Wednesday 30 November 2022


THAL (The Heathens Are Loose), have earned themselves a reputation for delivering the goods, the two-man unit, consisting of multi-instrumentalists John "Vince Green" Walker and Kevin Hartnell, have in a relatively shorts space of time reached a level of respect within the scene whereby an announcement of an upcoming release is now met with a mix of excitement and anticipation. Those feelings were once again triggered when, earlier this month, the duo announced the release of their new album "Swarm the Mandala", were those feelings justified? We think so.

There is an "urban" feel to many of the songs inhabiting "Swarm the Mandala", the bands two previous releases "Reach for the Dragon's Eye" and "The Harvesting" played a little with fantasy and mythology but here we find Hartnell and Walker lyrically directing their ire at targets a little closer to home. This "urban" feel is no better exemplified than on opening title track "Swarm the Mandala", a song with ambiguous lyrical content, are we listening to the blood lustful boasts of a brainwashed soldier or as the line "behind the eyes, an empty space, to contemplate my own hell" might suggest, the nightmarish memories of a veteran fighter who has seen too much. Whatever way you wish to read it there, and there are many, there is no escaping the fact that this is one powerful and angry song, that anger not only reflected in its lyrics, which are sung in an almost rap style meter, but also in the delivery of the grooves surrounding those lyrics. "Caustic" follows and kicks off with a lay preacher like vocal sermonising over a stuttering stoner/desert groove that initially has a Clutch/Mississippi Bones vibe but then as the song progresses moves into harder, heavier territory. If the song "Swarm the Mandala" may have hinted at post-traumatic stress disorder then it could be argued that "Mirage" tackles the subject head-on, " time froze and I walked away from those I thought were heroes, took my trust and ripped it in two, went from boy to a man in a day, as much as I try, I’ve lost my own light", powerful words delivered over a backdrop of powerful music. As the album progresses, through songs with titles like "Torch the Crown", "Death Sublime" and "Godmaker and the Child Profits", it becomes increasingly obvious that "Swarm the Mandala" is an album born out of anger, anger at those who wield the power, anger at the futility of conflict and anger at ourselves for falling for the same old lies and promises, the duo ironically using graphic descriptions of violence in their lyrics to hammer home their point, "the bloodshed is great, but the kill comes so fast, when the wolf spots his target, that target won’t last" ("Caustic"), while at the same time referencing elements of our own inner conflicts, "crawling alone on the side of the road, looking for what remains of my soul" ("Desolation"), lyrics a psychiatrist would have a field day analysing. 

"Swarm the Mandala" is a "protest album" in all but name, its targets are numerous, and its arrows are directed both outwardly and inwardly, it is a powerful album, both lyrically and musically, an album that doesn't offer answers but urges us to ask questions of not just those who make the rules but also those that follow them.
Check it out ......

© 2022 Frazer Jones

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