I don’t know about anybody else, but is there a revival of 60s prog going on or something? Maybe I’m just listening to a handful of choice records, but it does seem like underground metal bands are employing a lot of Yes-like choruses and early Genesis-style songwriting. Those are super cool things to employ, but I just don’t know where it’s coming from. Everybody loves a good throwback, increasingly so these days, and a 50 year old reference is as good as any other. It certainly adds to the complexity and nuance of a sound, and it requires a bit more talent on the part of musicians to employ these ideas in new ways to make their own music seem fresh.

That kind of reference is how Huntsmen’s latest record, Mandala of Fear, begins. “Ride Out” feels like a callback to late 60s prog rock and folk music but with much heavier sensibilities. It begins the myth of the band that defies categorization. Clearly the band has a lot of influences and a pretty wide palette, but they don’t do a single thing and just stick with that. It’s a combination of a lot of snippets coming together to create its own unique way. And that’s just the opening track!

Once you piece together the entire record, you see the epic story they’re telling you. Mandala of Fear is the story of a young soldier who wanders a post-apocalyptic desert to protect her country. The band plunges you through her tale of discovery through trials and tribulations, and you feel the rise and fall of a number of emotions throughout the story. Mandala of Fear feels just as much like literature as it does a prog record.

The music is the real storyteller here. Even if you didn’t know the story Huntsmen was trying to tell, it’s pretty easy to sense that there’s something bigger going on in the record than a healthy mix of acoustic ballads, fuzzy riffs, and infectious grooves. Every riff, every chord, each change in every passage, there are moments that pull at your mind. You can see the images the music describes in your mind, whether peaceful or chaotic or angry or sad. Mandala of Fear becomes quite the experience to all of your senses.

Huntsmen are taking their music into a very unique direction. I was reminded of Baroness and how their sound has matured into a fully progressive territory. It’s metal in so much as it has generally darker sound than many other progressive artists. The difference here is that Huntsmen are just now releasing their second full-length record after being a band for only 5 years. Some musicians mature fast, I suppose. And it’s the sign of a real artist when your music isn’t really classifiable. You end up having an inner monologue of, “Well, yeah, this is just a doom record…well, more sludgy…but then there’s this section…” It can go on and on and on. Instead of trying to force them into a box, you should just listen. So enjoy Mandala of Fear and don’t worry about what kind of sound they make. Just experience the music.

Mandala of Fear is available March 13 via Prosthetic Records.

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