic ideas, a structure adapted from Gabriel-led Genesis, where intensely musical pieces are offset by more pastoral interludes.

This will either turn you off or get you interested, depending on your view of Marillion and neo-prog in general. I happen to be an Iluvatar fan and find enough variances here to really like this album. It's almost as if Iluvatar has said, "okay, if you aren't going to use these palettes anymore, we will." What they do is take the colours, embellish them, rearrange them, throw in a few other colours and then paint the canvas.

This would be a lot less likable if Iluvatar weren't solid and skilled performers creating engaging music. The one change in the band, is that drummer Gary Chambers has been replaced by Chris Mack, otherwise, the lineup is the same.* What Iluvatar capture in their sound is a strong emotional resonance - the arrangements breathe, are epic and subtle, lyrical, enveloping - all these things that I personally love about the neo-prog segment of the genre. Soaring keyboard, guitar and vocals lift and carry you along. There is so much feeling here that it can become a truly emotional experience.

Another point of interest includes "Better Days" which adds a bit of late-period Rush to the brush, along with a dab of Galahad. There is an instrumental interlude that has a very Abacab-period Genesis feel to it. But what has drawn me to this track is a sentiment that I share with McLaughlin and Tom Kraus (who co-penned this one track). While so many of we humans are disengaged from our fellow humans, we are looking to and waiting for some external force to exact the change we cannot make for ourselves. The line that I find resonates with me is this:

There's no benevolent Messiah Coming to deliver us.
We must believe ourselves,
Invent ourselves
Or wither into dust.

This is a sentiment that mirrors the "through-line" of an unpublished story of mine (though they couldn't possibly know that). Without diverting into a debate of theology - we are our own salvation.

Anyway, Story is an often-beautiful album that doesn't compromise integrity for the sake of familiarity, though it will satiate those longing for the Marillion of "old." It should also appeal to fans of neo-prog in general.

*Psst: it's Jim Rezek on keyboards


Tracklisting:
Sojourns (9:04) / Savant (7:46) / Dreaming With The Lights On (6:34) / Holidays and Miracles (8:35) / Better Days (7:02) / Even Angels Fall (4:25) / Indian Rain (15:41)

Musicians:
Dennis Mullen - guitars
Kezer Mij - keyboards
Dean Morekas - bass
Chris Mack - drums and percussion
Glenn McLaughlin - vocals

Discography:
Iluvatar (1993)
Children (1995)
Sideshow (1997)
A Story Two Days Wide (1999)

Genre: Neo Prog

Origin US

Added: January 1st 2000
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Score:
Artist website: www.iluvatar.com
Hits: 1911
Language: english

  

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