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Landmarq - Solitary Witness CD (album) cover

SOLITARY WITNESS

Landmarq

 

Neo-Prog

3.32 | 60 ratings

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SouthSideoftheSky
Special Collaborator
Symphonic Team
4 stars This album deserves much more than a solitary witness!

First released in the early 90's, this debut album by Landmarq is now rather hard to find (at least for a reasonable price). But let us hope that it will be reissued again so that those who have been fortunate to witness it will be less solitary. This is something of a hidden gem of modern progressive music.

With (some?) lyrics by the great Clive Nolan (who played keyboards for Pendragon and later founded the fantastic Arena) and production by Nolan together with Karl Groom (at the time working together with Nolan in Shadowland and later founded Prog Metal band Threshold), Solitary Witness is a strong set of songs with great sound and drama. While firmly rooted in the Neo-Prog family, Landmarq (judging from this album alone as this is so far the only one I have heard from them) has a sound of their own with strong elements also from classic Symphonic Prog. In particular I am often reminded of Camel and the solo work of Steve Hackett. Unlike many Neo-Prog albums this does not have the sound of the 80's, but also not a 90's or 70's sound. Of the "big" Neo-Prog bands, Landmarq perhaps comes closest to Arena and IQ, but not that close.

The vocals here are by Damian Wilson who has one of my favourite voices. Wilson has more recently worked with Rick Wakeman to great effect. Wilson would later follow Groom into Threshold and record two strong albums with them in Wounded Land and Extinct Instinct. With perhaps some minor similarities, the sound of Landmarq is, naturally, quite different from that of Threshold. There are some harder edged sounds here, but Solitary Witness is not at all heavy.

The other musicians involved here were previously unknown to me but they are surely very talented. The lead guitar in particular has a great sound and strongly evokes Andy Latimer and Steve Hackett with its clean and floating sound. Beautiful! The keyboards are often piano which gives this music a classic Symphonic sound. But there are also more modern keyboard sounds common in Neo-Progressive Rock. The bass guitar is often distinctive and not timid. The drums have a somewhat "artificial" sound that was common in late 80's/early 90's. But it does not diminish the overall very appealing instrumental attack.

The mood is often dark but also lighter, almost joyous moods are present on some songs. I like this balance. There is also a great balance between instrumental and vocal material, and between slower and more intense tempos. All in all it creates a varied and appealing set.

The songs are well written and the album opens with the very good Killing Fields. The first vocals on the album when Wilson whispers aggressively (sounds like a contradiction in terms but it is not) "someone - out there" it strongly evokes Arena (but remember this was released before Arena existed). This is one of my favourites here. Songs like Forever Young and the closer Borders are much less dark and more polite and perhaps more typical Neo- Prog songs that are more in line with the sound of Shadowland and Pendragon. Good, but not my favourites here even if Borders rounds off the album very well.

April First and Freefall are instrumentals that function as great interludes. These feature primarily classical piano and lead guitar. The first of these could easily have come from a Mike Oldfield album and the other has guitar work that strongly evokes Camel.

The weirdly titled Foxing The Fox and Tippi Hedren are more in line with Killing Fields again with some Arena-like drama. Terracotta Army has something of an Asian (the place not the band!) sound to it and is a great number propelled by a beat and some harder edged riffing. Again, the vocals are outstanding. The piano ballad After I Died Somewhere also reminds me a bit of Arena with its dramatic and moving vocal performance. Finally, the atmospheric, 10 minute Suite St. Helens is, in a way, a summary of the album and features, again, excellent lead guitar work.

Overall, this is a very good and well composed album that is varied and flows very well from beginning till end.

Highly recommended!

SouthSideoftheSky | 4/5 |

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