. issue XX : v .
Italy’s Manthra Dei lay down a classic in more ways than one with their self-titled stoner prog chronicle. Manthra Dei is equal parts lunar rock, runestone and an often unhinged, keyboard soaked love-letter to the 70’s. They themselves say that inside you’ll find “Hawkwind, Causa Sui, Can, Kyuss, Earthless, Black Sabbath, Colour Haze, King Crimson, Motorpsycho, Popol Vuh, Sleep, Goblin, Hypnos69, Jethro Tull, Ozric Tentacles mashed-up, with no criteria, but with horns up against the sky.” Absolutely.
The whole package is infused with a furious proggy 70’s devotion that oozes out of every instrument, especially Paolo T.’s keyboards. There’s Deep Heep wizards lobbing fireballs, liquid soundtrack vibes and plenty of prog freak outs from the heavier end to the more baroque. The rest of Manthra Dei relentlessly keep up; filler free, active and effective drum work are whipped tight with muscular bass that’s agile, careening and hairy. The guitars have an expansive sound that matches the deeper, spacier probes yet stay intimate and near at hand. Lead single “Stone Face” is about the perfect introduction to what’s to come. Easing into a nebulous space rock glide, “Stone Face” eventually erupts into a prog dervish, replete with bell-bottom worthy crunch. “Xolotl” follows a similar template, with a swampy layer of haze over the intro. And like “Stone Face,” “Xolotl” ultimately breaks free, this time into a whole other animal. Vocals come in on “Legendary Lamb” as well as a bowl full of desert sand and swagger, whipping up a groovy bluster not that far removed from Brant Bjork and comrades. Paulo T. gets the spotlight on “Urjammer,” a solo organ outing that’s part soundtrack and doom laden prog hymnal. “Urjammer” oozes and encroaches with a mad scientist’s determination. Determination is what “Blue Phantom” is all about; 17+ minutes of running multiple paces, stoking embers and infernos while still finding time to whip up whiffs of some exotic traveller setting the sextant for that heart of the sun. Manthra Dei wrap it up by revisiting “Stone Face” with an acoustic reprise that is given enough room to fully become its own entity. Rather than tack on some throw-away ditty at the end of the firestorm that gets relegated to an afterthought, the reworking seems like a genuine attempt at easing you out without putting you to sleep. Or worse yet, negating said firestorm.
Excluding the breath of air Manthra Dei gives at the end, band and album virtually consume all other traces. Manthra Dei is incandescent, incendiary and at the right moments, unhinged. A highly recommended progeny of progsters, astronauts and highway stars.
by Mr. Atavist