Album Review: Mantra – Dreamland

West London’s Mantra are releasing their debut album Dreamland on 15 February. 

Since their formation in 2016, West London’s Mantra have mesmerized listeners with spellbinding melodies propelled by powerhouse riffs and thundering drums. Dreamland was recorded with producer Tom Dalgety (Royal Blood, Ghost, The Pixies) and showcases 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. “I just didn’t want to be there; it was numbing for me. Music was the only thing that actually meant something.” Regrouping with bassist Richard Leeds, Stark’s teenage friend from his formative years skateboarding on the streets of Ealing, the duo enlisted drummer Rob Emms after he answered a musicians wanted ad. “Rob’s from somewhere up north,” Stark jokes, “maybe Middle Earth…”

The album’s recording began aboard Lightship95 a docked North Sea tanker converted into a studio—with former Test Icicles guitarist Rory Atwell, who has also produced Palma Violets, Big Deal, and Veronica Falls. Mantra’s performance at Download then caught the attention of Tom Dalgety, who teamed up with the trio for a highly collaborative series of sessions at his Rockfield Studios in Gwent, Wales.

Packed front to back with hook-laden hits, Dreamland’s standouts include the fuzzy, Queens of the Stone Age-sized stomp of I Want that kicks off the album. The following Strokes continues the wonderful assault on your ears with heavy riffs and intense drums.

On other tracks, the band channel a bit more of their pop-influences like the Weezer-style melancholy of Cola Brat just before adding some of those grungy melodies in Run Away. The 80’s inspired Annexe gives off hints of The Strokes and we’re digging it. Its huge sound is clearly made to be played live, just like much of this record. Not many bands still write with the live experience in mind, but Mantra clearly have.

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 pleads to “save me from myself.”

Skinned Alive keeps that energy going and keeps your blood at boiling point (maybe check your blood pressure, just to be safe?) – don’t be surprised if you find yourself rocking out to this track in your bedroom or on the bus. We predict a similar scenario with Individual, so you have been warned.

The album culminates with their barnstorming cover of James Blake’s Retrograde, remodeled into riff-driven reverie with the song’s guitar chords plucked from memory, while deftly walking a tight rope between darkness and light.

Dreamland bottles up a ball of alt-rock energy and releases it onto the listener with extreme and relentless force.