This week I’ve been listening to “The Illusion’s Reckoning”, the debut release from a new project named Mantra Vega. The band was put together by former Mostly Autumn singer Heather Findlay and keyboardist Dave Kerzner from Sound Of Contact.
Since Findlay left Mostly Autumn back in 2010 she has released an EP titled “The Phoenix Suite” in 2011, a live album with guitarist Chris Johnson in 2012 and an acoustic album of reworked songs called “Songs From The Old Kitchen” later that same year. I have to confess to not being over keen on “The Phoenix Suite”, which was quite a departure from her work with the excellent Mostly Autumn, much preferring the latter acoustic recording.
Since then things have been pretty quiet until the single “Island” was issued in the summer of 2015 as a taster for the then-upcoming album. The song is rather reminiscent of “Rumours”-era Fleetwood Mac, which is no bad thing!
Given her background with Mostly Autumn, with Findlay joining forces with Kerzner from progressive rock band Sound Of Contact you might have expected Mantra Vega to be full-on progressive rock too. Certainly the comparisons with Findlay’s earlier work are there, the epic sweep of “Veil Of Ghosts” or “Lake Sunday” being two examples, but the sonic palette is perhaps a little broader in terms of style than her old band.
Joining the pair on the album are drummer Alex Cromarty (Mostly Autumn), bassist Stuart Fletcher (Halo Blind), the aforementioned guitarist Johnson (Mostly Autumn, Halo Blind) – all three of whom are also members of the Heather Findlay Band – and guitarist Dave Kilminster (Steven Wilson).
In addition the album boasts contributions from various guests including multi-instrumentalists Angela Gordon (Mostly Autumn) and Troy Donockley (Nightwish) amongst others.
According to the band’s website the record is “a concept album which flows more like a film score than a more typically linear piece. The album’s journey is painted with far-reaching audio moodscapes, which in their diversity, purposely echo thoughtful lyrical themes. The album is delivered in a predominantly crossover-progressive rock package, but at times takes on a hard rock, contemporary, retro, and even acoustic, folksy twist…”. Well, the first part sounds suitably grandiose for a progressive rock outfit for sure, but the description of the actual music is pretty bang on, I’d say.
My favourite tracks here are the dreamy “Island”, “Veil Of Ghosts”, the Led Zeppelin-like “Mountain Spring”, “I’ve Seen Your Star” and the near-ten-minute “The Illusion’s Reckoning” which features a guitar solo from Arjen Lucassen.
Findlay and Kerzner have come up with some great material here. I’m not familiar with the latter’s previous work, but the keyboards are great throughout the album. There are, naturally, plenty of echoes of the fabulous work that Findlay – who sings beautifully here – has produced in the past within these tracks.
At times musically soothing, sometimes harder edged, this is a great melodic progressive rock album, well worth investigating…
“The Illusion’s Reckoning” tracklist:
1. Every Corner / 2. Island / 3. Veil Of Ghosts / 4. Lake Sunday / 5. Mountain Spring / 6. In A Dream / 7. Learning To Be Light / 8. I’ve Seen Your Star / 9. Island (Reprise) / 10. The Illusion’s Reckoning / 11. Mountain Spring (acoustic version)