Tag Archives: Fish

In Search of Epic Music

The term “musical genius” is tossed about all too often these days . . . but in the case of legendary progressive rock artist Fish, I’ll let it stick. Fish is about to release his first studio album/CD/digital download (pick your preferred terminology) in over 5 years, A Feast of Consequences, and he’s been pushing hard through social media channels to get the word out. Because that’s the world we live in these days.

In doing my part to promote the upcoming release, below is the latest promo video from Fish, including musical samples and artwork. Check it out, then go on below to see what all this has to do with epic music in the modern world.

When Fish got his start with Marillion back in the early ’80s, their music was epic, and his solo work has continued that tradition. What do I mean by epic music? In part, it’s the presence of long songs, songs that are themselves epic, which is a common trait of progressive rock music. The classic example in my mind is the Peter Gabriel–era Genesis song “Supper’s Ready,” which runs in just short of 23 minutes.

But it’s not only long songs. In the Fish catalog, there are certainly several tracks that are epic in length. Every Fish album is itself also about something. It’s not just a collection of songs he happened to write and record at the same time; it’s not so different from someone writing a book or a collection of poetry. He’s working with a story or a theme, and using music as his medium.

Fish "A Feast of Consequences" CD artWhen you listen to a Fish CD, you’ll find images recurring in the lyrics of different songs, musical themes repeated, all building an immersive emotional experience. The music itself helps tell the story. It’s music that feeds the brain as well as gets the feet tapping. Fish doesn’t just write songs; he writes albums. And they’re epic.

To some degree, this epicness is another trait of progressive rock in general because these are bands that release “concept albums,” albums built around a story or theme. But not all concepts are epic, nor is all progressive rock for that matter. So I’ve been in search of more music that seems to me to fit the requirements for epic, with limited success. Are there new bands or artists that rise to the level of epic? Recommendations welcome.

The good news, of course, is that Fish has a new release forthcoming, and I’m pretty sure it will be epic. I keep thinking of a much earlier Fish lyric from the Marillion days:

Where are the prophets, where are the visionaries,
Where are the poets, to breach the dawn of the sentimental mercenary?

Although I don’t think this is what Fish meant when he wrote that (from 1984’s “Fugazi”), to me this a cry for the true musical artists to appear and cut through the sentimental treacle that clogs the airwaves.

Of course, Fish was epic from the beginning. I’ll leave you with a Marillion live performance of “Grendel” from 1983. It’s literary, theatrical, and dramatic: Epic. And it’s got a killer ending, just before the 18-minute mark.

Follow B. K. Winstead on Twitter at @bkwins