Mandalaband IV: 'AD – Sangreal': Album Reviews
Reviews of AD – Sangreal
Please find the reviews of the album listed below.
Excellent! - possibly their best!
Mandalaband's fourth album, their second in a few years after decades of inactivity, is possibly also their strongest. This is a group of musicians, under the guardianship of project leader David Rohl, that seems perfectly content making music in the studio for their dedicated followers. This album transmits a musical confidence that is rarely heard: it's difficult to explain in words, but there is an ease, a "joyousness" about the music that is extremely pleasing.
Mandalaband, of course, play music that falls under the banner of "progressive rock", but it is not the sort with complicated time signatures and songs that go on for ages. Here, the emphasis is firmly on melody and beauty of arrangement. Keyboards are often layered, often adding symphonic effects, there are sensitive extended guitar melodies, and other instruments such as Troy Donockley's collection of celtic whistles and uilleann pipes add wonderful texture.
As before, the album has a concept. The "Sangreal" is the cup in which, according to the Romano-Spanish legend told in these songs, Joseph of Arimathea collected Jesus's blood on Calvary hill.
You can choose to focus on the story or not, depending on your personal taste, but you will surely want to focus on the beautiful music, which to my ears is the strongest and most consistent of any of the Mandalaband albums. If you have ever enjoyed any of them, then "Sangreal" will delight you, as it will new music fans who enjoy beautiful melodies in tasteful arrangements.
The album's final track is a "bonus track" included in honour of Barclay James Harvest's Woolly Wolstenholme - one of the contributing musicians to Mandalaband over the years and who still managed to do play mellotron recording for some of these tracks - who died in December 2010. It's a sumptuous rendition of the classic BJH song "Galadriel".
An excellent album - enjoy!
David A. Saunders
The best yet
A stunning release and better than BC Ancestors although it is impossible to have anything as moving as the song 'Root's sung by Woolly on the last album. This is a more cohensive album full of charm, brilliant musicianship, glorious melodies and humable songs. The mood of the album is reflected through Gregorian chants, atmospheric orchestrations and the use of the wonderful hammered dulcimer. With this and BC Ancestors you really feel that David Rohl could and should turn this into a stage show much like Clive Nolan has done with his 'She' musical project. In fact, if you listen to songs like Magdalena, The Kingdom of Aragon and Al-Andalus you get an immediate impression of these being performed in a theatre setting.
If you like Alan Parsons Project style of symphonic rock music then do not hestitate to buy this gem. The album has a bonus song of Woolly Wolstenholme singing one Barclay James Harvest's classic songs 'Galadriel' and knowing that he has now left this earth you cannot help but shed a tear to this beautiful and haunting song.
The sad thing is that so many people will miss out on hearing this album simply as the pop and rock market in the UK is so myopic and we lack a radio station that can be heard by the masses in order that many others get the chance to hear what beautiful and heartfelt music sounds like and how this album is a perfect example of this.
Joseph Shingler, www.prognaut.com
Rohl's newest incarnation ... Mandalaband IV ... and the release of his most impressive work to date 'AD Sangreal', a true masterpiece, and one of the best concept albums that I've heard in a long time. 'AD – Sangreal' tells the story of the Romano-Spanish legend of the Holy Grail - the cup used by Jesus Christ to celebrate the Eucharist at the Last Supper on the night before his Crucifixion - and the ensuing journey of this holy relic through the ages where it passes from the hands of royalty, noblemen, clergy, the Knights Templar and eventually finding a permanent home in the city of Valencia where it remains today, in a chapel within the cathedral.
Musically the album is strong from beginning to end; a sweeping powerful epic without a shred of filler, extended fretboard gymnastics or endless keyboard noodling. The material is a melodic blend of Celtic and middle eastern motifs with all the power and passion befitting the monumental sojourn of this sacred artifact.
The album is very reminiscent of the ambitious concept albums Jabberwocky or The Hound of the Baskervilles from Clive Noland and Oliver Wakeman, as well as the collective work of The Alan Parson Project. The musical compositions, orchestration, performances, and production is flawless, as one might expect from Producer/Engineer Rohl who has engineered projects for artists like Marc Boland, Thin Lizzy, Barclay James Harvest, Sad Cafe, Maddy Prior, Tim Hart and Roy Hill.
It's a sad but true statement of fact that about 85% of the CDs that pass through my hands for review are listened to two or three times before writing my final review, then seldom if ever get another spin on the CD player. But every once in a while a bona fide gem makes its way into my hands for review that becomes a part of my regular rotation ... and 'AD – Sangreal' has become a fast favorite of not only myself - but my wife as well - making it one of the most listened to albums in the Shingler household.
As a sad footnote to this marvellous album it marks the unexpected passing of keyboardist, singer, composer, and orchestrator Woolly Wolstenholme who passed away on December 13th 2010. Rohl dedicated the album to the memory of his collaborator and good friend.
Whilst BC focused on the pre-Christian era of ancient Egypt, Israel and Mesopotamia, AD takes the first one thousand years of early Christianity as its theme – specifically the legend of the Holy Grail or Sangreal. But this is not the famous Arthurian tale with which we are all familiar. This is the story of the cup of the Last Supper, as handed down to us from within the little-known Romano-Spanish traditions – a small red agate vessel which, over the centuries, journeyed from Jerusalem to Glastonbury, then to Rome, and on to the kingdom of Aragon in Spain, before finally finding its rest in the cathedral of Valencia where the Sangreal remains to this day. All the extraordinary events, heroes and villains involved in that epic journey are revealed in the lyrics of AD – SANGREAL … a story told in majestic ballads, stirring melodies and a complex tapestry of weaving rhythms … a story of emperors, kings, caliphs, warriors, crusaders, knights and saints. Epic in every sense of that word, AD – SANGREAL consists of 14 tracks, many of which are spectacular anthems. In addition there is a very special bonus track, featuring Woolly Wolstenholme (of BJH and Maestoso) as lead vocalist on Mandalaband’s rendition of the classic Barclay James Harvest song ‘Galadriel’. The CD also includes a 32-page booklet and sees the return of Ed Unitsky contributing the beautiful artwork.