Mantra’s Laniakea is one of my stand out albums of 2016, seeing how the band put out a record that is not only wonderfully written and played, but perfectly mastered, too. It absorbs the listener, taking them on a psychedelic journey through heavy progressive rock/metal, finally dropping you off with endless grooves and rhythms spinning through your mind, leaving you with one question: ‘Why haven’t I listened to Mantra before?’
On this album, Mantra‘s sound is very unique. They’ve managed to blend a variety of influences from across the metal spectrum into their playing, all whilst still holding onto their integrity and not sounding like another ‘djeneric’ prog metal band. Their style, incorporating heavy, doomy chugs, quick spasmatic drum changes and dreamy sequences, suggests that they’ve drawn influence from bands like Tool or fellow countrymen Gojira. Mantra also occasionally wander off into the more psychedelic side of metal. Trippy interludes, pan flutes straight from Led Zepplin and tantric chanting all make an appearance and are embedded brilliantly within the songs to create an overwhelming spectrum of sound.
Laniakea is a very easy album to get into, with the initial introduction track “Dust” leading into a thundering, doomy song called “Marcasite”. The song beats down on you for 8 minutes flat, showcasing what the band is capable of at their most destructive. As the album moves onwards, the songs become less heavy, more randomised and more proggy, and the final few tracks sound more akin to a metal Pink Floyd than the very same band you were listening to 5 tracks ago.
This diversity between the extremes of Mantra are showcased perfectly in the 6th track of the album, “Visions”. The song crescendoes over and over; a big booming chorus with a great hook to it moves into groove laden riffs mixed with the doom that is so ever-present throughout Laniakea. “Visions” showcases the direction the band were going in with the concept of the album, which tells a story based on prehistoric shamanism.
Acoustic guitars are thrown into the mix during and after “Visions”, lulling the listener into a sense of false security, before raining down with crashing guitars again. The bass work during the whole album has to get a special mention too, since the tuning and technique displayed by Thomas absolutely stand out on here. It’s, again, heavily distorted; one might even put the tuning on an equal level with Vildhjarta’s song “Dimman”. It consistently makes an appearance atop the guitars, adding that little extra dimension to Mantra’s sound, which is only supported further by the precise and rhythmic drumming by Gabriel.
The album’s title track – which is absolutely fantastic, for those of you wondering – almost leaves you wondering whether the album has concluded, before it tears right back in with unlevied sonic intrusion. After building up and up to a certain high point, Simon on guitars kicks in a heavy distortion pedal, leading the album to a satisfying conclusion in a style not all that dissimilar to Mono. It’s truly satisfying, something that many concept albums struggle to nail, but in Mantra’s case, it comes off flawlessly.
Overall, this album is unbelievably worth a listen. The production and mastering of the album is sublime – right down to the fact that Pierre’s raspy, powerful vocals aren’t over-featured on the record. Instead, they are blending into the cacophony of noise. Laniakea stands at nearly an hour long and it’s such a joyous, crushing journey to embark on. T For me, this record is just below a 10 because let’s face it, nothing can be perfect, but I am really looking forward to not only hearing what Mantra put out next, but also seeing them tour live in Europe. Give the album a listen and head over to their Bandcamp to check out their previous EP Into the Light too.
Notable tracks: ‘Visions’, ‘Marcasite’, ‘Pareidolia’
FFO: Tool, Soen, Mono, Pink Floyd, Mastodon, Gojira
Follow Mantra on the following platforms and purchase Laniakea from their Bandcamp: