“It would seem that nothing inspires Fish to write some of his best material quite like personal demons; and so it is with 13th Star” (Pettengill). “Recorded during his darkest periods of his life” (Amazon.com) in which “the ex-Marillion front man…went through a rather public breakup with fiancé Heather Findlay” (Pettengill), the album is “filled with anger, bitterness and regret but also suffused with moments of tenderness in remembering happier times; the big guy opens his heart like he hasn’t done in a very long time” (Pettengill).
It is also interesting to note the openness to fan opinion in putting the album together. “The album was penned during a lengthy European tour summer to Winter 2007 in which he played most of these songs live followed by a podcast each night asking fans for a rection to them” (Amazon.com).
“13th Star is very neatly split between rockers and ballads. The heavier songs contain Fish’s most muscular arrangements since Sunsets on Empire while the ballads are among the very best he’s ever written. Crunchy guitar riffs, sequenced keyboards and spacey interludes are sprinkled into pieces like Square Go and opener Circle Line. ‘Square Go’ recalls ‘The Perception of Johnny Punter’ in its menace and simple but heavy groove” (Pettengill).
“Manchmal, a song of betrayal, is probably the heaviest cut on the album and calls to mind recent Porcupine Tree. The lyrics are particularly clever here as Fish tells the metaphorical tale of a turtle and a scorpion agreeing to cross a riverbank together before the scorpion stings the turtle just as the pair reach the other side. To make his meaning clear, Fish breaks through the metaphor with: ‘I can sense you’re going to leave me, I know you’ll break the deal, I’ll drown in my sorrows and I’ll drink at your shrine’” (Pettengill).
“Openwater continues the bitterness with a bluesy infectious heavy rocker that’s almost uplifting…unless you're paying attention to the desperate lyrics. Dark Star is an imposing moody piece of self-recrimination that builds and builds to an awesome Middle Eastern tinged finish” (Pettengill).
“The ballads, likewise, do not disappoint. Miles de Besos is a soft jazzy piece that tells of a torrid brief love affair in Chile. Where in the World speaks most directly of his recent split with Heather Findlay: ‘This time last year I was in love, this time last year there was a dream.’ The hauntingly vivid Zoe 25 tells of a pair of tragic figures” (Pettengill).
“For many listeners, the true highlight among the ballads will be Arc of a Curve. In a different world, this would yield Fish a mainstream hit: wonderful lyrics, a beautiful musical arrangement and also a catchy enough chorus for top forty radio” (Pettengill).
“The somber title track is equally impressive. As Fish contemplates following the 13th Star, he becomes so emotional that one can hear the singer choke up at one point” (Pettengill).
“The key to the success of the album is that Fish has aligned himself with a strong writing partner in Steve Vantsis. Vantsis has been Fish’s bass player for 10 years and it’s amazing to think that prior to 13th Star, Vantsis had never written a song with Fish. Calum Malcolm’s production is likewise superb and he manages to get the best vocal performance that Fish has given in years” (Pettengill).
“This is, above all, a songwriters’ album…[and] one of [Fish’s] major accomplishments” (Pettengill). “Far and away Fish’s best album in a decade” (Pettengill).