On the surface, this is a double-disc Best Of selection from a band who’ve got a near 25-year history (albeit with a long hiatus in there, too).
In that time, the Brits have had two vocalists, and two very distinct sounds.
The imposing and powerful Damian Wilson took the mic from their 1990 inception, and his tenure spanned the first three studio albums, marking the band’s distinctly neo-progressive approach at that time. With the arrival of the one-time Quasar frontwoman Tracy Hitchings, Landmarq actually got a little heavier and more adventurous, and while that change of musical direction wasn’t solely dictated by Hitchings’ vocal style, it clearly played a crucial role.
It might have made chronological sense to catalogue The Damian Years on the first disc, but here this is represented on the second. It’s not that these are inferior in any way, but these recordings do showcase the band at an earlier stage in their development, when they were perhaps a little more in the thrall of Marillion and IQ. You can hear these influences on the three tracks from 1992’s Solitary Witness debut album, and also 1993’s Infinity Parade. However, there was also a distinct stretching of the parameters for the band by the time they reached The Vision Pit – their final album with Wilson – in 1995.
The first CD covers The Tracy Years, taking in the albums Science Of Coincidence, Entertaining Angels and Thunderstruck, this latter being a live release from 1999. The first tracks from Science are captivating. Hitchings’ style immediately suits the music, which has a thoughtful yet muscular groove. Lighthouse is solidly informed by the band’s most valuable attributes. Between Sleeping And Dreaming and Tailspin (Let’s Go The Line) showcase how impressive Landmarq can be in a live context too – there’s a rigour here to complement the more sophisticated elements, ensuring the songs come to life.
The moments from the 2002 Aftershock album reflect Landmarq’s growing ability to express themselves in more expansive terms, while they returned after a decade’s absence with Entertaining Angels in 2012, proving with Turbulence (Paradigm Shift) in particular that the 10-year gap had actually sharpened their creativity. If the new song included here, the title track Origins, is the shape of what’s to come, then Landmarq are about to make a sharp leap.
Both CDs are fine compilations in their own right. Together they do a good job of representing the varied history of Landmarq, and add to the impression that their latter incarnation has been the more productive of the two.
**MALCOLM DOME ** ** **