Review Summary: "Fugazi" is an excellent product of its time and remains one of the top quality progressive rock albums to be created in the '80s.
Formed in Aylesbury, England, in 1979, Marillion is arguably one of the most interesting and successful progressive rock bands of the '80s. Often considered one of the founders of the Neo-Progressive genre, the band released four albums between 1983-1987 that quickly gained a cult status within the demanding prog circuit. Influenced by '70s acts such as Genesis (Gabriel era), Yes or Pink Floyd, Marillion issued their critically acclaimed debut "Script for a Jester's Tear" in 1983, an album that blends Genesis' early baroque languages with the rock flavours of the early '80s. Steve Rothery's melodic guitar lines layered by Fish's poetic lyrics and theatrical vocal performance were the key musical elements in shaping Marillion's sound into a distinctive identity, placing the band on pole position within the emerging British Neo-Progressive scene.
One year later the band released their highly anticipated second album titled "Fugazi". With a harder edge than its predecessor the album can be seen as "Script's" natural evolution. All ingredients are still present, Fish's impressive vocal dynamics and Rothery's very unique guitar signature are still leading the way, supported by Mark Kelly's colorful keyboards and Peter's always solid bass lines. But it's new recruitment Ian Mosley that delivers the most significant improvement to the band's sound, with his refined technique providing the perfect background for Marillion's progressive melodic songwriting, allowing the rhythm section to move more freely.
The album opener "Assassing" is the perfect introduction to what the listener should expect from Marillion's sophomore release. A combination of straightforward rock with progressive and passionate textures. This more hard rock approach is present in almost all of the songs on this album, however this new reinvigorated energy is smartly balanced by smoother ambiences, creating a strong sense of direction throughout this recording.
Fish's provocative and enigmatic lyrics remain Marillion's most distinctive trademark. From religious cults and First World War references such as "Who decorates the scarf with the fugi knot, who camouflaged emotion in a thousand yard stare"
to Irish folklore metaphors "World war three, suburbanshee, just slip her these pills and I'll be free"
, every word and sentence is manipulated to shape some cryptic meaning that leads to multiple interpretations. But Marillion's greatest achievement on "Fugazi" is the ability to place these complex lyrics on a song-based musical structure, avoiding the long compositions of their progressive counterparts. Swinging between layers delivered by Kelly's chromatic keyboards and Rothery's beautiful guitar lines, the songwriting is well structured and meticulously balanced, with everything in its right place. From stylish rock moments such as "Assassing", "Punch and Judy" or "Jigsaw", to more delicate and crescendo compositions like "Emerald Lies", "She Chameleon", "Incubus" or "Fugazi", this album is full of life and offers the listener an extremely diverse listening experience.
The following year saw the release of their magnum opus "Misplaced Childhood", nevertheless "Fugazi" is by no means a transitional work. It's an excellent product of its time and remains one of the top quality progressive rock albums to be created in the '80s.