SRB002_6PanelDigipak.inddIf I were tasked to imagine what a typical instrumental progressive rock album led by a guitar virtuoso sounded like, I’d probably envision exactly the music that Steve Rothery and co. prepared for his first real solo album. Created with the help of fans through crowdfunding and riding on a wave of ideas cultivated for the better part of 30 years, The Ghosts of Pripyat once again shows just what kind of a creative mastermind and a driving force behind Marillion Steve Rothery actually was.

Again, let’s not shy away from the obvious: this record ticks all the usual boxes where (instrumental) progressive rock is concerned. Ambient, slow, moody parts driven with gentle guitars and atmospheric keyboard sounds? Check. Lush guitar solos borrowing licks from blues? Check. Heavier segments that serve as counterpoint to mellower introductions? Check. Progressive rock in itself is not really all that progressive. But to equate the formulaic nature of this music with it being “bad,” well, that would be a terrible mistake. There’s a lot to be appreciated here. Like the overall allure of the opening “Morpheus,” the catchy melodies such as those found on “Kendris,” or the heavy prog tingles that emerge during the latter half of “White Pass.” The songwriting is always tight, the solos never overstay their welcome, and the general atmosphere is pleasing and inviting; the musical equivalent of meditation. And while there are obvious Marillion references here, there’s no overreliance or obsession with that heritage. No, this record stands on its own.

It’s hard to pick standouts since all seven tracks are similarly composed. They are all rather lengthy, with the shortest being the title track clocking in at five and a half minutes, and they all follow a quiet part – rockish part pattern. The tunes tend to alternate between soothing, ambient sections during the opening minutes and heavier, Led Zeppelin inspired codas filled with lots of crunchy riffs. Nonetheless, the flow of the music feels effortless and natural, not at all forced or uninspired. You can pick any of the numbers and get a good feeling of what the album stands for. Still, a slight nod must be given to the epic “The Old Man of the Sea” with contributions from guests Steve Hackett (longtime Genesis guitarist) and Steven Wilson (leader and guitarist of Porcupine Tree). It’s a really cool song in which the transition between delicate and rough parts is performed most elegantly. The only downsides worth mentioning, besides the obvious “if you don’t like prog rock, you won’t like this,” is that some song segments tend to meander a bit too long and there’s not much variety between songs. These are hardly deal-breakers, to be clear, and many similar bands suffer from the same issues.

Steve Rothery - The Ghosts of Pripyat 02

The musicianship is, expectedly, top-notch. Rothery’s virtuosity needs no special introduction, while Yatim Halimi on bass, Leon Parr on drums, Dave Foster on guitar, and Riccardo Romano on keyboards and acoustic guitar all perform their roles admirably without ever overindulging in the much maligned progressive noodling and exhibitionism. It’s a rare case where the musicians stay out of the way of the music completely. Guest appearances by the aforementioned Steve Hackett and Steven Wilson are welcome but not indispensable. When everything else works out, progressive rock albums are sometimes destroyed by awful production that drowns out the playing, but this time around everything is A-ok. Perhaps not as organic and appealing as Opeth’s Pale Communion, it still suits the music just fine.

Not a masterpiece, not a disappointment, just a straightforward and unpretentious prog rock release. A record that will be appreciated by any fan of Marillion or progressive rock laced with a nostalgic, retro note. It might even soothe the poor souls who expected a lot from Pink Floyd’s recently necromanced record. Everyone else, give this a try if you’re looking for some late night, relaxing stuff. If you dig what you hear, checking out Marillion would be wise as well.


Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 10 | Format Reviewed: 192 kbps mp3
Label: InsideOut Music
Websites: SteveRotheryOfficial | Facebook.com/SteveRotheryOfficial
Release Dates: Out Worldwide: 02.02.2015

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  • Feytalist

    this ticks all my boxes as well.

    Love the album name and cover, and the music is pretty damn slick as well.

  • Kryopsis

    I definitely agree with you on the whole thing being a collection of disparate ideas borrowed liberally from artists old and new but the execution is very good. I particularly appreciate how the band strays from Dream Theater wankery.

    • Roquentin

      That’s just the thing, I don’t mind a “traditional” prog rock album as long as the songwriting is not lazy and the focus is not fixated on pure virtuosity. I keep coming back to this record, it’s really pleasant to listen to.

      As far as DT is concerned, I don’t rate Mike Portnoy much, but I think he was right when he tried to put Dream Theater into hybernation. Their show that I attended last year was one of the most boring, bland live performances I’ve witnessed.

    • spheric666

      thankfully, there’s a whole lot of artists who don’t imitate DT. Rothery here was around before DT were even a thing.

      • Kryopsis

        I know I mentioned it by name but I didn’t mean Dream Theater specifically. It’s just that a lot of Progressive Rock/Metal bands focus on individual skill of the members as opposed to flow and cohesion. You pretty much end up with a direction-less sequence of solos. Even established bands like Rush are guilty of it. Basically I’m all about Pink Floyd, which is why I really enjoy the album presented here.

        By the way thanks, I wasn’t actually aware that Steve Rothery’s career went that far back.

  • This sounds really good, I like it. I hope people take the score and the commentary well. It sounds like a good record to me, and I know that “3/5” is apparently “crap” in the rest of the reviewing world.

    This is the kind of record that might well sneak up on you at the end of the year when you realize that you’ve listened to it 40 times in the last 10 months.

    • Roquentin

      It is a good record, indeed. Worth checking out.

      And I agree, “3/5” is a positive score on AMG, as I see it, and a negative on most other sites. Score inflation sucks.

  • spheric666

    “necromanced record”. LOL. Also, true.

  • brutal_sushi

    Im also getting some serious Sound of Contact vibes from this. Plus anything compared to Marillion will peak my interest like crazy.

  • Monsterth Goatom

    Reflective and relaxing music, and thems not dirty words. Conjures up thoughts of Summer.

  • Wilhelm

    This sounds excellent…very floydish. I’m not huge on instrumental albums but maybe this can be an exception.

  • Have been listening to this album for a couple of days. Lovely stuff, ticks the right ambient prog rock boxes for me. The album is available via Steve’s Bandcamp page for a ridiculously reasonable £6, so you’d be rude not to, especially as that includes lossless.

    • Kryopsis

      Definitely a reasonable price. I’m a bit confused why the FLAC version on Bandcamp is 1 GB though.

      • It’s 24-bit 96Khz. Total overkill, once I downloaded it I dithered and resampled it down to 16/41.

  • basenjibrian

    I love old Marillion, so…

  • antitayyip

    chomolokko…:

  • Thatguy

    I’m going to be what my handle implies

    I really agree with Roquentin’s check-list of what constitutes progressive rock – and his conclusion that most of it ain’t ‘progressive’

    Sadly, though, he goes on to praise this album. The embeded track is so bland and so generic. It’s Kenny G with guitars. It’s nice and nicely played…

    Ho-hum

  • Styler

    I fucking love this place man, I get introduced to lots of great new metal that I may never have heard of otherwise but you also get reviews of stuff like like this, Steven Wilson, Nebelung, even orchestral Final Fantasy music! Great job. As a long term Marillion fan I was one of the ‘early adopters’ for this album and it didn’t disappoint.

  • RilesBell

    Thanks for the heads up on this one. Makes for some great late night listening.