Steve Hogarth and Richard Barbieri – “Not the Weapon, But the Hand” (K-SCOPE 2012, 204)

Are you curious how modern balladeering Marillion would sound like if they were gene-spliced with cutting edge prog like Porcupine Tree? Would the result be a poetry laden and technological creative soup along the lines of ‘tronic wave experimental esoteric bands like The Legendary Pink Dots and their ilk? I am afraid the answer echoes and shouts “yes!” “yes!” repeatedly from a ghostly other dimension. Not The Weapon But the Hand is a truly progressive album in the modern sense, it grows on you with its low key approach and many fine details. Hogarth is a fine vocalist when he really gels. Often his work with Marillion is a bit non-descript, but imagine an album somewhere in between his two solo efforts like the rocky-poppy Ice Cream Genius album from 1998 and the laid back mature balladeering of his Natural Selection live album some five years ago. Mature, reflected, subtle and intricately crafted. Richard Barbieri from Porcupine Tree and Japan does instrumentation and it works very well, with all his electronic ambience, guitars, experimental hi tech beats and washes of synths with Hogarth’s voice narrating songcraftingly on top is very comfortable to listen to. A Cat With Seven Souls and Your Beautiful Face are two of the tracks that struck me as very poetic and serious. There are no whimsical or humorous elements about this record, it definitely is “art rock” with all its pretensions, but not an out and out “prog” album. I could compare it to Steven Wilson’s solo outings; to an extent, Peter Hammill’s solo work, The Legendary Pink Dots, and a bit of Hogarth era Marillion. But far better than Marillion with Hogarth on vocals. Hogarth really needs to distinguish his own voice. I feel his Marillion work does not hold up against the Fish era of the band, but now I realise there is no need to compare him with Fish. This is totally different than either, yet would appeal to fans of Porcupine Tree and Steven Wilson very much. Set forth and purchase this if you are a fan of Porcupine Tree, Marillion or serious poetic/muso “art rock” in general. A fine collection that will not date on your record shelf.

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Reviewed by Christian Eric Mumford

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