Alexandros Mantas reached out to me and asked if I would be interested in taking an ear to their music, and since I had heard their rather odd Spanish language moniker whispered favourably in the community (especially ISKC Rocks), that intrigued me enough to agree without a hint of a fight! My spider senses tingled feverishly, though I had not heard a second of their craft! There are a great many stellar Greek prog bands out there such as Verbal Delirium, Master Key, Naxatras, Time Collapse, Methexis, Jargon, Ciccada and Missigno, to name a few, but this splendid affair just won Olympic gold in my books! An all-instrumental studio project featuring Stratos Morianos on keyboards and synths as well as the effusive Mantas on guitars, bass, and flute, “A Temporary State of Bliss” is their recent 2023 sophomore release after the pre-Covid debut “Introspection” released in 2018, which I intend to review as well one day. Lovingly infused with the great prog civilizations of the Golden Age, (kind of obvious from the get-go) their brand of epic and cinematographic prog is right up my alley, a stimulating mixture of subtle moods and dense atmospheres, sprinkled with an ornate refinement and a poetic beauty that just took my breath away upon the very first listen.
Kicking off the proceedings with a rousing 17 minutes of “The Stuff of Dreams”, complete with a soothing Floydian intravenous swoon that is just what the doctor ordered, and the eventual “state of temporary bliss” sets the tone for the arrangement to travel through pastoral musings that shine like an Aegean morning, Stratos showing incredible control on his arsenal of keys, smooth as silk caressing the sun baked skin, passing off the baton to Alexandros to flutter in joyful abandon on his electric guitar, in a style that has Andy Latimer all over it. Contrast, transition, and the dance takes on a variant direction, (after all, they are expressing their stuff of dreams), very reminiscent of Slow Dance-era Anthony Phillips. Just like a storm in the Mediterranean, the piece rages briefly, flung into a jazzier, somewhat doom-laden uncertainty, expertly depicted by the obsessive piano and dark symphonics, Crimson-esque percussives courtesy of drummer Yiannis Iliakis, and then introducing rousing choirs that would make Magma blush with envy! The furious denouement is like a typhoon that drenches the body and forces the soul to kneel in unabashed respect. Helter-skelter for just a moment before finishing the story with a glittering slow hand bluesy guitar foray that heads straight for the starless skies above. Easily among the finest epic prog pieces one will hear in 2023.
Respite comes in the form of the chiseled beauty of “The Missing Part”, as pretty a melody as one could possibly hope to dream of, let alone play. Alexandros’ fluid guitar picking and the piano’s rivulets, the booming bass undertow, and a surprising trumpet passage from Vaggelis Katsarelis that just had me on in a state of reverie.
Another epic 12 minute, more experimental (read daring) exercise in the shape of “A Series of Self-Correcting Errors”, a tectonic blast into hyper-sonics, manic drumming and stop-on-a-dime twists and turns, veering like a guided missile seeking rebellion, finally arriving into a momentary plateau of serene contemplation, gripping bass runs, rippling piano adornments and a scintillating guitar outburst, full of restraint and yet powerful emotion. A final section that throws everything at the speakers, including the kitchen sink, pioneered by a ripping hammond organ rant, with varying tones that clearly define the intense adventurism these musician crave. The reptilian bass-led shuffle is an absolute masterpiece of controlled delirium (or delirious control, you choose), the band channeling their Gentle Giant influences.
One final long piece, the gorgeous “Impending Catastrophe” lasts just over 9 minutes and certainly nails the coffin shut on this puppy, at first seducing nice and pristine and deciding, there, and then, to getting down and dirty most convincingly, attacking with a fierce determination that is a hallmark of their Hellenic spirit. Moody, brooding, fussy but beautiful, powerfully confident, assertive, and wild. No wasted time, no dickering with style, just playing their socks off, inspired. They have found their spirit! As a very young Bono once stated, “I Will Follow”.
5 psychological wastes