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Umphrey's McGee

Crossover Prog

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Umphrey's McGee Mantis album cover
3.68 | 79 ratings | 15 reviews | 27% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection

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Studio Album, released in 2009

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Made to Measure (3:12)
2. Preamble (0:36)
3. Mantis (11:49)
4. Cemetery Walk (7:30)
5. Cemetery Walk II (2:19)
6. Turn & Run (7:25)
7. Spires (7:41)
8. Prophecy Now (2:47)
9. Red Tape (5:43)
10. 1348 (4:49)

Total Time 53:51

Line-up / Musicians

- Brendan Bayliss / guitars, vocals
- Jake Cinninger / guitar, vocals
- Joel Cummins / keyboards, vocals
- Ryan Stasik / bass
- Kris Myers / drums, vocals
- Andy Farag / percussion

- Nathan Swanson / strings (?)
- Christopher Hoffman / strings (?)
- Jeff Coffin / saxes & clarinets (?)

Releases information

Artwork: Mark Blanchette

CD SCI Fidelity Records - SCIFI 1117 (2009, US)

LP SCI Fidelity Records - SCIFI 1117V (2009, US)

Thanks to prinado for the addition
and to projeKct for the last updates
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UMPHREY'S MCGEE Mantis ratings distribution

(79 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(27%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(46%)
Good, but non-essential (19%)
Collectors/fans only (9%)
Poor. Only for completionists (0%)

UMPHREY'S MCGEE Mantis reviews

Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Negoba
4 stars More Beardfish than Phish....Modern Prog at its best!!!!

Umphrey's Mcgee have gained their reputation as the current heir apparent to the jam-band throne pointing back to the Grateful Dead. But they have always an undercurrent of metal chops and more importantly, prog sensibilities. _Mantis_ is an album 2 years in the making that moves those undercurrents to the foreground and keeps only a bit of groove and improvisational skill as hints of the traits that brought them to fame.

_Mantis_ is perhaps the best Modern Prog album I've heard. Its sound is akin to Spock's Beard, Transatlantic, and the aforementioned Beardfish drawing from a very broad array of sounds. I've already started a thread advocating their move to Eclectic Prog for that very reason. Though I disagree with Metallica comparisons I've read, there are very heavy moments with palm muting, twin guitar leads, tapping cadenzas, but with a warmer, lighter distortion than most true metal. This comes alongside frequent harmony vocals (sections of Beatles, Beach Boys!!!, and their own feel). Their are single note lines not unlike Gentle Giant, dreamy sections with slide guitar a la Pink Floyd, and a low vocal / ambient section much like Ulver!!!! Moreover, it all blends wonderfully. (One exception is the electronica beat behind Cemetary Walk II, a short reprise of the hook-iest track) The title track is a semi-epic (just under 12 minutes) that moves from straight up prog to a funk riff through some very memorable lyrics and ends on a improvised guitar solo. There are acoustic guitars, MANY different key sounds both modern and classic, time changes, nuanced drumming. Everything I want from a prog album, just more feel and groove than usual.

I knew this was a 4+ album from the first listen, and I initially gave it 5 stars, and when I listen to this album alongside any others of its kind, this one is better. The artists themselves certainly devoted the time and energy, with the intention that this would be a magnum opus of sorts. This could have been a disaster and it is yet to be seen how it will do in popularity, I think they've succeeded. Now that a little time has past, it is still Umphrey's best album in my mind though not quite a masterpiece. Still, I recommend it without reservation. Buy it, download it, stream it, borrow it, whatever. It's worth many enjoyable listens.

Review by darkshade
COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars ive had this album for almost 2 months now and i feel im ready to review this

kicking off the 2009 prog rock season is Umphrey's McGee from left field. I honestly wasnt sure how this album would turn out, considering their last studio session which garnered 2 excellent albums (Safety in Numbers and The Bottom Half) however these 2 albums were a slight step down from Local Band Does OK and Anchor Drops.

Let me say that this band exceeded my expectations and gave us, easily, one of the best prog rock albums to come out in the last couple of years. They've branched out of their jazzy, Dream Theater-inspired jam band sound into a mature, progressive unit. Not to mention their more eclectic sound, taking influences from inside and out of the prog universe.

The opening Made To Measure is a great opener for the band, considering they usually open an album with a heavy rocker. This one is a more fun, Beatles feel to it. It basically sets you up for the monster title track.

Speaking of which, this song weaves in and out of moods, at one point sounding evil and menacing, and then sounding a little more upbeat, with an overall epic feel. but then descends into the depths of hell around 4:56. the second half of the song (after the demonic part) is a bit more reflective and really gives chills down my spine. wait nevermind, the closing guitar solo sends chills down my spine. A great modern prog rock mini-epic at over 12 minutes (with Preamble)

next up is easily the best song on the album, Cemetary Walk (parts 1 & 2). this song has become my favorite song for 2009, opening with an almost Jaco Pastorious type of intro with the piano and bass. Without warning the rest of the band comes crashing in into one of the best rockers ive heard from these guys. the 7/8 main theme is so good and is reprised many times (once in 4/4!). Another shocking guitar solo.

going into part 2 is where the song really makes me go nuts. it reprises the theme, but in a 'techno' context with the keyboards playing some nice, tasteful stuff. At live shows this song has been played extended about 10 minutes longer!

this is where i consider the halfway point in the album. once thing ive noticed is how much the keyboards are more present (not prominent) in the 2nd half than the first.

Turn & Run has a great acoustic/electric mix and a catchy chorus. more odd time sigs abound. Around 2:43 the most beautiful section of music comes in, sorta reminds me of YES, especially in the guitar lead. Symphonic fans will love this track. Outro with a guitar solo, this time with the band rockin out more than ever.

Spires is epic without the length. a great keyboard melody comes in after the barrage of heavy guitars. Dream Theater fans will find a lot to like here, especially in the guitar playing, and one of the bridges. The last 3 minutes are incredible! some of the best vocal harmonies ive heard from this band. there's something beautiful, yet mysterious about the last section of this song. Feels like im flying on a cloud.

Prophecy Now is hard to describe. one of the more unique Umphrey's songs, even though it's under 3 minutes. It sounds really epic, but otherwise i dont know how to describe this one, haha. It's a little dark, but has an uplifting feeling to it, kind of. You're just going to have to listen for yourself, you'll know what i mean.

Red Tape is the 'fun' song on the album. the mix of guitars with the low-end horns is great. And this is a great rocker in classic Umphrey's McGee fashion. Great riffs, crazy twin guitar leads, and a GREAT but waaayyy too short keyboard solo that reminds me of 70s prog ala Yes, ELP, or Frank Zappa.

1348 is one of those 'save the best for last' songs. A wicked main riff in 6 over drums in 4. this is easily the jazziest song, with the verses being very jazzy, and the more demonic sections containing some very jazz-fusion bass playing. These guys must be taking a hint or 2 from Steven Wilson or Michael Akerfeldt int he vocal department, using a similar effect they use. Very cool. I also hear some Frank Zappa and John Scofield influences. Finally the last minute or so fierce and bring this amazing album to a fast paced finish.

Excellent album, i cant praise it enough. You're a fool if you're a prog fan and do not have this album (or others) by this band. This could easily go down as one of the best Prog Rock albums of 2009. Of the 2000s as a whole. Do yourself a great big favor and GET THIS ALBUM!!! You will not be disapointed.

Review by Slartibartfast
COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator / In Memoriam
5 stars A mantis is a predatory insect best known for the habit of the female of the species biting off the head of the male in laboratories while mating and indeed the main theme of the songs on this album are about relationships gone bad from a male perspective.

I'm a newcomer to this band and have only tried out one other album and two live DVDs so far and I don't think anything I'll hear from these guys will ever disappoint. Their earlier works display a heavy influence of many prog artists. I think they're moving in to their moving forward into their own unique vein here. Still there are many familiar musical elements present.

Made To Measure has a very Beatles/XTC feel to it. Preamble kicks off the beginning of a set with the melody on keyboard that will be central to the title track, Mantis, which while epic in length though not in theme has a wonderful complexity to it musically. I detect an old Supertramp influence with Cemetery Walk. Cemetery Walk II wraps up a set which started with Preamble instrumentally, reminds me a lot of Stereolab. More goodies still in store, Turn And Run is more uniquely McGee, I can't really detect any overt influences of others in it. Spires has a really soaring aspect to it musically and lyrically again about relationships. I'm still trying to figure out what Prophesy Now reminds me of, arrgh, they're definitely stretching out with this one sylisticaly. Red Tape sounds like it could be a Bears track with the exception that the Bears don't have a keyboardist. 1348? more KrimsonicsitllBelewBearsistic. Nice wrap up for the album. I really had to check to see that there weren't any guys from the Bears here.

Review by Atavachron
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
2 stars Objectively speaking, Umphrey's McGee has put out a good record for 2009 with very little to complain about in the production and care that went into Mantis. I do have major problems with it though, and I regret it because this is a very talented and hard-working band.

"Problems?", you ask, "My god man, what problems could you have with such good music?" For starters, if this is modern prog we're all in serious trouble, as I hear little progress on this 10 song release. Snarky perhaps, but I stand by it. As well, the material would fit quite well on a college radio format or even a hip FM rock station, and that can't be good, can it? I just don't know anymore, the album a predominantly melodious collection of tunes that only hints at more, flirting with the edges of prog rock but never quite getting there and desperately trying to force together the sentiment of contemporary Alternative with the old tricks of Art Rock. I get what they're trying to do, it's just a mix that has no real surprises or bite. 'Made to Measure' bounces about with post-Beatles shimmer, not a half-bad tune with good vocal harmonies I could see them doing on Saturday Night Live. The title cut starts promising but gives way to a sound not unlike Van Halen circa 1986, early Foreigner, or even the Dave Matthews Band. Oy, not something one needs to hear more than twice. Maybe this is where that pesky 'jam band' label comes into play; some cacophony does occur here and there, as well as improvisations in the vein of Phish, but this record jams like Al Gore sings and you just don't need to hear it. 'Turn & Run' continues the somewhat over-produced sound bearing little new fruit, whiney 'Spires' occasionally rocks, intolerably slow 'Prophecy Now' mostly annoys and is only barely revived by blues-rockers 'Red Tape' and '1348'.

If you expect your prog to be, oh, I don't know, challenging, exciting and eye-opening, keep a good five mile berth between yourself and this album. On the other hand if those things don't concern you, then have at it. I'm sure the artists would appreciate your patronage.

Review by Prog-jester
2 stars This is not THE Modern Prog I enjoy.

I have to major complaints, to be short. First - this is not that much Prog, if you didn't know, musically it's close to 80s "adult pop" stuff - imagine a mix of AOR, Art Rock and New Wave on one album. Here's my second complaint buried: if this is mostly Prog Pop (instead of expected Modern Prog), where have all the melodies gone? If you aim to play poppy Prog, you shouldn't be that humble with catchy melodies, my fellow UMs. As a result, we have 54 minutes of fine muzak, but not more than for 3-5 spins. Otherwise it'll bore you to death.

Review by Epignosis
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars There are albums from Umphrey's McGee I like much better than this one, but regardless, it is a fun album with some pretty okay music throughout. I think I get why some folks won't like it, but it has a certain appeal in its bubbly pop sensibilities, and maintains some technical prowess and compositional integrity that keeps the music fresh and far from mere pop music.

"Made to Measure" The album kicks off with this plucky number, full of jaunty instrumentation and bouncy singing. The little bit of guitar playing that bookends the song is the best part for me.

"Preamble" This short track is a tune from a music box.

"Mantis" The full-bodied title track begins with heavy guitars interspersed with a dark, dreamy piano run. The main vocal melody is cheerful and the music is upbeat. Halfway through, the song basically stops and changes direction completely, becoming a slow-moving piece of music with a lazy lead guitar. About eight minutes in, the music turns into fast-paced light rock once more, highlighting both the lead guitar and the soaring vocals.

"Cemetery Walk" This begins gently, with a delicate piano leading the way. It becomes more like a 1970s classic rock song very soon, however, except for the chorus, which is truly remarkable and a great aspect of the song, nay, the album. The final two minutes consists of piano and a warbling slide guitar.

"Cemetery Walk II" This reinterprets the main theme of the previous track using piano and electronic dance beats, effectively turning it into a club tune. I can see why this would make most progressive rock fans want to vomit from their ears, but I rather think it's kind of cool, and after all, it only lasts two and a half minutes.

"Turn & Run" I like the acoustic introduction, but what follows is a bit harder to digest- it just seems too heavy for its own good. Also, the synthesizer has a really nasty tone. Luckily, the listener is compensated with a lovely passage courtesy of the tasteful lead guitar playing. The lead guitar solo at the end is good and raunchy.

"Spires" This one has a great introduction, with a pounding series of chords followed by a little piano run. It has a gritty guitar riff that bolters the synthesizer and lead vocals, and some great interplay between electric guitar and what sounds like violin. In another stop-start moment, the guitarist plays a completely unrelated bit that leads into pleasant, but also unrelated music. The song ends with an a cappella section.

"Prophecy Now" This terse number is an odd one, with a rather free melody that dictates the chord progression.

"Red Tape" A giddy little song, with brass and electric guitar, this features a stellar introduction that pops up here and there with little warning. For the most part, I don't see too much that's interesting about this one, but there's nothing that really bothers me about it- it's a solid yet lackluster song.

"1348" The final track is just one I can't get into. It has its moments, musically, but it's almost too cute. The saccharine electronic tones and guitar don't help the whiny, almost Smashmouth-like singing. When there is no singing, the music is more like ska.

Review by Marty McFly
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars First one and for some time also the only one I've listened by Umphrey's (is it just me, or is this name really weird?). They say that their live gigs are much better than studio albums. OK, I'm not from USA and I don't expect them coming anytime soon to my country, so what's left ? Studio albums (and few live ones). Made To Measure is really great intro (which reminds me [by this piano] singers like Norah Jones, which I like, even they're not prog. But this is), setting the mood and story. Story about male perspective (which I like, as today's world is quite feminist (not talking about Archives though). When I took my time to understand lyrics (and not just listen to them), it raised my feelings about "Mantis". It's quite true, things they say (sing 'bout). Then strange bridge (half a minute song) and finally, Mantis, with really strong (and unique) intro. This is what I like about McGee, it's different and yet familiar (0:30-1:05) sound. Blend it all together, add interesting story (and quite original one, as this isn't something I was expecting from prog), pleasant vocals and melodic element and you have great crossover prog (source of inspiration - everything)

4(+), being Jam band isn't something to be ashamed of. Later on, it somehow lost the energy, before finally regaining it. Some of these influences does not sound so good as others, but in general, it's very good record. Under-rated, yes, but what isn't these days.

EDIT: Oh-kay, two people already mentioned me that there are ways. Even it still doesn't mean seeing live gig. But thanks for these, they're valuable for me.

Review by poslednijat_colobar
3 stars Too american for me!!!

So I continue with the next album from 2009 I've listened to. This album is another noce attempt for interesting contemporary progressive music. I think it succeed partially. It's very intriguing with some of its rhythmic melodies, pleasant sounding and fairly good musicianship. But that's all with the positive points of the album. In Mantis there aren't enough exploration and depth to form memorable album. It lacks sophisticated songwriting moments and special ideas, except in Cemetary Walk , which I consider as the best song on the album. The vocals looks like a pop punk (like the vocals of Sum 41). The music is mainstream rock radio style. As a conclusion I would like to mention Mantis is too american for me, but it's still good album for everyday use.

Latest members reviews

5 stars At first, though delighted, I thought it was a little less than "Anchor Drops". Some time and listens made me realize that that "little less" is so much more: "Mantis" lets go of the 2004 (fantastic) album pout-pourry and focuses on that never too explored prog side of the band (probably a side ... (read more)

Report this review (#1640235) | Posted by Il Bambinello | Monday, November 7, 2016 | Review Permanlink

3 stars Happy prog- meets jam band- Umphrey's McGee roared out of Chicago with this gem from '09. Lengthy compositions meet superb melodic construction on this well-executed album. Crossover prog is a perfect niche for this record--it has it's phish moments, Mr Bungle, even strains of bands like M ... (read more)

Report this review (#753631) | Posted by Suedevanshoe | Tuesday, May 15, 2012 | Review Permanlink

4 stars 4.0 stars I had some friends who really loved Umphrey's McGee (but they are gone to Berklee now), and I decided to give them a shot. I decided to get this as my introduction because it was supposed to be their most progressive effort. After owning it for about 6 months now, I have decided t ... (read more)

Report this review (#744745) | Posted by bb1319 | Thursday, April 26, 2012 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Prog is not as before! Undoubtely the fossilized prog lovers will not be in accord what direction new prog is taking. As you may notice even english bands as Porcupine Tree are adding more energy and catchy melodies in their songs, abandoning complicated structures. In this direction are movin ... (read more)

Report this review (#240664) | Posted by progpromoter | Monday, September 21, 2009 | Review Permanlink

3 stars Umphrey's McGee is a jam band out of Chicago that has had increasingly progressive rock leanings throughout their history. I listened to their album "Safety In Numbers" a while ago, and was not overly impressed. There were some cool things on there, but overall I found it to be quite forgettab ... (read more)

Report this review (#225141) | Posted by natewait | Wednesday, July 8, 2009 | Review Permanlink

3 stars This 2009 album showed me something I had never heard before, although I'm not that surprised and it's not by any means innovator, it was with surprise that I noticed that this album, full of long instrumentals, complex song structures, a lot of jazz and undoubtedly fantastic musicianship, has vo ... (read more)

Report this review (#219056) | Posted by JTP88 | Sunday, May 31, 2009 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Chicago's premier progressive rock/jam band Umphrey's McGee has a masterpiece on their hands with their new album Mantis. I've been a fan since Anchor Drops and always felt that the band was so close to making a classic but for whatever reason, just never achieved it. Mantis is the record. UM ... (read more)

Report this review (#200610) | Posted by pociluk | Sunday, January 25, 2009 | Review Permanlink

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