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Marathon (Holland) - 1994 The First Run

ARTIST: Marathon
ALBUM: The First Run
LABEL: Stemra
SERIAL: 499120/5/01
YEAR: 1994


LINEUP: Ronald Ten Bos - all guitars * Tony Ten Wolde - keyboards * Erik Ten Bos lead and backing vocals * Jacques Suurmond - bass * Willem Van der Horst - drums, percussion

TRACK LISTING: 01 Beyond The Veil * 02 Man In The Mirror * 03 The Seventh Dimension * 04 Medicine Man * 05 I'll Be There * 06 Open Field * 07 Voices * 08 Patterns Of The Landscape * 09 Red Ride * 10 A Wall

During the early 90's, there was a tremendous amount of activity going on in the Dutch and German progressive rock scene. Readers of the long since departed fanzine Boulevard will recall a very big article undertaken on the scene, with a profile on a number of bands, plus the label which was underpinning most of them - Si Music. Bands like Cyan, Timelock, For Absent Friends, Shadowland, Landmarq, Everon, Wings Of Steel and Blyndsyde were all there or thereabouts, as were the band in this review Marathon. There were a number of bands with this name doing the rounds, but I think this bunch were the best of them. With a sound similar to Saga, fellow Dutchmen First Avenue and Germans 2 Hot4U, Marathon toggle the fence between progressive rock and melodic hard rock. You can be guaranteed that there a ton of keyboards and great vocals.

The Songs
Despite my mention of prog and hard rock which mostly prevail throughout this disc, other styles pop up too. On the very rare occasion, the band venture down the symphonic rock path, plus they operate in a very lean digital space similar to 80's era Rush. Marathon draws all these components together to create a very rich, complex and interesting soundscape.

'Beyond The Veil' is a very good first impression of the band, and gives us a good indicator for the rest of the album.

'Man In The Mirror' starts out with a introspective symphonic backdrop, before bursting forth with synth splashes and Ian Crichton like riffs. Simply a great tune! I wonder what the Saga fans think of this little beauty?

Taking a more subdued approach is 'The Seventh Dimension', which drifts mainly on a mid-tempo layer of keyboards.

I love the tribal intro for 'Medicine Man', before settling into a sharp guitar riffs accompanied by some spicy synth parts. The outtro featuring a voice clip of a tribal Shaman is an interesting twist to the track.

'I'll Be There' sounds more like a hard rock tune, in the vein of Magnum and First Avenue, probably due to the harder and faster rhythm section which rocks out more than most.

The proggiest track here is the ethereal sounding 'Open Field', with acoustic elements pairing up nicely with subtle keyboards and floating vocals.

Beyond the chitter-chatter opening of 'Voices', this track brings back reminders of Saga at their best, the pulsing bass lines and familiar Crichton/Gilmour/Sadler/Negus styled arrangements all add up to eight minutes of excellence.

'Patterns Of The Landscape' features a very space-prog intro and glides along for the most part at a slower tempo. Again, Saga is the reference point here. You can tell just how much Tony Ten Wolde is into Korg synthesizers, as a couple of classic M1 patches including the legendary Universe patch can be heard here.

'Red Ride' keeps to the progressive path. The track itself is built on a big Genesis like keyboard layers and fiery guitars out of Ian Crichton's handbook on guitar-playing.

The closer 'A Wall' again features a Saga like guitar progression and pumping bass lines. The track is a harder effort and while keys are thereabouts, they sit slightly lower in the mix.

In Summary
A very good band who released two more albums ('Norm' in 1996 and 'Live' in 1998), but broke up in the late 90's. Certainly there is a lot to like about 'The First Run', and for Saga fans in particular, you should be breaking down doors to get to this disc. At nearly 70 minutes running time, there's a lot of music to be had with all of the tracks well over the five minute mark. While you are it, it would pay to investigate some of the other bands mentioned earlier in this review, and who knows, we may get to some of those for review purposes as well.

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#1 | trillion1999 on October 25 2011 14:40:18
Almost everything mentioned in this review I bought for thousands of dollars during my mention Saga psychosis-days.This one I kept together with TimelockGrinawn and Landmarq:The Visionary Pit.Most of those albums were for me ones were I only managed to remember one track or some part of it.I listened to every single album many times but I only kept those three.However the song Hold On from Dawn is a song I have come to love.

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