If any self-respecting Marillion fans could have looked into a crystal ball back in the mid-'80s (at the the band's pinnacle) to see where the band's path was headed, most would likely have been shocked and amazed to see how it all turned out. If the Fish-led incarnation steered the band down an often dramatic path of intricate, ambitious material, Marillion's new boy, Steve Hogarth, slowly beat it out of them -- but not necessarily in a bad way. Released in 1997, This Strange Engine features the Mach II Marillion lineup in all its commercial glory. The longwinded compositions of previous works are all but forgotten, save for "This Strange Engine," the album's sole proggy track, replete with Pink Floyd-style sax solos. Instead, they've been replaced by the quasi-Journey strains of "One Fine Day" and the uber-commercial "80 Days." The latter features perhaps one of the finest Hogarth-led choruses in recent history. As always, This Strange Engine is a production marvel. Ian Mosley's tight drum sounds intertwine effortlessly with Steven Rothery's guitar leads. Not a bad record, but not a great one either. If one word can sum up this release, it would be: ordinary.
AllMusic Review by John Franck