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The Tea Party - The Interzone Mantras CD (album) cover

THE INTERZONE MANTRAS

The Tea Party

 

Crossover Prog

3.96 | 16 ratings

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FragileKings
4 stars The Tea Party have remained one of my favourite bands ever since I first heard 'Babylon' from their 1996 industrial-meets-eastern album, 'Transmission'. I loved that dark album, but it was some time before I bought the others. The band certainly changed over their career, but one thing that always remained was their interest in combining eastern sounds with western music.

'The Interzone Mantras' could be counted as the band's sixth album and eighth output, if you count their out-of-print and independently released 'The Tea Party' debut album as number one with the remix ep 'Alhambra' and the compilation 'Tangents' to make tIM number eight. After two albums ('Transmission' and 'Triptych') of mostly electric and electronic music, The Tea Party returns to their more organic roots here on tIM. The album opens with "Interzone", a hard-rocking tune backed with horns and some quick and tricky drumming. The guitar chords change swiftly and the song is a race to keep up with. The music is a nod to their Led Zeppelin influence with singer Jeff Martin's distinct voice still sounding reminiscent of Jim Morrison, something I am sure he has as yet to live down.

'Angels' is slower and mellower with a powerful chorus. This was the big single off the album as I recall. Acoustic guitar opens 'The Master and Margarita' and is joined by what sounds like a Mellotron before the electric guitar rocks in. The following track, 'Apathy' opens with a haunting mood until the horns join the simple beat. By the chorus the song erupts with the full electric band and horns.

'Soulbreaking' is the real ballad of the album with some beautiful guitar and real strings supporting the band. The song gently builds with guitar and strings first, then drums and bass join after the first pre-chorus while the strings add a melancholy sweetness, and then the heavy guitar comes in for the first real chorus. The heaviness eases off as the strings continue in beautiful bittersweet sound. Another heavy chorus and the gently guitar notes are now full electric and then jump up an octave to bring the song to its climax in the last minute. It's a powerful and stirring song.

You won't be lulled to sleep by 'Lullaby' which begins with a music box tune getting warped. Another song with an eerie beginning and heavy chorus. 'Must Must' gives us a mid-tempo heavy song with strings, a bit like Zeppelin's 'Kashmir' during the intro and chorus but taking a different turn for the verses. A female vocalist provides backing vocals with powerful effect.

'White Water Siren' starts off sounding like something from Led Zeppelin III and the strings are here too. I think there is no Mellotron on this album at all, just real strings. In any case, the acoustic/electric rock with strings sounds very cool.

'Cathartik' is one of my favourite tracks off the album and in the band's catalogue. It's for the most part another eerie electric song, but with some excellent percussive work and many changes as the song works its way through. The bass figures prominently during the verses. Then there's that incredible heavy part followed by Jeff Martin's most vigorous guitar solo in a long time. The heavy riff closes the song.

By now, the eerie theme has set the tone for the album. 'Dust to Gold' keeps the heavy chorus custom while drums and a spooky keyboard sound support the verse music. The keyboard ends the song and fades into the empty haunting choir(-like? real?) intro of 'Requiem'. Piano and acoustic guitar with a wavy wash of electric guitar chords provide the music at first until the distorted guitar joins in and dominates. This song is another powerful composition, heavy, haunting, and moody, with a brighter, uplifting passage at the chorus. Strings are a wonderful welcome addition to the music as they help carry the song to its soaring conclusion. Warning: listening to this while driving might blow the roof off the car or your mind.

The finale to this rather impressive recording should easily be one of the Tea Party's anthemic pieces, ranking up there with 'Sister Awake'. 'Mantra' is an 8-minute master piece of heavy rock and eastern music fused together. An orchestra of eastern instruments, percussive instruments, and Martin's own collection of exotic eastern stringed instruments all star with Jeff Burrows doing an amazing job on drums and percussion. The song leads to a tension-filled middle that erupts into a heavy guitar riff with piano and eastern-sounding strings while the vocals howl like some mad desert cry of agony. The music winds down with Jeff Martin saying, 'Alright. Alright' and the band finish up with a swipe and a broken grinding halt while the eastern instruments wail and whine to a finish. It's a song that can make you feel like you've just come through some vigorous trance experience.

The album is overall really good in my opinion, with tracks like 'Soulbreaking', 'Cathartik', 'Requiem' and 'Mantra' clearly showing the band back at the helm of excellent song-writing and organic playing. Sadly after this, the band would pursue a more commercial sound on the next and final album 'Seven Circles'. Though there were some excellent heavy rock songs there, Jeff Martin was very dissatisfied with that direction and quit the band and moved to Ireland where he began his solo career, first as Jeff Martin, then with his project The Armada, and currently as Jeff Martin 777, no doubt adding the 777 so as not to be confused with Jeff Martin of Racer X who also has some solo albums.

This album is easily 4 stars in my opinion and I wouldn't be surprised at all if someone wanted to give it five. For a heavy rock album a-la-70's with brass and strings and eastern music to boot, this one is worth checking out!

FragileKings | 4/5 |

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