Review: Neomantra’s ‘Bardo Thodol (Tibetan Book of the Dead)’

Bardo Thodol (Tibetan Book of the Dead)

Neomantra, the illustrious post-metal titans from Perth, have finally unleashed their highly anticipated single, Bardo Thodol (Tibetan Book of the Dead), following the resounding success of their debut EP Henosis in 2021. Garnering widespread acclaim and support from national outlets such as Wall of Sound, The Faction Live/Kill Your Stereo, RTRFM, New Noise Magazine, and X-Press Magazine, Neomantra now presents a mesmerising musical offering that serves as both a centrepiece and a pivot between Henosis and their forthcoming EP, slated for release in late 2023.

Bardo Thodol (Tibetan Book of the Dead) pays homage to its namesake, a revered work of Nyingma literature in Tibetan Buddhist teachings that explores the profound subject of death and dying from a Buddhist perspective. Embracing an unconventional structure, the song encompasses two contrasting movements, artfully depicting the journey through the six levels of bardo consciousness with Royce Zanetic’s guttural vocal delivery.

Zanetic’s signature guitar tones intertwine with the compelling riffs from both himself and rhythm guitarist Jarod Callow, while Lee Afentopoulos on bass and Greg Turner on drums provide a pulsating rhythmic foundation. The second movement, a transition signalled by a sample of fresh air sweeping through the listener’s ears, offers a tranquil resolution, symbolising the transcendent bliss of the afterlife, gracefully culminating the track with a clean and percussive allure.

Meticulously mixed and produced by Chad Blondel at Blondel Recording Studios in Perth, with drums recorded and engineered by Brody Simpson at Underground Recording Studios, and mastered by Simon Struthers at Forensic Audio Mastering, Bardo Thodol (Tibetan Book of the Dead) will be available via all streaming services on Friday, June 9. The single’s artwork features a captivating public domain/creative commons image of the Bardo Thodol cover, further enhancing its thematic essence.

Bardo Thodol (Tibetan Book of the Dead) serves as an interim release while the rest of the EP reaches its final stages of completion, ensuring a steady flow of Neomantra’s musical offerings. Inspired by Zanetic’s deep affinity for Tibetan Buddhism and his immersive exploration of occult studies, the concept for the song emerged when a friend suggested delving into the TBOTD. Each band member embraces open-mindedness and resonates with the profound thematic vision that permeates the lyrics. Zanetic drew inspiration directly from the text itself, infusing thought-provoking lyrics into the composition. Furthermore, Zanetic aimed to create a serene resolution to the song’s heaviness, channelling an afterlife ambiance that reverberates with compassion for all sentient beings. Royce’s guitar riffs embody the essence of “less is more” while the band’s influences from Tool, Deftones, Gojira, Crowbar, and Isis subtly permeate Neomantra’s musical landscape.

Prepare to embark on an enlightening journey as you immerse yourself in Bardo Thodol (Tibetan Book of the Dead). Upon pressing the play button, a captivating drone and chime sample transports the listener to a spiritual realm, before the driving and relentless riffs command one’s attention. Zanetic’s impassioned recitation of lyrics derived from Bardo Thodol itself, proclaiming, “Gandharva! This is your karma!”, resonates deeply within the listener’s core. Within this sonic tapestry, Neomantra expertly craft a rich and organic soundscape, weaving intricate layers of melody over a foundation of brutal metallic rhythms.

Brace yourselves for a transcendental experience that will leave a profound impact on your being. Bardo Thodol (Tibetan Book of the Dead) will be available everywhere on Friday, June 9.