Formed in 1997, Mandala split nine years later without releasing an album. Now reunited, they’ve finally managed a debut, choosing their favourites from the old material and recording most tracks live, in Norway and London, utilising their rediscovered chemistry.
It’s a bit rich to call this “18 years in the making”, but they’ve been around long enough to move from comparisons to Jeff Buckley and Radiohead to whatever zeitgeisty comparisons I make today. The thing is, with their 70s-fuelled heavy rock tropes boasting just the merest dash of prog and an Eastern folk influence, they sound like nothing so much as The Mission’s Zeppelin-referencing Tower Of Strength. Vocalist Rhys Marsh has the gothic tones of that era, and on the leaden riffery of There’s A Wind That Blows, he’s prone to a gale-swept heroic croon. The Dark Waltz reveals a more ambitious outfit, with bassist Francis Booth and drummer Will Spurling deftly playing off against the Tindersticks-like strings. The title cut offers Zen meditations, while Ghizou has a heftier, Rush-related rigour. Midnight Twilight is solid and sturdy, but for all the sweat and bustle, there’s a curious absence of individuality.