Landmarq - Solitary Witness

Year of Release: 1992
Label: SI Music
Catalog Number: SImply 14
Format: CD
Total Time: 59:33:00

I've had this CD for quite a while, probably from not long after it was released. The track that has always stood out for me was "Terracotta Army." Whether it was because I got the reference or because it was the most distinctive track on the album, I don't know, but listening to the whole album again after such a long time, it is still the one that leaps out at me. Now, to say that Solitary Witness sounds a great deal like Arena or Shadowland would be stating the obvious - the man behind some of the lyrics and all the production (with Karl Groom) is none other than Mr. Everywhere himself, Clive Nolan. But of Nolan's projects or projects he's been involved in, this is the one that sounds the most like Marillion (post-Fish mostly), especially during the first two tracks, "Killing Fields," and "Forever Young." In the latter of these two it is Uwe D'Röse's guitar, Steve Leigh's keys, and Damien Wilson's vocals that put this in early-Hogarth-era Marillion. In fact, there is a bit of the guitar solo during "Forever Young" that seems to quote "Kayleigh," if but briefly (though more than once).

It is fairer to say that Landmarq are more solidly in the neo-prog camp here than Wilson's other former gig Threshold, which was more metallic. And yet they are bit harder-edged and darker than on their current output with Tracy Hitchings on vocals (though not because she's on vocals, as she isn't a soft voiced singer - ethereal isn't a word you'd associate there).

"April First" is one of two instrumentals that fit quite nicely in with the other tracks (the other is "Freefall"). Like the spring it is trying to evoke, it is an open and light arrangement, full of sustained guitar notes, sparse percussion, and breathy keys, including warm piano, and quite classical at points (if it's quoting at the end, I can't name the piece).

"Foxing The Fox" is a song about hunting, half told from the fox's point of view - which shows the ugly, truthful side to the hunt, contrasting with the faux civility on the part of the hunters. Stylistically, it reminded me of early Saga. Wilson's delivery matches the running pace the fox is moving at, trying to escape certain death, and the pumping bass only serves to underscore the stride of the crafty fox.

This is, by no means, a complaint. I'm almost certain it was these very "neo-progisms" that lead me to buy the album in the first place, coming out at a time when I was seeking out Marillion singles and such and finding there just weren't enough to satisfy. That meant I had to seek succor in similarly styled bands. And it is through this album that I came to know Nolan, and began seeking out projects that he was involved in. The other thread I followed from this album was Damien Wilson, he of the Robert Plant-like voice and prog metal dynamics (which also means I was easy candidate for other prog metal bands). Listening to it now, with much more careful attention, I'm finding so much more to like about this album. The highlights for me are D'Rose's guitar and Wilson's vocals. Which isn't to suggest the rest of the band are slouches.

But, as you delve deeper into the album, you see that it isn't only Nolan behind it. As most of the music was composed by Leigh, along with Wilson on some tracks, D'Röse on others, and Steve Gee on still others ... or some combination thereof ... you realize that Nolan is only responsible for the lyrics on three, including "Terracotta Army." Gee is, of course, the brother of Pendragon bassist Peter Gee, Nolan's other gig.

"Terracotta Army" refers to the thousands of terracotta soldiers that were uncovered in China in 1990. They were found in the tomb of the fifth emperor of the Han Dynasty, Jingdi (157 to 141 BCE), and are about 24 inches tall. Each has a unique face, perhaps representing actual soldiers ... something which Nolan suggests as well. In the song, Nolan posits that these soldiers are just waiting for their time of return, that when the moment is right, they will come to life again. The ruler, here a king, created these soldiers to continue his rule beyond his own death. The guitar sings in time with Wilson during the verses, and gets crunchy, along with the dark bass and percussion for the chorus.

"Tippi Hedren" begins with the keening of birds, a heavy drum beat, and an energetic guitar phrase - actually, I think this same arrangement was used by Duran Duran on their Rio album. I say this only half joking, as it really does sound like the intro to -- um, well, nevermind. That implies I have way too much knowledge about Duran Duran. When Wilson begins singing, you clearly know that it isn't, um, that other band. I'm not quite sure what this song is about beyond making references to Tippi Hedren (obviously) and her celluloid persona(s). Though in one interpretation, I see the protagonist as a Hedren's stalker, though aware of his own madness. At one point, Nolan makes reference to Psycho, but that was Janet Leigh, of course. Hedren's only Hitchcockian adventure was The Birds. I'm not sure if reference is also being made to another of her better known films, Marmie, where she has a little problem with lying, but that would tie into the lyric "spitting poison at all her men."

"Suite: St Helens" starts out with a keyboard phrase that was later slowed a bit and used on Jadis' Somersault in the track "Batstein." Well, I don't know that it was, but hearing them both one after the other and simultaneously, they sound almost exactly alike. That "almost" is due to the tempo and to the rest of the instrumentation. In "St. Helens," the guitars and drums come in for a second, then fade, return again for a longer bit, fade, return, fade, return for several times while the same keyboard phrase is repeated - all this for a 1:15. "Batstein" dives right into the guitar and percussion without fades. "St Helens" is broken into four sections, and concerns at points Mt. St. Helens, a volcano in Washington State, which erupted in May 1980. But this is used as an example of both of the vagaries of nature and of how we are destroying our own planet. The latter theme is the more prominent of the two.

The album closes with the bright and hopeful "Borders" "Better find some common ground/A place to stand/Better make a truce somehow/Believe me!" Wilson sings on this Nolan penned track. With current events today - and I don't just mean this year, but this week! - this message of this song is still true - meaning not much has changed in 8 years. The need to find peaceful solutions to our differences or to just realize that our differences aren't worth killing or dying for is still prevalent.

Oh, unless it has been reissued, this album was released on the old, defunkt, SI label (as well as by Zero Corporation/ Toshiba-EMI Ltd in Japan).

September 2002: it has, of course, been reissued now, and you can read a review by Bobo.

Killing Fields (4:51) / Forever Young (8:51) / April First (4:53) / Terracotta Army (6:35) / Freefall (3:32) / Tippi Hedren (7:40) / After I Died Somewhere (3:32) / Suite: St. Helens (9:40) / Borders (5:00)

Steve Leigh - keyboards
Uwe D'R?se - guitars
Steve Gee - basses
David Wagstaffe - drums
Damien Wilson - vocals
Ian Salmon - guitar (6)

Solitary Witness (1992/2002)
Infinity Parade (1993/2002)
The Vision Pit (1995)
Science Of Coincidence (1998)
Thunderstruck (1999)
Aftershock (2002)
Turbulence - Live In Poland (2009)
Entertaining Angels (2012)
Origins - A Landmarq Anthology (2014)
RoadSkill - Live In The Netherlands (CD/DVD) (2015)

Turbulence - Live In Poland (DVD) (2006)

Genre: Progressive Rock

Origin UK

Added: October 1st 2000
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Artist website:
Hits: 1396
Language: english


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