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Mantra Vega - The Illusion
click album cover to visit band website
image Black Sand Records 2016


Heather Findlay
click image to visit band's FaceBook
Heather Findlay (lead vocals)
photo Roger Newport 2015

Heather Findlay
click image to visit Heather's website
Heather Findlay (lead vocals)
photo Roger Newport 2015

 

(24 January 2016) Mantra Vega's first full length album, The Illusion's Reckoning (Black Sand Records (UK), CDBSAND3, 2016) follows the band's July 2015 four-track Island single. Their earlier recording was a very strong starter that introduced the outstanding music that would follow here. The 24-bit 96 kHz version of the four-track single available from BandCamp is utterly amazing and well worth the extra money if your listening equipment supports the format. Three of the four tracks are repeated on the new album.

Frequent visitors to Musical Discoveries are likely familiar with the extensive coverage our editorial staff have given Mostly Autumn and Heather Findlay's solo and related projects in the studio and on stage. Mantra Vega is the next chapter in the chronology, and one that includes contributions from many other artists our visitors will recognize. Read the album booklet for detailed credits.

Mantra Vega is fronted by the stunning vocalist and multi-instrumentalist, Heather Findlay (vocals, percussion, low whistles, acoustic guitar), and co-producer Dave Kerzner (vocals, keys, sound design, acoustic guitar). The album includes contributions from many other UK and European musicians including: Dave Kilminster (lead, rhythm and acoustic guitars); Chris Johnson (lead, rhythm and acoustic guitars), Stu Fletcher (bass); Alex Cromarty (drums); Troy Donockley (vocals and lead guitars); Arjen Lucassen (Ayreon/Star One); Irene Jansen (vocals); Angela Gordon (vocals and recorders); and Remko de Landmeter (bansuri). The band's album launch concert will likely be followed by a UK tour.

The gently delivered -- almost spoken word -- style of the brief "Every Corner" is followed by the album version of "Island," a mid-tempo and lushly arranged rock track, both from the Island single. Those familiar with Heather Findlay are certain to hear the further professional growth of her vocal work here. For those that haven't heard the band, Mantra Vega has some thematic allusions to Mostly Autumn but the instrumentals and female vocal elements are more richly arranged and the contrasting male vocals are significantly better performed primarily by Dave Kerzner. Along this line, "Island" has the familiar verse, chorus, guitar solo, verse, chorus structure. Half the tracks on the album exceed six minutes, but certainly don't run on.

The dramatically more instrumental "Veil of Ghosts" contrasts Heather's lead vocal in a higher key against Troy Donockley's layered vocal parts. Vocal layers build with Angela Gordon and Irene Jansen, building to the song's tremendous guitar-laden instrumental crescendo. Listeners will adore the production of "Lake Sunday," an almost country-styled ballad, Heather's vocals gliding over the crisp rhythm section and lush backing harmonies.

"Mountain Spring" is another track from the band's single that appears on the debut album. We especially appreciated the thicker rhythm section and Hammond-style keyboard part that accompanies the acoustic guitar behind Heather's lead vocal. The acoustic guitar contributes to the light folky and atmospheric texture of "In a Dream." We especially loved the bansuri (bamboo flute) solo and instrumental build towards the song's dramatic and powerful conclusion.

The band's jazzier edge surfaces in the rhythmic "Learning To Be Light" and is even gentler in "I've See Your Star," again featuring Remko de Landmeter on bansuri and Heather behind Heather's sweetly delivered lead vocal. A brief instrumental and vocalise "Island" reprise introduces the stunning title track.

"The Illusion's Reckoning" is indeed the album's standout and an epic almost 10-minute track. Heather's vocal range and power is extremely well produced soaring over both the quiet verse and rich chorus instrumental parts. Backing male and female vocal harmonies are perfectly arranged. We could not get over how well Heather's vocal work was engineered on the album and this song is a testament to the professionals involved. A gorgeous bonus "acoustic" version of "Mountain Spring" concludes the album. In this case acoustic means more recorder parts, the powerful conclusion is certainly a good bit more than acoustic!

Manta Vega's debut album is a tremendous record that is sure to draw significant acclaim from the musician's broad following as well as the Classic Rock Society membership. The album is accompanied by a stunning 16 page booklet with artist photos, lyrics and full credits. Working from a digital download for this review, we are keen to hold the CD in our hands eventually. Our new Classe Sigma-powered speaker line was used in the preparation of this review. Available at many popular online digital and CD storefronts already, The Illusion's Reckoning album is not to be missed!

 
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