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Current concise reviews of the albums by adult alternative, contemporary, and crossover artists. Images of album artwork and links to both internet-based resources are always included. Click on the title to view the article.

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Image © Manga 2007

Manga (Israel)
Image © Manga 2007

Manga (Israel)
Image © Manga 2007

Manga (Israel)
Image © Manga 2007

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(28 December 2007). Formed in 2004, Manga are a rapidly emerging five-member rock band from Israel. Their rocking live performances, online music selection and two well-produced music videos have contributed to growing popularity in-country, primarily with Hebrew-speaking audiences. The band's first track in English "My Secret Truth" was translated from their forthcoming debut album's title track "Vacuum" and was selected for the American release Israel Unleashed (JMG (USA), JMG-18070-2, 2007). Manga are certain to break through and achieve notariety outside their homeland.

The people of Israel are renowned for blending the best of what the world has into their own superb offerings. Manga has certainly done so with their own varied style of modern rock music. They capitalize on the current trend of hard rock arrangements backing stunning female vocal work. Manga say they "mix several genres of rock, such as punk rock, metal grunge and electronic elements, combining what appears to be sometimes, an aggressive playback accompanied by soft melodic vocal line."

Fronted by lead vocalist Yael Akron, Manga's lineup also includes Tal Vaisman (guitars, vocals), Ms Chen Teibloom (bass), Alon Kaplan (keyboards) and Mr Sharon Petrover (drums). The music for Vacuum was written by Tal Vaisman, Yael Akron and Heinrich Zaddler. Tal arranged the music and produced the album. As our review below notes, Yael's voice is wide ranging, crystalline, and obviously well-trained; she has the sheer power to soar without layering additional vocals above the band's guitar-based rock arrangements. Yael's stunning vocal talent can be compared to Leah Pinnavaia of Buffalo, NY's Cosmic Stepping Stones.

Our review copy of Manga's forthcoming debut album Vacuum has twelve well-produced and varied rock tracks including both the Hebrew and English versions of the album's title track. Yael told us, "Vacuum in Hebrew is also used to describe a void--mental and spiritual, as well as chemical-physical." The title track "Vacuum" is an album standout and one that--although Manga have gone a solid step above and beyond both vocally and instrumentally--will draw obvious and very favorable comparisons to Evanescence.

The Hebrew track names and lyrical content in eleven of the tracks should not deter open-minded enthusiasts. One only has to remember that Lacuna Coil gained significant ground with Cristina Scabbia singing in Italian initially and still do so part time today. Tarja Turunen sang Nightwish's initial material in Suomi (Finnish) and just released a new album in her native tongue. Adiemus sold millions of albums with lyrics in a phonetic non-language that long-time enthusiasts sing along with to this very day.

Manga's lead singer, Yael Akron, told us, "We are considering translating some more tracks to English and wonder what, out of our material, might create interest among American labels or in the American market. As we fail to be objective here, we are really curious to hear opinions about our music." Manga have provided four streaming tracks that are either from the forthcoming album or are earlier versions of the album's tracks at their MySpace. Three tracks are available at the band's own website.

In comparison to the earlier version of "Hasipur" (The Almost Ending Story) available online, the rhythm section in the choruses on the album were re-worked and the original trumpet solo was "brutally" omitted from the final version. Yael told us, "we were afraid after a year's work it [the MySpace version] no longer reflected the band's sound. Tough call." Although different, the final version of "Hasipur" is certainly another album standout. The chorus has an incredible hook. See the music video at MySpace and YouTube.

"Hae'r" (The Awake) is the rousing radio-friendly vocally-rich opening rocker on our review copy of the album and another standout. The extremely well-produced music video illustrates Manga's dynamic high-energy onstage performance and can be viewed online at MySpace and YouTube.

Manga also matured the guitar-laden torch ballad "Ulay Hapaam" (Maybe This Time) in a new arrangement for the album. Called "an experimental adventure when we just started out" by the band's singer, Yael's crystalline vocals soar above the instrumental accompaniment in the album version. The acoustic ballad "Hamasach Hak'chalchal" (The Blue Screen) is a lovely song. Vocal harmonies, additional guitars and keyboard washes add texture beneath Yael's stunning lead as intensity builds in the song's concluding third. The band's acoustic and lighter passages permit the players' individual talents to delicately emerge and contrast significantly from the band's full-on sound offerred in many of the others.

Lovely vocal harmonies and accentuating guitar passages grace crisply delivered lead vocals on the gentle radio friendly rock song, "Eizo Tmimut" (What Innocence). We especially appreciated Yael's vocalise in the song's mid-section. Crystal clear lead vocals in the verses adjoin with rich instrumental arrangements and thick harmonies in the choruses of "Harozenet" (The Countess). "Ha'ar She'over" (A Light That Passes) is a second, but more rhythmic, installment of this very memorable style. Tal's guitar solo in the song's midsection echoing the melody is outstanding.

In "Rakevet Shedim" (A Ghost Ride), Manga's unique arrangement of middle eastern strings, heavy metal guitar, Yael's lead vocal and Tal's vocal harmony works especially well. The dramatic contrasts between the song's passages are especially well produced. Listen for the closing sound effect.

Tal sings lead on the band's punkier sounding track "Im Ein Lach Z'man" (If You Can't Spare The Time). Yael adds vocal harmonies in the background and in one brief solo. Accompanied by rhythmic guitar and especially crisp percussion, he also sings lead in the rock ballad "Lo Rotzeh" (I Don't Want To; as in the way three-year olds do, while shrugging their shoulders). Yael's harmonies, bold keyboard washes and rocking guitars and a dramatic tempo change two thirds of the way through add to the excitement of the number. In additon to those tracks fronted by Yael, these two songs continue to illustrate Manga's artistic virtuousity both as individual players and as a coherent group.

As 2007 comes to a close, Manga is in discussion with several labels about the release of Vacuum. In the meantime, visitors can sample the band's treasures online worldwide. See the band perform on stage in Tel Aviv. We hope that 2008 brings this band the additional notariety they deserve.

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