by Ryan Snyder

Anyone who spent enough time on the music festival circuit in the early 2000s might eagerly identify with the title of the Mantras’ fourth album Jambands Ruined My Life, but the always playful Greensboro prog-rawk quintet has also couched some plainspoken honesty in there. Two years ago, the band was at the highest point in their history, touring furiously and leaving behind a wake of molten faces and heavily downloaded AUDs. Then suddenly, co-lead guitarist Marcus Horth decided that he had enough of months away from home and departed, leaving guitarist Keith Allen, the Tango to his Cash, left holding the axe. Allen calls the ensuing period spent righting the ship one of the biggest struggles of his life, and Jambands Ruined My Life is deeply reflective of that, but in a very Mantras-like way. The sprawling nine-minute opener “Before My Time” paints a sanguine future with characteristically roundabout jamband brush strokes, evoking Freddy Jones Band-style breeziness and God Street Wine’s knack for melodic shifts. The somewhat recently anointed keyboardist Justin Powell claimed the duty of filling the holes that Horth’s departure left behind, offering Particle-inspired, outer-space grooves (“Kinetic Bump”) and sometimes being the mountain from where Allen throws down thunderbolts (“Man You Rawk,” where Horth actually stamps his signature sitar sound). To a lesser extent, bassist Brian Tyndall’s playing steps up into the front of the mix, most notably on “Water Song,” an Escherian stairway of complexity — twisting, turning and omnidirectional. The Mantras aren’t letting go of the two-guitar onslaught entirely, however. The manic Mixolydian on “House of Cards” belongs to Umphrey’s McGee’s Jake Cinninger, who also co-produced the album at his Michigan studio. It’s vintage Mantras throughout, though the album’s de facto title track (“JBRML”) is a mournful minimalist instrumental unlike anything else they’ve ever done, confirming that, yes, jam bands have feelings too.

75/100Hear Jambands Ruined My Life at

For a chance to have your band’s CD reviewed, mail it to: YES! Weekly, 5500 Adams Farm Lane, Suite 204, Greensboro, NC 27407. ATTN: Ryan Snyder.

Follow Ryan on Twitter @YESRyan