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(37:51, Transubstans Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. Universal Time 5:16 2. Pieces of Our Yesterday 4:44 3. Endless Skies 4:05 4. River of My Soul 4:31 5. Time of Sorrow 3:55 6. Back by the Mountainside 2:12 7. Electric Eye 4:47 8. Mangrove 4:58 9. Quivering Ground 3:23 LINEUP: Jani Kataja – bass; vocals Fredrik Broqvist – drums; backing vocals Magnus Jernstrom – guitars; backing vocals
Prolusion. The Swedish outfit MANGROVE was founded in 2006 and in 2007 it had enough material to record an initial demo. The following year the Swedish label Transubstans Records got interested in the band, which led to the recording of their debut album “Endless Skies”, issued in the summer of 2009. (Vitaly's note: Holland's band of the same name has existed since 2001 and has no less than three official releases to ots credit.)
Analysis. Like most other artists signed to Transubstans Records, Mangrove belongs to the category of bands that explore a particular subset of acts focusing on retro-influenced music in general and hard rock in the vein of Black Sabbath in particular. Slow, heavy riff patterns dominate the numbers on this disc, with steady rhythms and a heavy bass guitar underscoring. The vocals of Jani Kataja are powerful and melodic, yet never enter the realms of cliched metal screaming. Indeed, the vocal delivery appears to be well controlled, and arguably one of the best qualities of this outfit. Its songs tend to lean towards the generic on this initial effort. The opening track Universal Time stands out for pure energy and atmosphere, but quite a few of the other tracks here lack the originality, drive and atmosphere to really stand out in comparison with similar acts. The band will without doubt appeal strongly to those with a strong love for vintage Black Sabbath and retro-style stoner rock, but will probably not recruit any new fans to this genre as such. But when Mangrove strays a bit from the beaten path things get interesting. The moody psychedelic piece Back by the Mountainside and the heavy, psych-tinged drone of the instrumental effort Quivering Ground showcase a much more individual as well as more intriguing sound in general, while the gentler guitar licks central in the verse segments of tracks like Endless Skies and in particular on Electric Eye bear witness to a band that in the future may break the mould a bit more than on this initial production. Those looking for progressively inclined efforts in this particular subset of heavy rock won't find too much to satisfy their needs on this disc. The compositions are pretty straightforward and the instrumental performances can hardly be described as challenging or groundbreaking either. However, this act may develop to appeal to such a crowd in the future, depending on how it chooses to evolve from this first effort.
Conclusion. Black Sabbath is a major influence on most efforts found on “Endless Skies”, and while the overall sound is a bit on the generic side of things, those who like this type of retro hard rock of the heavier variety will find many pleasing escapades on this album. A few psychedelic-tinged efforts do add variation to the proceedings, as well as perhaps being a promise of better things to come in the future. But as far as this release goes, it's mostly an effort that will appeal to those looking for a more simplistic take on stoner rock with a vintage stylistic expression.
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