In the nineties Marathon was unmistakably one of the best Dutch prog rock bands, often compared to bands like Saga, Marillion and Rush. Their albums The First Run (1994) and Norm (1996) are highlights of the Dutch prog rock scene. Their last physical evidence was the live album Marathon Live (1996) recorded as a farewell album for their fans. Personally I never understood why they decided to split up in two different bands. La Villa continued the progressive rock style and e-Norm would perform the more radio-friendly music. At the time I was very disappointed that it turned out this way. After seeing e-Norm as a support for Galleon I noticed that they no longer performed the music I liked so much. However, after witnessing the band − in the meantime renamed to ENorm − three times, playing the music of Marathon plus some new material, I got interested again. In a way the new songs stuck to my mind and I began to love them.
While listening to those new songs on the latest ENorm album I really felt good. Finding My Way is the band's third CD and in my opinion their best effort by far. The album was produced in the UK at the Shamrock Studio and mastered at Alchemy Mastering. That's probably the reason why it sounds so good. The album contains thirteen songs which could be separated into two different styles: the happier and up-tempo tunes like Teacher, Happy & Alive, Impossible Love, Famous and Brown Sugar, and the strong ballad-like tracks as My Son, Zoe, Dad and My Friend which are in addition the highlights on the album since they bring out the best of the musicians. Especially lead singer Eric ten Bos shows a lot of emotions on those pieces. His voice is just as strong as in the nineties when he started Marathon. It's still a pleasure to listen to him singing.
His brother Ronald ten Bos shows that he's not just a rocker, but also a dedicated guitarist who's able to play melodic and very emotional parts. Some of the mellower pieces like Horizon and High Above The Ground have a tendency towards the music of a band like U2, which they didn't think highly of at the time they started their musical career with Marathon. After all those years, however, they realize that U2 have to be taken seriously as well. In a way these songs also reminded me of the mellower and emotional songs performed by Marillion with Steve Hogarth. I'm quite sure that Marillion fans will appreciate these tracks as well.
It's not only the music which makes the band shine throughout the album. Also the lyrics about daily life subjects will be recognized by the listeners. Subjects like the carefree days of a childhood, playing football in the streets, and falling in love with a school teacher, but also contemplative songs about the resemblance between a father and son, the confusing feelings of an impossible love, the death of a young girl and the emptiness she left behind, the suicide of a friend wondering if he or anyone else could have made a difference. However, the message after listening to these songs is simple: every cloud has a silver lining. Through the songs on Finding My Way the band want to encourage and persuade the listener that there's no use in losing yourself in sadness as life has so much more to offer.
I can only be positive about Finding My Way, despite the fact that some of the songs are just mainstream rock. The musicianship on the album is outstanding and the songs are so well-performed that I highly appreciate this album. Maybe good music isn't just about Moogs, Mellotrons and Hammonds after all... I want to make a final remark about the artwork. If you're familiar with the artwork of the many Rush albums it's hard to deny that there's a resemblance. Maybe it shows their true progressive rock roots after all.
*** Henri Strik (edited by Peter Willemsen)
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