Mantra, a London based trio formed in 2016, are latest in the queue of alternative rockers. This year marks the release of their debut album Dreamland, out now via Dine Alone Records, which was recorded with producer Tom Dalgety (Royal Blood, Ghost, The Pixies) to intensify their explosive sonic prowess.
The seeds of Mantra were first planted when singer/guitarist Simon Stark found himself in the midst of an existential crisis during his studies at university and realised “Music was the only thing that actually meant something to me.” Regrouping with bassist Richard Leeds and drummer Rob Emms, West London’s Mantra have mesmerised listeners with spellbinding melodies propelled by powerhouse riffs and thundering drums. Signing to Dine Alone Records (Alexisonfire, Jimmy Eat World, Dashboard Confessional) for their I Want EP in 2017, Mantra’s infectious alternative rock has earned support from BBC Radio 1, BBC Introducing, and Amazing Radio. Alongside this the band have performed with Jane’s Addiction, Radkey and Little Matador (which features Snow Patrol guitarist Nathan Connolly) and have appeared at festivals including SXSW, Reading & Leeds and 2000trees.
Dreamland‘s recording began after Mantra’s performance at Download Festival caught the attention of Dalgety, who teamed up with the trio for a highly collaborative series of sessions at Rockfield Studios. Drawing on the grand UK tradition of orchestral alt-rock from Radiohead to Blur or The Verve, its songs are bolstered by Stark’s string arrangements in the song New Friends, shivering viola in Too Little Too Late and even flickers of flute played by his sister in the track Skinned Alive.
Packed front to back with hook-laden hits, Dreamland’s standouts include the fuzzy, Queens of the Stone Age-sized stomp of I Want with a sumptuous guitar tone, to the Weezer-style power-pop melancholy of Cola Brat, a good mix of acoustic strings and piano; and the beat-driven Annexe drawing equal inspiration from ’80s video game soundtracks and The Strokes. Dalgety’s previous work with The Pixies adds to their potent cocktail of “loud-quiet-loud” crescendos, illuminating the moody introspection at the core of Mantra’s sound on Russian Roulette, with Stark’s urgent plead to “save me from myself.” The album culminates with their barnstorming cover of James Blake’s Retrograde, re-modelled into riff-driven reverie with the song’s guitar chords plucked from memory, while deftly walking a tight rope between darkness and light.
Dreamland oscillates between fast-paced pop-punk and swagger-filled songs; however throughout the album we’ve felt a sense of paranoia scattered. Lyrically, it seems as though somebody is being apologetic to another, but then begins to suggest that it is a lesson of one hating oneself and not wanting to experience it anymore. Simple poetic lyrics with a clean rhyming scheme, matched with a driven pace of instruments with melody covers it all quite well, making the songs feel more in depth. The feeling of the songs are quite similar, overall creating an atmospheric moodiness in the air.
Standout Tracks: Skinned Alive, Too Little Too Late, I Want, Retrograde
For Fans Of: Radiohead, Blue, Queens of the Stone Age, Weezer
Written by: Khushboo Malhotra