Science Of Coincidence, the latest studio album of the British neo-progressive rock band Landmarq, was released back in 1998. For me this album was a true masterpiece and therefore expectations ran high when I heard that a new album would come out. However, I had to keep in mind that since 1998 two things had happened with the band. Firstly their excellent keyboard player Steve Leigh quit; initially he was replaced by the Spanish musician Gonzalo Carrera. Together with Carrera they started to write new material, but he left after a while to join the reformed Karnataka. To be honest, I didn't expect that they would find a worthy successor for Leigh, but they did. Mike Varty had already made a name with bands as Shadowland, Janison Edge and Credo. Secondly lead singer Tracy Hitchings was diagnosed with breast cancer a few years ago, but fortunately she recovered completely. Most fans already know how the band sounds with Mike Varty in their ranks and how the new material developed. This could be seen and heard on the band's first DVD Turbulence, Live In Poland (2006).
The new album Entertaining Angels was finally released in the beginning of 2012. Without hesitation I dare to say this album is a great comeback for Landmarq. Once more it contains the finest neo-progressive rock in the best British tradition. Landmarq is as strong as they ever were! The regular album's duration is 72 minutes and holds eight tracks, but there's also a special edition available with an additional 28 minutes of music on a bonus-CD that includes four tracks. Once again you can enjoy lush keyboards alongside fantastic and very tasteful guitar work by Uwe D'Rose, who sometimes sounds like Dave Gilmour. On this album two guest musicians can be heard as well: Hugh McDowell (cello) and Laurent Hunziker (saxophone) adding new flavours to Landmarq's already tasteful music.
Most of the songs on both discs sounded familiar to me, because I recognized them from the DVD, but yet I could enjoy them as if I heard these pieces for the first time. Just as on their previous studio album the band created a fine balance between the simpler sounding tracks and the more complex arranged pieces. The mellower tracks are mainly simpler sounding like Glowing (Part 1: Friends) and Personal Universe, but don't get me wrong. These songs are true progressive rock tunes, but the long epic tracks contain more difficult time signatures and more guitar and keyboard solos, which can be heard on tracks as Turbulence (Paradigm Shift) and Calm Before The Storm. For me the latter is the absolute highlight on the regular album. In a way the song harks back to Science Of Coincidence, for some themes from this album return on this track.
Thunderstruck is the highlight and also the longest track on the second disc, but you have to listen to the short Stormbrewing first, a fine instrumental intro performed by Mike Varty on the piano. On Thunderstruck the musicians deliver outstanding performances on their instruments like amazing synth and guitar solos. The remaining two songs on this bonus disc are of a high level as well. However, I can't understand why they concluded this disc with three hidden tracks containing recordings that were probably taken from the band's rehearsal room. You can hear the musicians play on acoustic guitars while they're talking to each other. I guess they included these tracks to show that a serious progressive rock band sometimes make fun as well.
I guess Entertaining Angels will please not only fans of Landmarq, but all devotees of neo-progressive rock. Maybe this time it's not a masterpiece, but it comes pretty close and the album is worthwhile waiting all those years. Even more if you know that this will be the last studio recording with Dave Wagstaffe on drums!
**** Henri Strik (edited by Peter Willemsen)
Maybe you are also interested in the interview we had with Mike and Steve.
Where to buy?
All Rights Reserved Background Magazine 2013