Wow itís been seven long years since the last Lands End album. Since then they recorded under the moniker of Transcience which was a more melodic/ ambient version of Lands End. Just when I thought Lands End was over, I get news of their new album, a double no less. This was great news, since for the past almost 10 years, Iíve formed a friendship with two members of the band (Fred Hunter and Mark Lavallee). Iíve seen them on and off over the past seven years in various prog events, so the news of a new Lands End album was possibly the best news Iíve heard from them in a long time. Mind you I didnít mind their music as Transcience but I knew them better as Lands End and the lesser known Ceramic.
The new Lands End album is called The Lower Depths and as before mentioned, it is a double album. In my own opinion, this is the pinnacle of what Lands End is all about. The music is more structured than in past albums thus showcasing the beginnings of a new era for the band. Part of the new era comes change with this being the last Lands End to feature Jeff McFarland. The new album also can be considered a transition from the older Lands End style shown on Behind The Iron Gates and Hope Springs Eternal to the newer explored style with a nice acoustic ballad Believe In What, which is closer to their Ceramic album.
Joining the newer sound is Pineapple Thiefís Bruce Soord on the McFarland penned Why Should I. This gives the band a twist, substituting the symphonic atmosphere a little, for something bordering more on the poppier side of prog. The other addition is vocalist Cathy Alexander (of British Folk-prog group The Morrigan). She provides the first vocals heard on The Lower Depths, Digital Signatures and sheís also heard on the 24 minute epic A New World Order, which combined their old and new sounds. These songs alone are worth the price of admission. That;ís not knocking the rest of the album, just Cathyís vocals brings a new dimension to the music of Lands End. I hope itís a continuing collaboration for future Lands End recordings.
Now we come to the second disc, Plundering The Depths, which is mostly extra material that reminds me of their older material. The highlight for me is the 53 Minute epic song Acquiesce To The Martinetís Precept. (I read that their label, Cyclops, persuaded the band to ditch six of the numbers for Acquiesce To The Martinetís Precept, so I suspect those song will show up soon). Incidently the source for the song can be found on a previous release called An Older Land called Dross, which is already 25 minutes long.
Being a longtime fan of the band, I will say that Iíve enjoyed both discs ,but I prefer the music on the first much better, thus will get much more spins. in any of my players. The second disc, to me at least, is somewhat of a gift from the band for itís seven year hiatus and would only appeal to those such fans. Itís really not a good representation as the first disc. Honestly, (in my opinion) it should have been made available in an enhanced/ mp3 version just the way the last Transcience album was presented.
The Lower Depths will now appeal to a wider audience, thanks in part to the addition of vocals by Bruce and Cathy. Fans of these guesting artists as well as Mostly Autumn, Karnataka (thanks to Cathyís presence, as well as modern melodic symphonic progressive rock will be very happy with this, very recommended release for 2005. It's high on my ďmust haveĒ list for 2005. So what are you waiting for? Go get it now!
Reviewed by Ron Fuchs on September 27th, 2005