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Mantra Vega - The Illusion's Reckoning CD (album) cover

THE ILLUSION'S RECKONING

Mantra Vega

 

Crossover Prog

3.91 | 106 ratings

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Aussie-Byrd-Brother
Special Collaborator
Rock Progressivo Italiano Team
5 stars It's all well and good to jump up and down with excitement at the prospects of the likes of Jon Anderson and Roine Stolt, i.e progressive music icons of a higher status and popularity, teaming up for a new project, but to a great many listeners of a wider (and lesser known) range of progressive music, other partnerships can hold even just as many thrills. Case in point is the new collaboration Mantra Vega that boasts singer Heather Findlay and multi-instrumentalist David Kerzner, with Dave Kilminster, Chris Johnson, Stu Fletcher and other notable guests from a diverse range of projects such as Sound of Contact, Mostly Autumn, Ayreon/Star One, Odin Dragonfly, Halo Blind and Steven Wilson/Roger Waters' touring groups, and their debut album `The Illusion's Reckoning' is one of the most sumptuous and highly melodic rock albums that fuses reigned-in prog arrangements with exquisite male and female vocal melodies, sublime harmonies and strong-songwriting.

After a striking pristine piano and spoken word introduction, `Island' is a classy mid-tempo soft rocker that delicately calls to mind the pop era of Fleetwood Mac (not a slight in any way!) with both Dave Kerzner and Heather offering a smooth lead vocal and delivering a silken wistful chorus. `Veil Of Ghosts' climbs in tension with a pleading and intensely heavy chorus weaving around seductive piano, sleek synth rises and droning guitar strains with a wilder dangerous finale where Dave Kilminster really lets rip, and `Lake Sunday' is a dreamy acoustic ballad with lovely sighing harmonies and a gentle ambient caress to close on. `Mountain Spring' is a tough folk piece (yes, that CAN be a thing!) laced with lightly bluesy flavours, with wistful recorder and spirited acoustic guitars strumming stridently alongside symphonic Mellotron reaches, perhaps making it the closest the disc comes to Heather's previous band Mostly Autumn.

`In A Dream' is an elegant ballad with sweeping orchestral-like synths and a powerfully embracing and uplifting finale, `Learning To Be Light' an infectious and sophisticated introspective soft pop-rocker with great bluesy guitar soloing from Chris Johnson, and `I've Seen Your Star' an exotic haunting ballad with the prettiest vocal. After an interlude reprise of the earlier `Island', the album is closed with the almost ten-minute title track, and `The Illusion's Reckoning' is the grandest moment of the disc, a masterclass example of slow-build drama and refinement. Carried by Heather's luxurious voice, it's also full of soaring group backing harmonies, whirling synth soloing and an epic guitar solo from guest Arjen Lucassen in the climax that truly takes flight that will leave captivated listeners craving more.

`The Illusion's Reckoning' may not be some full-blown progressive-rock tour de force, but instead it places just as much emphasis on pin-point sharp song-writing and glorious vocal performances as it does lavish instrumentation. It makes for a sublime background listen or simply an undemanding yet richly performed and intelligent rock work, and is especially a winning showcase for Ms Findlay. If there was any justice in the current music world, the group would be rewarded with a proper crossover success here, such is the appeal `The Illusion's Reckoning' could potentially hold to even non-progressive rock audiences, for those that simply prize intelligent rock song-craft but have little or no interest in `proggy' showboating and drawn out soloing (as much as that's what a lot of us are here for!). Hopefully Heather, Dave and the rest of the musicians won't simply look on Mantra Vega as a fill-in stop-gap group between the `day jobs' of their own projects, because this debut is completely inspired and the band absolutely deserves to be made a priority again in the near future.

Karnataka, Magenta, Mostly Autumn, Touchstone - take note! Mantra Vega have instantly raised the bar for top-quality female fronted prog-related acts, and `The Illusion's Reckoning' is an essential purchase for melodic prog/rock fans!

Four and a half stars.

Aussie-Byrd-Brother | 5/5 |

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