mantraMantra talk about pushing their tribal and mystical experimentations further than on their debut album “Into the Light” (2013). I agree that there’s a very interesting ambience here. The drum patter of “Marcasite” is bright and breezy, before the track pushes off into a dark progressive sphere. It’s not clear where we’re heading, which makes it all the more intriguing, but it seems to be a harsh place. That tribal drum re-appears on “Inner Cycle”. The vocals are weird. At times they have a resemblance to Entombed with a throat problem. If we’re looking for a style, it’s kind of grungy with a sort of post metal doom about it, but with colourful technical patterns. Those vocals take some getting used to, but this the world of the abnormal. Hang on a minute while I stop for a momentary headbang. Imagination flies everywhere and the band has control of it even if I haven’t got a clue what’s going on. Time for a colourful solo. It matches the chunky rhythm well. There’s nothing colourful about “Pareidolia”. It’s grey and crawly, and deliberately not pleasant. I looked at the lyrics sheet for a clue, and it seems to be about someone having hallucinations. Then again it might not. There’s then a nice interlude featuring that apparently trademark pitter-patter. A mystical chant confronts us, accompanied by the distinctive drumming, which I have to say is a highlight of this most unusual of works. I’d say we’re taken off the straight and narrow but we’re never on the straight and narrow. “Visions in the Cave” plays with the mind as it sounds like a song, and a very good one, but with a strong backbone and harsh and sinister twists. I like it. This told me that Mantra have clearly got good control of their songs.

There another twist as “Abred” starts with lush acoustics, but abnormal service is resumed as deep and thumping heaviness cuts in. Out of the harshness come several interesting technical vibes, and a rough-edged emotional section, which didn’t work for me. To finish there a sinister classical piano piece before the rains and the storms come in. “Abred” is a strange piece. “In the Wake of the Millions” on the other hand has a strong affinity to Pink Floyd with its dreamy progression. It’s nice but strange in a different way as it lacks the personal touches, which have distinguished the previous tracks. The title track has similar properties but heads into harsher territory and is rather drab. The energy and intensity level are stepped for the thirteen minute “Dead Sun”. It’s raucous and rampant. In fact it’s like raucous Opeth. Mid-stream, it slows down and there’s a fluty section, which threatens a long and gradual rise into epic territory. I wasn’t sure where this was going, and the answer seemed to be nowhere as the track stops with four minutes remaining. I patiently listened. A drum beat started three minutes later but just seemed to waste time. I had no expectation but couldn’t see the point.

I found “Laniakea” challenging, as I think most people would, much of it in a good way. The final track just suggested something incomplete to me. To their credit however, this quartet from France have pushed out boundaries and created something unusual and most definitely experimental from recognisable genres.

(6/10 Andrew Doherty)