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Landmarq - Origins

Landmarq - CD Review




CD Info
Synergy Records
2 CDs (18 tracks)
English lyrics


This is not technically a new release, it’s an anthology that covers some 25 years of the bands music. It comes with 2 separate CDs that break the bands activities into two eras: The Tracy years and the Damian years. Historically, the band began with vocalist Damian Wilson who filled that role from 1991 - 1995. He then went on to a career as a singer / songwriter and lead vocalist of Threshold as well as other projects including Rick Wakeman’s English Rock Ensemble, Headspace, Star One and Maiden uniteD. During this period of time, the band put out three complete releases. Of more interest to us on this site is the second vocalist, Tracy Hitchings who filled the role from 1998 up to the present. Not sure how many releases there were with Hitchings but there are tracks from 4 releases on this anthology. In addition to this material, the band has included a new track “Origins” written and recorded especially for this release.

Kind of hard to talk about this much music, material that has been released over such a vast period of time. Personally, I have limited familiarity with the band although I am familiar with a few tracks over the years. But, these are fine English musicians; you don’t keep pushing out well received material for a quarter century if you don’t have some talent. After 25 years, most metal musicians have moved on to careers as producers, hair dressers, brick layers or arms dealers and can’t remember where they left their guitars. So a career of this duration puts pretty much anyone but the Rolling Stones to shame. Just staying alive that long takes luck, just ask the Stones.

I’ll talk briefly about the material on the Damian years CD since it doesn’t strictly conform to the interests of this site. But, this is the first stuff I heard from the band, back when I was working in academia and listening to Salsa in Miami with limited access to outside sounds. But, there was an FM station in Ft. Lauderdale that played Landmarq and I got some familiarity with their music during that period of time. The first thing to recognize is that this music was pretty much in keeping with the times back then, especially in England. Damian Wilson had a beautiful voice; you get a dreamy approach to the music, solid musicianship, a lot of keyboard symphonic, at least by the standards of the time. Probably not as sophisticated as today, they hadn’t invented GarageBand for the Mac yet and East / West was still a wet dream of Hollywood music tycoons looking for a way to cut those expensive orchestras out of the loop. So this was prog rock with the symphonic being pounded out note for note by keyboard player Steve Leigh who worked the keys until 2005 when he was replaced by Mike Varty. One might be excused for assuming Varty had access to at least a Mac with the basic software by then.

The first track on this CD is Bed of Nails from the 1995 release The Vision Pit. It was recorded at Abbey Road Studios in London, you might have heard of the place. This one I remember well as it seemed to carry on the tradition of previous English prog rock bands I had enjoyed for many years. Keyboards seem to be a significant part of many of the tracks here. You even get some nice coral work on tracks like Embrace from the 1993 release Infinity Parade. That one was produced in Holland, which may explain the more musically complex nature of the track. Maybe a prelude to Epica, After Forever, Within Temptation and other current Dutch sounds which clearly take aim at this delivery, but with a female vocalist.

Another point to make considers song length. You know, back in the day, prog rockers and like minded bands seemed to continue with that psychedelic hangover from the 60s which said songs that took a couple days to perform were probably not a problem. Drugs will do that for you, I’m still listening to some of those songs for an afternoon before realizing the sun has gone down and it’s 5 o’clock somewhere. Landmarq provides a couple on this disk, maybe the most pure being Narovlya. This one pretty much covers the musical landscape, I can assume stoners everywhere took long side trips to Nirvana listening to it. I’m relatively certain I spoke to some of them. I do remember this one as well, couldn’t have told you what it was about at the time but it was a terribly nice way to pass the evening. Today, with a less addled brain, I’m amazed to find that the story is actually interesting. I don’t have the lyrics but Wilson is pretty easy to understand and the story is an interesting one. Who knew?

Well, let’s focus the rest of this article on the lady vox, the lovely Ms. Hitchings. A lot of this is live material from various locations. And, you can pretty much tell that time has passed. The compositions are different, the keyboard material generally more sophisticated. But, Hitchings is a solid vocal and she can handle a number of musical styles. The CD begins with After I Died Somewhere from the 2002 release Aftershock which was recorded live during a 2000 - 2001 live tour in the UK, Holland, Italy, France, USA and Mexico. It begins as a limited vocal over piano and sure demonstrates the creds of the vocalist. But, towards the end the boys demonstrate some solid metal you didn’t always hear on the Damian material. Prog metal had clearly evolved during the time. Given the title, you might expect a Gothic approach but I don’t think that was the intent. Course, we all have our individual definitions for the term Gothic.

You really see the evolution of the sound on tracks like Personal Universe from the 2012 release Entertaining Angels. This is a studio production and we get some really sophisticated sound, especially from the symphonic components. Hitchings uses a variety of approaches to her delivery and this one is different from most of the others. It’s a contemporary sound, something that would be comfortable for anyone listening to music on this site. Much the same can be said for the track Turbulence (Paradigm Shift) from the same release. Here the sounds are clearly decades ahead of what we got with the Damian years. Even the guitar work takes a different direction. But, it’s the background material that demonstrates that time has much to do with musical style. Again, this is a long one, nearly 13 minutes so the stoners are still covered, toke on.

At the risk of being identified with my hedonistic, marginally legal past, it must be said that some of the best stuff here is the live material that sure would have been appreciated in the Haight in San Francisco during the enlightened days of the late 70s. Tailspin (Let Go the Line) comes from the 1999 release Thunderstruck which was recorded live in Europe during 98 - 99. You can almost smell the smoke in the air. Or maybe it’s just me. Either way this is music that sure takes me back, and it takes me back to the best of those eras. And, I guess that’s the intent.

Well, one final mention. Origins is the track recorded specifically for this release. Again, not a short one, some 11 minutes of solid prog metal. But, with this one we hear the latest evolution of the Landmarq sound and it’s damn sure fine. I recently covered Pamela Moore in concert and there is some similarity with the vocal style of Hitchings and Moore, which, trust me, is a good thing. But this music is a little different in some respects. It’s thoroughly contemporary, but with enough of the 90s sound to make it a little different. Keyboard sounds almost take us back to the 80s while the guitars are doing things the electronics back then probably couldn’t do. But, in the final analysis, it’s a beautiful, interesting vox backed by solid, seasoned musicians who have sure ‘nuff learned how to make first rate prog metal music. After 25 years, lets hope so.

I suspect this may be a sound that is more recognizable to Europeans, especially Britts. But, if my hazy mind can remember some of it, it must have made an impact on the Western Hemisphere as well. Anyway you look at it, this is great material. In addition to the extraordinary music, you get a trip down memory lane that will touch a lot of buttons. And, of course, for stoners, wherever you are, this is pure Nirvana. But, anyone with an interest in prog metal will also be entertained. You don’t get 25 years of solid music in one package everyday. Enjoy it when you can.