Landmarq/Synergy Records [Release date 16.06.14]
Landmarq were at the vanguard of ‘neo-prog’ back in the 1990s and whilst they’ve made consistently good albums they’ve always remained on the periphery. This anthology is an excellent introduction to the band and spans the years when Damian Wilson held centre stage (1991-1995) and the latest iteration with Tracy Hitchings (1998-to date).
Wilson of course went on to join Threshold (a band with whom they shared studios) and there are similarities in that both bands appeal to a wider European market whilst remaining more of a cult interest in their homeland.
No doubt, the band’s mid-noughties hiatus didn’t help continuity although by 2012 they were back together making the well-received album ‘Entertaining Angels’ (Well represented here by ‘Turbulence’ and ‘Personal Universe’). Hitchings had also successfully fought two forms of cancer.
For a start, the booklet is well annotated making it clear from which album the tracks are taken. Given that some of the originals are hard to get hold of these days – and expensive – this collection serves as a useful taster, even a substitute.
Fans will have their own thoughts about the different vocalists and indeed the different periods of the band’s career. From their debut in 1992, with three tracks from ‘Solitary Witness’, it is very typical of its period and arguably a little dated now and somewhat derivative. ‘Borders’ sound like a Jon Anderson outtake.
From 1993′s ‘Infinity Parade’, the 16-minute ‘Ta Jiang’ pretty much sums up what the band were doing at this time but others were also in the space, not least IQ and Arena.
Wilson’s last album with the band ‘The Vision Pit’ was in 1995 and the tracks here including the lengthy ‘Narovlya’ also reiterate the band’s Marillion-esque tendencies.
Three years later, Tracy Hitchings joined on vocals – one time in eighties progsters Quasar with guitarist Uwe D’Rose (guitar) and Steve Leigh (keys) - and the band’s sound changed, with a harder edge.
On her debut – ‘Science Of Coincidence’ – the ‘Jump’ keyboard pads are all present and correct and the title track lifts a baton that would be carried by bands like Panic Room a decade later.
There are live tracks from ‘Thunderstruck’ (1999) and ‘Aftershock’ (2002, with two remixes) attesting their enduring popularity in Europe and elsewhere.
Bringing the story up to date, fans will be pleased at the inclusion of a brand new track – ‘Origins’ – another 11 minute epic. Hopefully this will lead to a brand new studio album when the band celebrates their 25th anniversary in 2015.
Sadly, time has moved on for inveterate neo-proggers and there are new kids on the block snapping at their bell sleeves (Panic Room, Cloud Atlas, Touchstone…). The new piece shows that Landmarq may still show the younger upstarts a thing or to. The band may appear frozen in time – their website certainly – but as another time capsule, ‘Origins – A Landmarq Anthology’ is a fair and welcome summation . ****
Review by David Randall
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