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(an overall view)
1992 - "Solitary Witness"
1993 - "Infinity Parade"
1995 - "The Vision Pit"
1998 - "The Science of Coincidence"
Prologue. Although this British band was formed in the beginning of the 90's, all of the four instrumentalists have begun their musical careers long before their union came to be under the flag of Landmarq. By that time each of them - Steve Leigh, Steve Gee (a brother of Peter Gee?), Uwe D'Rose and Dave Wagstaffe - has already had a wide professional experience, and exactly thanks to the latter (IMO) their later child Landmarq has become their real hour of success in many meanings - a stable, on the whole, line-up, a stable, on the whole, quality of albums, a stable, on the whole, commercial success, a stable, on the whole, positive attitude from the direction of musical critics. And finally, they win the hearts of very serious Japanese at the moment. A young vocalist Damian Wilson became the fifth member of the band, and his unique voice sounds on three first Landmarq studio albums.
1992 - "Solitary Witness"
Tracklist: 1. Killing Fields // 2. Forever Young // 3. April First // 4. Foxing the Fox // 5. Terracota Army // 6. Freefall // 7. Tippi Harden // 8. After I Died Somethere // 9. Suite St.Helens // 10. Borders (b/t)
With the irony of fate, Landmarq's debut album, fully completed and prepared to release in 1992, was in reality released only two years later. Unfortunately, I don't know the exact details on why the "Solitary Witness" album, a real "progressive" masterpiece that still remains the most interesting work by the band, wasn't released instantly. But, in my opinion, it appeared two years later thanks to a huge commercial success of "Infinity Parade", originally just the second album by Landmarq. And until now the most precious pearl in their crown-discography is as if in the shadow of the following works.
The last time I listened to this album quite a long time ago, but I still remember I liked all the songs there, with the only exception of the last (short'n'bonus!) track called Borders. Its AOR-like sounding differs from all the album original material quite sharply, especially in comparison with a long preceding track - Suite St.Helens. Thus, all the original material of the "Solitary Witness" albums is a real set of tracks-masterpieces.
Every original composition on "Solitary Witness" is a real holiday of progressive structures. The opening track Killing Fields is like a prototype for the majority of already traditional, typical Landmarq's "progressive" songs in general - with an average-statistical playing time from 4 to 7 minutes. It contains very original, peculiar structures that have become the real hallmarks (or better to say, trumps) of Landmarq's distinctive originality. The features of Landmarq's structures in their "typical songs" are as follows: the lead vocal mainly sounds like somewhat out-of-body from its musical basis, because the same vocal musical basis, reproduced by playing of all the four instrumentalists, is quite a multi-coloured picture in itself. While a slightly hard-edged guitar plays its own themes, keyboards passages sound absolutely differently, and it's useless to look for analogous movements even in the interplays of both these instruments. Bass, as if pulsating, is too a solo instrument rather than some integral detail of the rhythm section, especially as the drummer seems not to be familiar with monotony at all. Thus, all the five musicians sing their songs separately within the framework of any separate composition, and the only Queen and King these proGfessionals "serve" are Harmony and Melody. Of course, on some musical fields of Killing Fields (and all the other Landmarq's songs, including epic tracks: see lower) "graze" only instruments: these are the fields for instrumental arrangements that are always different from those within the vocal musical themes, and often they sound much more softly, even melancholically.
Need to say that there are two more structural twins to Killing Fields on "Solitary Witness" - Foxing the Fox and Terracota Army, though, of course, each of the aforesaid songs, on the whole sounds distinctively different. Interesting picture, isn't it? Yeah, it is possible only in our dual material world, the only place in the Universe with so many contradictions, where some contradictions can unite yet.
The same (original, traditional, typical, etc Landmarq's) structures are also present on all the three epic tracks: Forever Young, Tippi Harden and Suite St.Helen. Unlike the aforesaid examples with regard to "the majority of Landmarq's songs in general", epic songs contain more diverse variations of the vocal themes, as usual they're very different in mood among themselves. Instrumental "fields" are also wider in epic songs, and arrangements more complex on the whole.
There are no purely acoustic instrumentals in Landmarq's creation at all. Both April First and Freefall on "Solitary Witness" are also quite good examples of Landmarq's typical instrumentals on the whole. They are melodic, with a moderate level of complexity. As usual, keyboards (with piano as a soloing instrument) and various guitars play a prominent role in arrangements. Thus, on the example of Landmarq's debut album (masterpiece) we have considered structural systems of Landmarq's basic compositional forms. Then we'll take a look at the quality of the subsequent albums on the basis of what we already know.
1993 - "Infinity Parade" /60 min approx./
Tracklist: Sorry, friends, there is still no tracklist for "Infinity Parade". I have gone through all my old rough notebooks, - didn't find this one yet. Soon I will be surfing the web, though. Probably, I can find it there, and then I will put it here.
For the first sight (listening, that's more correct) "Infinity Parade" is an album of the same quality as its wonderful predecessor. Of course, it is just my opinion, but I find all the other albums by Landmarq not as monolithic as the first one. A tradition to call one of the songs by the title of a previous album Landmarq began on "Infinity Parade", and, as I remember, Solitary Witness is an opening track here, and it sounds OK. I like almost all songs and all instrumentals from this album. But, listening to this album, I found one of the tracks is slightly standing out among all the rest of the compositions with its extremely accessible structures, based mainly on a simple verse-refrain scheme (as you remember, only "Borders" has such a quality in the debut , but then it was just a bonus track). Also I remember very well that most of all I especially loved (love, though) the 16-minute suite and a couple of songs more on this album. These sound like real progressive masterpieces, though all the rest of the compositions are just of a good quality, as from my standpoint (of an experienced prog-lover) they have not so large-scale instrumental arrangements as were on the "Solitary Witness" album. In any case, summing up all the compositional and technical data of "Infinity Parade", having in a numeral their main trump - a stylistical originality, 'my common denominator' will be the next: actually excellent album with a very successful blending of Classic and Neo structures of Symphonic Art Rock.
1995 - "The Vision Pit" /60 min approx./
Tracklist: 1.Cutting Room // 2.Pinewood Avenue // 3.Infinity Parade // 4.Game Over // 5.All Performers Stand Alone // 6. Narovlya // 7. Ten Millions and One // 8. Bed of Nails // 9. Hanblechia // 10. To Do Or Die (b/t)
The album on the whole is of absolute identical quality in comparison to its predecessor. Game Over is the only 'effort' which is a bit poppy. Such tracks as All Performers Stand Alone and the epic one Narovlya (dedicated to the victims of Chernobyl's nuclear tragedy) are simply outstanding in all progressive 'parameters', and all the rest of the tracks are of the same good quality like the majority of tracks on "Infinity Parade". But, rating "The Vision Pit" with the same number of 'stars', I must however add that IMHO this album is looking more 'even' than the previous one thanks to excellent producing. Even the bonus track, keyboards based instrumental To Do Or Die, is really good. So, "The Vision Pit" is another excellent work.
1998 - "Science of Coincidence" /60 min approx./
Tracklist: 1. Science of Coincidence 5:14 // 2. The Vision Pit 12:15 // 3. Heritage 5:43 // 4. Summer Madness 7:43 // 5. Lighthouse 10:57 // 6. Between Sleeping and Dreaming 4:33 // 7. More Flames For the Dancer 6:38 // 8. The Overlook 10:11
Damian Wilson left the band*, and a quite famous within the framework of the genre female singer Tracy Hitchings (ex-Quasar, Strangers On A Train - both are typical Neo bands; she also has a solo album) has joined it. (* In 1997 Damian left Rock music in general - for a theatrical career that develops successfully for him.) "Science of Coincidence" is, IMHO, the most contrasting album of Landmarq's creations. Besides four really outstanding tracks (The Vision Pit, Heritage, Lighthouse, and Between Sleeping and Dreaming) there are also four compositions that are accessible to the limit ('counterpoints'? searchings for some concrete balance? something different?). To be honest, some of the compositions of this work sound not like Landmarq at all, and not only thanks to the guys currently having another vocalist with so distinctivly different vocal data. First of all, of course, this is an opening titletrack, such an optimistic pop song, with typical Marillionesque keyboards passages' accompaniment for singing. I've listened to these sounds with a mixing feeling, and as a result I said to myself: "Thank God, it happened to Steve Leigh (most of all I was always impressed with compositions written by the Landmarq's keyboardist, and I like his original style of playing very much) for the first time, and we'll be hoping, for the last time". Also, both final tracks of the album feature a lot of children's choral singing. And although structures of these tracks consists of both commercial and progressive types of composing, the presence of children's choir makes their overall sound as if not serious. Summer Madness is another track that was made absolutely not in the vein of Landmark we know. Please do not think I have something against innovations. On the contrary, I will always support Good Innovations. But Summer Madness contains some indistinct structures that are quite monotonous. So, I was really enjoying half of this work (including Tracy's singing which is really good in the studio). I can't say I was fully disappointed with the other half - both closing songs with children's choir on the whole sound not bad at least, I can consider this work as something more than just a set of mediocrities. Taking into consideration that I like 4 songs of 8 the album consists of very much, two of the other 4 sound more or less OK... OK I'll give the album the same 4 stars of 6 I have in all.
Summary. I was already telling more than once that Landmarq, thanks to their distinctive originality and a real ability to balance between complex progressive structures and melodism, is one of my favourite contemporary (!) British bands (and I like currently quite a few there, talking of this exact genre). This Overall View is just confirming my own words that I said earlier. The only thing I am afraid of with regard to Landmarq is a danger of stagnation. So, I do wish Landmarq to carry on to make happy with their future music not only some of their abstract fans, but Me personally, too. You may say, there are a bit too many critical notes addressed to Landmarq in the presence of good and excellent marks for all their works... Well, as a partial Landmarq lover I am just trying to help them to believe they are really able to make true progressive masterpieces, but they have their own view on even the terms I use in my reviews - I was not a bit surprised when some of them declared Landmarq is/was not a progressive rock band in general. So, don't listen to them, don't notice too much my criticism, just look at the rating stars and run to buy their albums for your taste, i.e. probably all them.
V.M. June 26, 2000
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