Legend Records

Legend Records > Shop > Mandalaband > Reviews > BC - Ancestors

Mandalaband III: 'BC - Ancestors': Album Reviews

Reviews of the album

Please find the reviews of the album listed below.

For comments from the fans click here.

The Reviews

Dave Rees, Christchurch, UK – for Amazon Marketplace

Epic! (5 Stars)

I took a chance on this after hearing one track – I was not disappointed! The CD is epic in all senses of the word. It traces incidents in ancient mythology from the story of Eden through ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia and Greece. Superb musicianship, haunting melodies and understated vocals make this compelling listening. You get the sense that these musicians are just enjoying the chance to play with other great musicians in a relaxed atmosphere bereft of egos and tensions that would probably be present if this was a full time band. All the musicians are involved in other projects and this depth of experience really shows in the fluidity of the playing and the realisation that together they are part of something special. It's always a joy, for example, to hear Troy Donockley's pipes – they just make your soul take flight!

It is hard to compartmentalise this music: it is rock, it has prog elements but, to be honest, it is just excellent, uplifting music – let's not worry about pigeon-holing it! Just enjoy it! Add to this a degree of lyrical expertise not often seen, as writer David Rohl, an Egyptologist of renown, summarises the stories eloquently in a way that will probably kindle interest in classical mythology, as towering figures like Ramesses are brought to life and allowed to tell their own story to a fresh audience.

Since I bought this it has never been too far away from my CD player – I have also bought other copies for friends and family! No higher recommendation. It is 30 years since their last album, thankfully we will only have to wait a few months for the follow up ‘AD – Sangreal’. I shall be first in line!

Janis Naylor, Plymouth & District Egyptology Society, UK

An album of extracts from stories of historical figures from ancient civilisations – from the very beginning we know this will be an emotional piece and, as track follows track, the heroes and heroines come to life.

The stirring Overture moves us into The Garden of Eden – ‘how are the mighty fallen’ – where humankind found, and lost, Paradise (‘Paridaeza’). We next hear of the building of ‘a great tower’ at the command of Nimrod – the Mighty Hunter. We know the conclusion of this story, which is told in Journey’s End. Moving into Egypt’s great history, we are told of the Shemsu-Har (the ‘Followers of Horus’) but not before a very atmospheric rendering of some verses from the Book of the Dead and the Pyramid Texts – ‘the doors of the Lower Sky are open for you that you may travel by boat to the Sea of Reeds’. The ancient civilisation of Assyria is visited in the track Karum Kanesh – a trading settlement set amongst mountain passes and gateways and situated beneath a towering volcanic peak.

The next destination is Beautiful Babylon where the story is told of its greatness, beauty and eventual demise ‘crumbling into dust before our eyes’, from whence we then hear of the deeds of Moses and the thunder of chariots across the desert. These are the mighty Hyksos – the Anakim – and they are on their way to plunder an Egypt that is not ready for them. Pharaoh Akhenaten features in the track which follows, singing his breath-taking Hymn to the Sun as it ‘heralds the dawn’.

Ozymandias (Ramesses II) – loved or loathed, this ruler of Egypt cannot be ignored, and this track really describes the man behind the name – warrior king, builder, treasure-seeker, egomaniac – call him what you will. With extracts taken from Percy Bysshe Shelley’s poem of the same name, this one is fun to sing along with – once one has triumphed over the pronunciation of names! Another king from biblical history – Solomon – in all his wisdom and married to an Egyptian Princess, welcomes the Queen of Sheba to Jerusalem.

Akhiyawa tells the legend of Troy – the launching of the thousand ships to take Helen from Paris and bring her home, concluding with the success of the ‘Trojan horse’ and leading to The Wine Dark Sea. We then learn of Elissa known to the world as Dido – her love for Aeneas, of course, ending in tragedy when Aeneas abandons her to head for Rome where he will also lose his life in battle (Roots) – ‘the deepest roots that love sinks never dies’.

My thoughts: A simply stunning work. From the very beginning we hear the breath of the lost civilisations reaching out to us. Other (professional) reviews have used the words ‘evocative’, ‘haunting’ and ‘ethereal’. The piece is all of these and more. The music is in turn full of love, tragedy, beauty, and death … but there is a feeling of eternal hope. The closing phrases on the album begin solemnly – the end of an era, a warning that we can, and do, destroy the beauty that surrounds us. A beautifully orchestrated section follows, and then ... the music changes to one of creation, birth of a new world, as a new civilisation is coming.

Jochen Rindfrey, Babyblaue-Seiten.de

At the end of my review for The Eye of Wendor published in 1978, I wrote: "David Rohl is not now musically active, but is entirely devoted to Egyptology." I never dreamed I would have to revise this statement but after three decades David has put together a new line up and brought out a new album: BC - Ancestors. It is again a concept album but unlike The Eye of Wendor, no consistent story is told. Rather, the pieces are connected by a common theme: myths and tales from ancient times - an absolutely prog-compatible theme! The album takes us on a musical journey from the Garden of Eden to Babylon, Egypt and Troy to the arrival of Aeneas on the Italian peninsula, laying the foundations for the Roman civilisation.

The musical style is not dissimilar to The Eye of Wendor and in the first piece there is even a short quotation from Wendor's final piece. It is sumptuously rich, but not overly orchestrated, symphonic rock with occasional outbreaks of more rock. There are wonderfully bombastic points, for example in 'Aten' where the sunrise is celebrated in a grand passage accompanied by a swelling chorus ... There are pieces of sublime calm as in the final piece 'Roots' which deals with the death of Aeneas and the beginning of a new age. Woolly Wolstenholme is the composer of this piece and sings accompanied only by the orchestra, describing the turning point with more reflective tones. Wolstenholme is reminiscent in style of many of his compositions for Barclay James Harvest (for example Sea of Tranquility from the 1977 album Gone To Earth).

Some pieces are neatly sung by David Rohl himself and occasionally he also recites texts in ancient Greek, Latin (from the Aeneid) and Old Egyptian, and sometimes in a slightly alien voice.

The CD comes with a detailed and richly illustrated booklet, where you not only see the related archaeological displays but can also see David Rohl in his Indiana Jones look, when he became well known to a wider audience as the author of popular ancient history books and TV documentaries, and was sometimes referred to as "the real Indiana Jones."

Although this album does not exactly open up a new musical world and there are no avant-garde sounds, for lovers of symphonic rock BC - Ancestors it is completely recommended. Anyone who appreciated the two earlier albums can safely acquire this one - and a fourth album is already on the way: AD - Sangreal!

Tonny Larsen of ProgPlanet

Mandalaband … remember them? Two great symphonic albums "Mandalaband" and "The Eye of Wendor" in the 1970s!! Well now the mastermind composer and musician David Rohl, more than thirty years later, has reinvented that great band with (among others) Troy Donockley (ex-Iona/Nightwish/Mostly Autumn), Ashley Mulford (ex-Mandalaband I & Sad Café), Woolly Wolstenholme (Barclay James Harvest), releasing an album with the title: "BC – Ancestors". This could be the prog/symphonic album of the year!!

Tim Ponting at Classic Rock Presents Prog

David Rohl reunites Woolly Wolstenholme, Kim Turner and Ashley Mulford from the 70s incarnations of Mandalaband with a veritable tour bus full of outside talent for this new release 30 years on, from Barclay James Harvest bassist Craig Fletcher to Caravan's Geoffrey Richardson. I suspect keyboardist Jose Manuel Medina (aka Spanish prog solo artist Last Knight) contributes to the general sophistication of the overall arrangements as he's given a writing credit.

You may be getting the clues: yes, this is proper symphonic prog, kitchen sink and all, that has added pomp and circumstance afforded by a wholesale ransacking of ancient history for themes, lyrics and lots of sleeve photos.

I must admit it's a grower ... Though more in the vein of Eye of Wendor, Ancestors has a maturity, confidence and carefree attitude that shines through. It's lovingly crafted, immaculately executed and polished to within an inch of its life. Pompous, maybe, but musically fulfilling, definitely.

Earl Jason-Jet, Amazon Marketplace

BC - Ancestors is what music is all about; conceptual progressive rock played by consummate musicians. Based around legendary times when heroes walked the earth and great civilisations rose and fell in antique lands, Mandalaband III has created an album of infinite quality, the tracks just flow effortlessly into each other creating a wonderful soundscape. You can tell the band genuinely believes in what they're creating here and giving us, the listener, the pleasure to hear such great music.

Hopefully BC - Ancestors has given Mandalaband III the belief to record further masterpieces in the near future as there is a large audience for this type of timeless music, and fingers crossed we don't have to wait another approx' 30 years for their next album!

Larry Kolota at Kinesis, Maryland, USA

The British progressive rock band Mandalaband released two semi-legendary albums, in 1975 and 1978. In one of the most unlikely comebacks in the prog world, Mandalaband return in 2009 with their third album BC: Ancestors. But after all, the story in their second album ended with the words “to be continued”, so they planned this all along, though Ancestors is not a continuation of The Eye of Wendor story.

Ancestors is a majestic, melodic symphonic rock album that manages to cover 5,000 years of human history in 68-minutes. It is a richly-orchestrated work, adding Celtic and ambient touches to the Mandalaband sound to reflect the ancient-world subject matter. Imagine a combination of Barclay James Harvest, The Moody Blues (both with orchestra), Maestoso, later Camel, Troy Donockley’s own albums, and Clannad (circa Legend). While the lead vocals are mostly male, the male/female backing vocals are very Clannad-like. A follow-up album is in the works. OK, we’ve heard that before -- The Eye of Wendor was supposed to be the first part of a trilogy -- but this time it seems less likely to get derailed.

The Laser’s Edge

WARNING: I am a huge Mandalaband fan so pardon me while I spooge.

Mandalaband was a great melodic symphonic rock band led by keyboardist/composer David Rohl. They made two albums in the ’70s and then dissolved with most of the band forming Sad Café (saw those guys open for UK in 1978!). Thirty years later, David Rohl has put together a new edition of the band featuring old and new members. Back is the great Ashley Mulford on guitar and Woolly Wolstenhome (ex-BJH) on keyboards as well as Troy Donockley on pipes, whistles, keys, etc. Lots of people appear. Like the previous album, “BC – Ancestors” is a conceptual work and the music stays true to form – this is pure unadulterated symphonic rock that is essential for any fan of Barclay James Harvest, The Moody Blues and dare I even mention them ... Camel. Nice recording to boot. One of 2009's surprise releases. Highly recommended.

Progressive Rock & Progressive Metal

Mandalaband: "The Resurrection" – the return of a brilliant and amazing band.

Martin Hudson at Classic Rock Society

If it's music based on a theme that you enjoy, then this will be right up your street. Imagine Barclay James Harvest crossed with the likes of Clannad and you won’t be too far away with the sound. The album came to life atop a Spanish mountain, overlooking the Mediterranean, with the music being based on the ancient lands surrounding that beautiful sea.

The track titles speak mostly for themselves. Names and places will tweak the memory – if you go back to your history lessons. However, obviously, Rohl has taken the history of Egypt many steps further. Each track creates a magical atmosphere in which you could close your eyes and feel the heat of the sun, with dust and sand blowing about in the air. Concept and progressive rock fans will love it.

Geoff Feakes at DPRP (Dutch Progressive Rock Page)

Musically, the melodic semi-orchestrated approach often reminded me of The Moody Blues and Barclay James Harvest, not surprising given that Rohl has previously worked with both bands. In fact the stately Beautiful Babylon sounds very similar to the Moodies tune Melancholy Man from 1970’s Question Of Balance album for which Rohl had a hand in the artwork. BJH keyboardist Woolly Wolstenholme is one of the numerous collaborators here and is credited with two compositions ... Also contributing compositionally and instrumentally is ex-Iona multi-instrumentalist Troy Donockley who adds the lyrical tones of the Uilleann pipes and whistles.

The orchestrations throughout are superb. Also noteworthy is the core band of Ashley Mulford (electric guitars), Craig Fletcher (bass guitars) and Kim Turner (drums, percussion) who do a sterling job. I’ve always been a sucker for fretless bass and Craig’s moody playing in Karum Kanesh and the Celtic flavoured Elissa work a treat. For his part, in addition to his excellent work elsewhere, Troy provides all the instrumentation for the hypnotic The Wine-Dark Sea which recalls his most recent solo album The Madness Of Crowds.

Elsewhere vocalist Marc Atkinson’s confident delivery benefits Beautiful Babylon and the spiritually uplifting Solomon The Wise. Massed choirs and female voices also play their part in Karum Kanesh and the romanticised Aten. Opening with Vangelis style ambient textures, the latter song effectively paints a musical evocation of the rising sun. During Elissa, Rohl duets with Barbara Macanas, whose own lead vocals result in an engaging counterpoint.

This is obviously an album that’s been put together with a great deal of loving care and attention by an impressive line-up ...

Henri Strik at Background Magazine

BC-Ancestors has been released more than thirty years after the second recording of the Mandalaband ... We can designate The Eye of Wendor (1978) as one of the best concept albums of its time.

David gathered together another company of musicians ... to record two brand new Mandalaband-albums ... they had to create the musical spirit of the seventies blended with contemporary influences. The fourteen tracks deal with the magical tales of Eden, Nimrod, Shemsu-Har, Karum Kanesh, Babylon, Anak, Aten, Ozymandias, Solomon, Akhiyawa, Elissa and some more ancestors. On this almost seventy-minute album, they create a perfect soundtrack. From time to time, the music brings you back to ancient Egypt just to undergo the magical moments in history.

The use of Troy Donockley’s pipes and whistles sometimes gives the music a Celtic feeling reminiscent of Clannad and Iona. This album also reminded me of The Alan Parson Project. Some of the songs have a similar kind of melody or the same atmosphere. Even David's lead vocals are very similar to those of the late Eric Woolfson.

The musicians who created this fantastic new album deserve a big compliment, but that also applies to Ed Unitsky for the cover design and David Rohl for the booklet. It’s easy to see they spent a lot of time making it look perfect. Both designs put you in the right mood while listening to BC-Ancestors. I’m already looking forward to volume two of Mr Rohl’s history lessons. Moreover, I’m looking out for live concerts in the near future. You will find me in front of the stage, no doubt about that. Until then, this album will get many spins in my CD-player.

Edited by Peter Willemsen (www.progwalhalla.com)

Phil Woolridge at Ravenheart and Progressiveland

This is the third album by this collective, coming a mere 30 years after their last. In the interim leader David Rohl has become Britain’s leading Egyptologist, and by sheer coincidence, this album is based on the legends of the ancient civilisations of the Middle East. Joining him on his expedition are an intrepid band of explorers, including many that will be familiar to you, Troy Donockley, pipes and whistles, (Karnataka, Mostly Autumn, Nightwish), Woolly Wolstenholme, keys and vocals, (Barclay James Harvest), Marc Atkinson, vocals, (Riversea), Geoffrey Richardson, violin, (Caravan), and Briony and Barbara Macanas on vocals.

If you like The Alan Parsons Project, Moody Blues, Barclay James Harvest, Mike Oldfield, Caamora, Karnataka, and Pendraggon, then you will adore this collection of symphonic rock songs and instrumentals. Highlights are so many I would be here all day describing them, songs like ‘Eden’, ‘Nimrod’, ‘Beautiful Babylon’, the gorgeous anthemic hymn, ‘Aten’, and the moving ‘Elissa’. On ’Sons of Anak’ they sound almost like New Order, but with a lead guitarist, and the Stranglers style ‘Ozymandias’ is about the king who, as Davis Rohl so succinctly puts it, ‘kicked them in the ass’.

Superbly produced by David, excellent 32 page booklet, high quality music, top notch musicianship, this is the complete package and a must in your collection, so don your back pack, grab your trowel, and venture to the land of mandalaband.co.uk and enter their bazaar.

Rating: 9.5/10

James Turner at Albion Magazine Online

Superb vocals, great instrumentation and strong performances make this a fantastic musical journey.

Sven Eriksen at Tarkus Magazine, Norway

Mandalaband has a history dating back to 1975 when the later Egyptologist David Rohl put together the first edition of the group ... Three years later the second album appeared with an entirely new line up based around a core of 10cc and Barclay James Harvest members ... thirty years should pass before Rohl is now back with version 3 of the band. The line up is a mix of former members including guitarist Ashley Mulford from version 1 and Woolly Wolstenholme from version 2. New members include Troy Donockley (Iona), Craig Fletcher (BJH) and Jose Manuel Medina (Last Knight).

We're still talking about solemn symphonic music with heavy orchestration and panoramic synth images ... Now and then it sounds rather like cinema music (wonder if he has heard Bohren & Aserud) ... but as a whole, it is quite a fascinating mix of ethnic and Celtic tone language with added symphonic rock elements ... BC - Ancestors is a delightful, well produced and suitably pompous album that should delight, not least, all BJH fans out there.

Raymond Sérini at Harmonie Magazine, France

Mandalaband has emerged from the void, unexpectedly reborn from the ashes of the first two albums.

Thirty-one years on, Dave Rohl is back and has revived Mandalaband, designing a third opus with four survivors of past episodes. With talented musicians, Mandalaband affirms a marked symphonic turning.

The group creates music in which we often find majestic themes, accompanied by touches of Celtic atmosphere. The orchestrations are complex, deep and often evoke emotions (the superb 'Nimrod' is carried along in a state of grace). There is much variety in the titles offered, the group exploring here and there African rhythms, Celtic or Far Eastern influences. But the melodies are always very subtle and fascinating. If the musical matter remains rooted in the 70s, this album moves away from its predecessors with the new varied colourings brought by the band. Again, Mandalaband has presented a beautifully made album, bringing great listening pleasure, and which will appeal to aficionados of atmospheric vintage symphony.

Dave Rohl has already announced that another album called AD - Sangreal is being recorded and is envisaged for release in the summer of 2010. This time, we will not have not to wait three decades to appreciate a fourth opus.

Bob Partridge, Editor, Ancient Egypt Magazine

David will be well known to many for his books on ancient Egypt, in particular for his questioning of the accepted ancient Egyptian chronology, as well as for his many TV appearances and the popular lectures he has given all over the UK and abroad throughout the past two decades.

David has an extensive knowledge of the ancient world, and of Egypt in particular, which shows in the songs. The 'Egyptian' track 'Shemsu-Har' features words from the Pyramid Texts and the Book of the Dead, impressively incanted by David in ancient Egyptian. 'The Sons of Anak' refers to the Exodus ... Other tracks are 'Aten', with words from the famous Hymn to the Sun and 'Ozymandias', about the accomplishments of Rameses II.

That's the historical information, but what about the music? Well music can be an intensely personal thing and difficult to describe in words ... you have to hear it! Listening to the album, I am reminded, in places, of music by the Moody Blues, Mike Oldfield and the Alan Parson's Project. But BC - Ancestors stands out in its own right and I really enjoyed the CD. I suspect many readers of Ancient Egypt might too, though it is not an album you are likely to come across in the high street shops. BC - Ancestors can be ordered directly from Legend Records via their website.

Nick Gielkens at Mostly Pink

Splendid! 8+ out of 10.

Symphonic orchestration, haunting uilleann pipes and a tasteful guitar riff lead us into the strange and exotic world of David Rohl and his fellow explorers, as the third reincarnation of Mandalaband goes in search of our ancient ancestors.

The first four minutes of the BC – Ancestors overture set the overall sound of the CD – bright, crystal clear production, rich in instrumentation, full of subtle sound effects, smooth keyboards and soaring guitars ... and a nice flashback to the “Eye of Wendor” album from ’78 as the first dramatic chord of the overture is struck. From here prepare yourself to be enthralled by tales of kings, wise men and world changing events from the distant past.

With the next song "Eden" the Music really merits a capital "M" – edgy sounding guitar riffs, nice melodic prog with violins and an acoustic guitar swinging throughout. Two ladies, Barbara & Briony Macanas (mother and daughter) are responsible for the smooth backing vocals. An excellent start to this musical journey through time that writes history like no other has done before.

David takes care of most of the lead vocals. I like his warm, dark voice, which fits in with the content of the stories so well. Another singer is Woolly Wolstenholme ... The third lead singer is Marc Atkinson, who has a very rich and soulful voice. Listen to “Beautiful Babylon” and the catchy “Solomon the Wise”. I love this.

The fourth track “Shemsu-Har”, begins with a voice from the tombs of the pharaohs, deep and dark, with a text out of the Book of the Dead. Together with the orchestral theme that follows, it would become a perfect song for a “Lord of the Rings” movie, or a theme tune you might hear at the entrance to a dangerous roller coaster ride in Disney World. A roaring guitar riff gives the song more credits ...

After this things get much more interesting as the ancient world vibes begin to come through. Slowly but surely you become part of it as the music envelops you in its exotic landscapes. One of the most beautiful pieces is Track 5 “Karum Kanesh” – a majestic theme with, again, great guitar work from Ashley Mulford. The haunting pipes and whistles of Troy Donockley give this melancholy masterpiece some extra atmospheric flourishes.

Several more narrative songs about the ancient world follow, and they all have very clear and rich instrumentation, angelic backing vocals, strings and some truly sublime guitar work from Ashley, with Troy Donockley adding sprinklings of magic pipes and whistles throughout, as well as atmospheric Ebow guitar on “Aten” & “Akhiyawa”. This is a true symphonic work that follows musically and thematically on from previous Mandalaband albums released way back in the 70s.

In the last song “Roots”, we hear from Woolly again, this time reminding me of Sting. Ah this is nice! This could be a song from a BJH album. Other bands which come into my mind, after hearing this classy piece of art, are the Alan Parsons Project (the "Pyramid" and "I Robot" era), the Moody Blues ("Days of Future Passed") and elements of Jeff Wayne.

David Rohl took his time over this resurrection of Mandalaband and gathered some really fine musicians around him to paint a majestic landscape behind the unusual lyrics. I can easily imagine that the music of BC – Ancestors would fit perfectly as an epic film score. You’ll discover, again and again, little twists, melodic hooks, big overarching orchestral themes and pure rock interludes that make this album a real pleasure to listen to.

Keith Domone at the International Barclay James Harvest Club

A little over thirty years ago, the insert of Mandalaband’s concept album, The Eye Of Wendor - Prophecies, stated, ‘To be continued ...’. It's been a long wait, but the third Mandalaband album is finally with us! In truth, BC - Ancestors is not a continuation of the Wendor saga, although it does include a couple of musical nods to its predecessor. Instead its creator, David Rohl, draws on his expertise in Egyptology and ancient history to bring us a new concept album based around the history, myths and legends of the ancient world.

Continuity is provided by the musical contributions of Mandalaband stalwarts Ashley Mulford (Sad Café’s original lead guitarist), keyboardist Woolly Wolstenholme from Barclay James Harvest, Maestoso’s drummer Kim Turner and, of course, Rohl himself, who has written much of the material and takes a more prominent role than before, singing lead vocals on a number of songs to good effect, and playing piano and synths throughout. Other instrumental contributors include Craig Fletcher on bass and Troy Donockley on uilleann pipes and a host of other instruments.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, given Rohl’s involvement with television in the intervening years, the album has a cinematic feel to it. From the opening instrumental overture (which includes a reprise of the final chord from The Eye Of Wendor), the scale is epic, with Troy providing haunting Celtic backdrops, which somehow mesh seamlessly with Egyptian sounds, spoken passages from Virgil, widescreen keyboards, string and brass arrangements by Jose Manuel Medina, and Mulford’s exquisite guitar licks.

Woolly Wolstenholme contributes two songs, the first of which is the newly-written ‘Nimrod (Journey's End)’, featuring guitarist Steve Broomhead and drummer Kim Turner from Woolly’s own band, Maestoso - a dramatic piece which would not have been out of place on one of Maestoso’s CDs.

Singer-songwriter Marc Atkinson does a fine job with the lead vocals on ‘Beautiful Babylon’ and ‘Solomon the Wise’, whilst ‘Elissa’ sees Barbara Macanas duetting beautifully with Rohl on a lovely song co-written by them in collaboration with Kim Turner.

Rohl is not afraid to have a little fun with his grandiose subject matter: ‘Ozymandias’ (the classical name, familiar from Shelley’s poem about Ramesses the Great), finds him with tongue lodged firmly in cheek as he rhymes Ozymandias with “kicks the ass”!

The CD closes in fine style with Wolstenholme’s second contribution – ‘Roots’, – a beautiful song which was originally intended for Barclay James Harvest, and indeed has a distinct feel of Woolly’s compositions for that band in the vein of ‘Moonwater’.

Overall, a very classy album, which improves with repeated exposure. The good news is that we shouldn’t have to wait another thirty years for the next Mandalaband epic, as the companion album, AD – Sangreal, is scheduled for release in the summer of 2010!

Mark 'the Prof' Johnson at Prognaut

Rating: 9/10

Why did they make this album? What was the passion or message that forced them to produce what they have? Or, simply, what was their motivation for the theme they chose for this album? After thirty years this is a great question. But they found an incredible topic, the early history of the world, and wanted to try to capture the sounds of those dynamic and powerful moments of early history.

My interest in reviewing the album came from a friend, Ed Unitsky, the illustrator of the album cover. He suggested it was a very good disc and he was correct!

Track 1: Ancestors – Very cool dark opening to this one and then the keys kick in with all sorts of sound effects. Really sets the mood well. Chanting in the background and then the electric guitar makes its entry to set the pace as drums pick up the rhythm. Keyboards, guitar and orchestration to help build the feeling for this epic journey. A very good instrumental opening complete with piano and effects towards the end. Let the journey begin!

Track 2: Eden – Lush keyboard and synth effects developing the backdrop for the most beautiful place on Earth ever. The music does make you feel like you are there. Wonderful effects of drum and acoustic guitar before we hear our first vocals. “We make our home beyond the sacred tree.” “The bitter waters flowing down into a salty sea.” “Oh Eden, how are the mighty fallen!” The whistles are wonderful, adding the calming effect to this grand re-opening.

Track 3: Nimrod – The majestic opening of this song really forecasts the power which will be felt throughout. Woolly Wolstenholme’s vocals reminded me of Gary Brooker of Procol Harum. In fact, once his vocals kick in, this song sounds so much like a PH song. Wonderful. The drums and the guitars are very “Grand Hotel” era PH and this song would fit very well on that album. The influence is amazing and wonderful for me as a PH fan. The orchestration really adds to the effect and helps make this sound even more majestic during the closing.

Track 4: Shemsu – Har – A dark voice reciting some ancient words, most likely a warning. Tribal guitars, tubular bells, an ancient Middle-Eastern opening, along with a tribal choir in the background. Only three minutes, so it passes quickly, but lush in the amount of sounds you hear.

Track 5: Karum Kanesh – Uillieann pipes and low whistles highlight the beginning of this spectacular song. The guitar and fretless bass parts also add so much variety and presence to the piece. Drums kick in and you are rocking hard as you must be climbing the mountain pictured in the CD booklet. The choir kicks in and you really are taken away to a land of wonder. The effects throughout this album are a wonderful escape from everyday life. The piano and keys are also wonderful and drifting, allowing the listener to dream of a time when we had more available hours to appreciate the Earth and its bounties.

Track 6: Beautiful Babylon – The action and rhythm continue on as we move to Babylon. “In Hammurabi’s Law…with an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” The foundation of codified law. Guitars, drums and effects everywhere to help set the mood.

Track 7: The Sons of Anak – One of the better songs on the album. Fast moving after the first six songs. The guitar is solid along with the drums. David Rohl’s vocals are different sounding and make this song one of the highlights on the album.

Track 8: Aten – Drums and choir supported by orchestra and then David’s best vocals on the album. Very majestic sound and the effect is almost other-worldly. Synths and keyboards which reminded me of Vangelis. David’s vocals really add power to the song, especially when the choir supports him.

Track 9: Ozymandias – Rocking synths, drums and guitar get this one off to a fast start. Rohl’s vocals are solid on this one. Lots of lyrics to get through and he does it well and with a lot of fun in some parts. The guitar solos are great.

Track 10: Solomon the Wise – Nice rocking drums and keys. Marc Atkinson’s vocals on this one are very good. Nice change in tempo and sound. Back to the majestic slow driving beat. A salute to Solomon. The orchestration and drums are very good here.

Track 11: Akhiyawa – Very nice morning breaking, opening to this one, as the sea seems to stretch out before you. The voice of David speaking in ancient tongues, before the drums and keys break open the rhythm. David, almost speaking the lyrics with drums and lead guitar support. Then the synths, harpsichord take over and fill in the song.

Track 12: The Wine – Dark Sea – This one is a wonderful showcase for Troy Donockley, who plays multiple instruments. David’s vocals blend perfectly with the wonderful music being played. Very relaxing.

Track 13: Elissa – Beautiful opening to this one with David and Barbara Macanas singing a duet with guitars and drums supporting. The drumming and rhythm reminds me a little of Gazpacho’s “Tick Tock”, but the soprano whistle adds originality to the sound.

Track 14: Roots – Rain and wind, and the spoken ancient language, with thunder in the background. This is the epic on the album at almost seven minutes. The orchestration, Uilleann pipes and whistles add so much effect to this song.

Great songs with lots of mood effects. A lush wander through ancient history with brief stops at most of the famous places and events of ancient times. The only criticism would be that, with this much talent, why not jam and build at least one or two massive epics around similar topic areas? Few of the songs are less than four minutes, but usually less than six minutes in length. The opening and closing songs could have lasted for over ten minutes for me. Both were full of wonderful instrumentation. However, by shortening them, you now have singles which can be listened to separately and you don’t overburden the listener under today’s time constraints. So there is a benefit to keeping each of them short.

Wonderful orchestration throughout this album. Well worth your time. And the music and orchestration really enhance your listening pleasure.

Does it have longevity? Is it something a fan will like to play again and again? Absolutely. Now I want to go back and get the first two albums! The shorter songs provide enough of the effects of the age and sounds of the time in over an hour of wonderful music. However, I wanted so badly for it to last even longer.

Marc Moingeon, Koid 9, France

The name of the musician behind this project should have immediately rung a bell in my head if I were a better fan of 10cc and Barclay James Harvest and also if my memory was as good as it used to be ... Well, David Rohl, composer/keyboard player, was also the sound engineer behind the recording desk for the best albums of BJH in the 70's! In 1975, he formed Mandalaband and a first eponymous album was released the same year, followed in 1978 by The Eye of Wendor featuring a lot of guests, making this album more of a project than a real band recording.

He decided to resurrect his old project for a third album and got in touch with some of his old friends as well as with new collaborators. And the end result is BC - Ancestors, the first part of a magnificent historic epic, which should see a follow-up in 2010. I thus proposed to David to interview him, which he gladly agreed to do just before leaving again for one of his frequent journeys to Egypt. This is the kind of surprises we would be glad to have every month!

BC Ancestors sounds a little bit like various other records but as a whole, to no other one, simply because, in spite of some identifiable references, the album is splendidly varied. One could mention Alan Parsons Project, BJH or Peter Gabriel and even Procol Harum. From symphonic instrumentals to songs ranging from light to serious and even dark (some of them are fairly symphonic as well), through atmospheric or solemn parts, the listener will find such a great array of moods, a little bit like on the two first albums of Mandalaband. Yet BC Ancestors is pretty different. With the help of keyboard players José Manuel Medina and Woolly Wolstenholme, not forgetting the multi- talented Troy Donockley who plays guitars and bouzouki, in addition to his Uilleann pipes and whistles, David has created some absolutely magnificent and very realistic orchestral arrangements ("Ancestors" "Aten" etc.).

The musical atmosphere has some Eastern music flavours (the theme kind of asked for this!) with sundry percussion instruments but also a lyrical bluesy guitar, some Celtic elements… If we wanted to play the game of putting labels on music, we could say this is some kind of "progressive symphonic world music". Choose for yourself, only the result matters. Sophisticated and accessible, majestic and moving, sometimes a bit rockier and catchy, the music of Mandalaband III has got it all. And it is without a doubt progressive, in the wider sense of the word, even though the tracks, more or less all connected together, aren't very long (around 5 minutes for most of them).

The splendid recording lets every instrument shine, whatever it is, from the virtual orchestra to a good old vintage keyboard (acoustic piano, Hammond organ, etc.), the drums and exotic percussion of Kim Turner, mingled with Troy Donockley's various whistles and Uilleann pipes, acoustic and electric guitars, Craig Fletcher's bass guitar or the vocals enhanced occasionally by some harmonies by Barbara and Briony Macanas.

One of the somewhat particular features of this album, which appears on some symphonic tracks, is the rather bluesy but fluid guitar playing of Ashley Mulford, which reminds me at the same time of David Gilmour and Geoff Whitehorn (from Procol Harum), with a more crystalline sound.

As for the two songs composed by Woolly Wolstenholme, they bring us back to the glorious days of his best works for BJH and Maestoso. They are two beautiful symphonic pieces, especially the moving hymn "Nimrod", but the rather fragile voice of the keyboard player could have been favourably replaced by vocals from Marc Atkinson or Barbara Macanas, for instance. By the way, David Rohl was pretty hard on himself in our interview because I think he is a fairly competent singer, blessed with a clear and soft voice, in the low range. Some qualities that we also find with the singer Marc Atkinson, whose pitch is slightly higher.

And if the music business was fair, a slightly edited version of a song like "Elissa" (an orchestral ballad, enhanced by some melodic fretless bass and lots of guitar, featuring a nice atmospheric central part, including a short narrative) would get some airplay on radio and would become a fairly big hit! On top of this, the beautiful 32-page booklet, featuring lyrics and detailed credits, elaborated by Ed Unitsky is the icing on an already very tasty cake!

Anyway, I strongly recommend you to have a careful listen to the excerpts on the official MySpace page of Mandalaband and to order the record directly. This is definitely one of the very best surprises of 2009. Let's wish the biggest success to this album, in order to see its follow-up!

© 2024 Legend Music Ltd. All rights reserved.