Mandala is the third studio album from American alt-rockers Alice Sweet Alice who take their name from a 1970s slasher film. The dark imagery from the film carries over in to their music, which is part traditional heavy metal and part atmospheric ambiance. Female vocalist Ali Kat draws obvious comparisons with Evanescence’s Amy Lee, especially on slower songs such as ‘Undone’ but thankfully Kat’s vocals don’t suffer from the same overt production qualities that Lee’s does.
Musically Mandala is as strong as any album I’ve heard this year. Each member of Alice Sweet Alice excel in their instrument of choice. Guitarist Ron Bales shreds in every sense of the word and his virtuosity is most evident on ‘Burden of Truth’.
The shared vocal responsibilities between Martinez and Kat allow a brilliant male/female vocal dynamic within songs which really carries the music forward. The six minute ‘3 tides’ is a good example of Kat’s vocals harmonizing with Martinez to create an atmospheric duet which compliments the overall eerie feel that the song has.
‘Full Circle’ has more of a funky feel to it, with Scott Martinez slapped bass working with Billy Browns drums to create something soulful and danceable. Throw Kat’s powerful vocals in to the mix and you have something really soulful.
While the musicians are talented at what they do, this is an album for people who are already familiar with the band or the metal genres. Epic guitar solos and aesthetic breakdowns will no doubt deter people who are looking for something more straight forward or thrash-y while appealing to fans of the progressive.
What Alice Sweet Alice have done with Mandala is release a fantastically technical album that rocks and rocks hard, even when the place is slowed down to a crawl on the aforementioned ‘Undone’ however it isn’t genre blurring and won’t win over anyone who isn’t already a fan of the metal scene, but for those with an interest in all things heavy it’s definitely an album to check out.