JAUGERNAUT (A.D.) - Contra-Mantra

Jaugernaut (A.D.) - Contra-Mantra

7 songs
57:04 minutes
***** **


Jaugernaut were a band with its origins in the mid-Seventies on the American West Coast that released two LPs in the early Eighties and then split up in 1985. Jaugernaut (A.D.) is a reunion of sorts, as only bass player and vocalist Jim Johnston remains, with the help of some guitarists who add a couple of solos. Jaugernaut used to play AOR pomp rock that never made it really big, the guys were just not looking hot enough. I am not familiar with their past, but this new effort looks certainly more progressive than what they did twenty years ago. Johnston, who is a proud father of seven kids (so he was active in these last twenty years), worked on a concept about the origins of Evil in the world that will be released on two albums, Contra-Mantra being the first part.

It starts with one of two long tracks, Anthem, a very ambitious track that combines elements of prog, arena rock and also the occasional experimental bit. The lack of a real life drummer of course makes for a slightly clinical sound, but Johnston's dedicated approach to music makes up for that. Anyway he's better at the shorter songs, although none goes below the five minute line. The Damage Is Done borrows the guitar chord progression from The Ramones' Pet Semetary, but is of course a totally different song when it comes to the festive chorus that reminds of modern American prog bands like Cairo and Shadow Gallery, probably because all these people have more or less the same roots (Kansas, Rush).

I didn't feel at ease with the fifteen minute running The Hard Way that has too much of a cut-and-paste feeling for me. The closing All I See Is Gray is making up for that again, steering clear of sugar-coated clichés and ending a surprisingly cool album with a monumental ballad that fellow West Coast rockers Queensr˙che would have been proud of.

Contra-Mantra is a really charming arena rock album, made by an idealist who will probably never play in an arena, and anyway that time is over, but doesn't it feel good to listen from time to time to nostalgic retro sounds? If you like big stadium rock from the 70s and don't mind the drum computer, then Contra-Mantra should be on your next shopping list through the Internet.

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