EP Premiere: Neomantra -‘Henosis’

Australian metal act Neomantra deliver heavy-hitting, knockout combos just begging to be experience on their new debut EP, Henosis, released September 3.

The five-track EP centers around the concept of balance—looking inward, reaching outward, and wrestling between darkness and light.

We caught up with Neomanta’s drummer, Greg Turner, to dive into the making of the EP and what’s coming next for the band.

What was the writing and recording process like for the EP?
The recording process was an interesting one in that it was essentially comprised of a set of discrete ‘components’ that eventually were all brought together at final production, over a considerable timeframe (just short of five years due to several unforeseen delays along the way).

It started out as some pretty solid instrumental demos recorded by frontman and songwriter Royce (Zanetic) around 2015, which was amazing to have received co-production & instrumentation/drum programming contributions by Drew Goddard (Karnivool)—Perth has quite a small and tight-knit metal community, so it’s not hard to bump into our local heavyweights out and about at shows/venues.

Royce and Drew had met out and about on various occasions and connected on some common interests and experiences, and so I guess Drew took a more invested approach in the project, seeing some genuine potential in Royce’s music and wanting to be involved in some capacity just purely enjoying the tunes and wanting to kindly offer his help.

I don’t think at that point Royce was looking to do much more other than to produce his demos to a quality worthy of sharing with friends and family. But there was a definite vibe in these demos that commanded more be done with them to bring them to a more organic fruition, and much of this original material (in terms of the live instrumentation tracked) was sourced for the EP’s production rather than re-doing it all.

After subsequently head-hunting myself and bass player Marco Cilli (we had been gigging a Tool tribute act at the time (‘The B-Tools’) that had gained much popularity locally), I learned all of the material to then undertake the recording of live drum tracks at Underground Recording Studios here in Perth by incredibly talented drummer and recording engineer/producer Brody Simpson.

Fortunately the drum tracking was completed within a week prior to the global pandemic hitting, but this put an unfortunate temporary halt on the production progressing. So we eventually returned to Underground, where co-owner (and long time friend of mine) Mark McEwen took the reins as our producer, doing an absolutely sterling job of piecing together the various sources of material (my drum tracks, the guitar tracks from the original demos produced by Drew, bass lines, vocals and other instrumentation that was recorded/tracked independently by Royce and myself (in my wardrobe space converted to a mini recording booth, which was quite hilarious haha) in producing a crushingly huge sounding release.

There’s just so much incredible talent here in Perth—Mark and Brody are simply world-class engineers and musicians, so we’re really stoked to have been able to work with them on our debut, in our own backyard.

What inspired the lyrics, and how does philosophy influence your songwriting? 
Philosophical, metaphysical and spiritual concepts absolutely form the source of the songwriting, and are also the inspiration for the lyrical content as well. Royce is an avid reader, and has read countless texts and resources into the vast rabbit hole that this area of study opens up, so he is not short on content and context in driving his songwriting. Our rehearsal studio is actually full of boxes of books that you definitely wouldn’t find in your mainstream bookstores! Haha.

We assembled the EP in a structure that starts with the opening two tracks, ‘Solipsism’ and ‘Emancipation (Metaphysical Self)’ both questioning various philosophical ideas from the individual’s perspective of ‘self-realization’, leading to a kind of pivotal centerpiece in the track ‘Dualism’ (being an entire juxtaposition to the tone of the rest of the EP), and then plays out the counter side with metaphysical and ontological constructs suggested by modern philosophical theorists, in the tracks ‘The Absolute’ and ‘Plato’s Shadows,’ as some potentially ‘tangible’ explanations for the otherwise conceptually unattainable.

Royce has a deep interest in all things philosophical, more so than anyone I’ve ever encountered, personally. He’s truly a fascinating and intriguing person to be around and to open your mind to questioning the reality in topics around self, consciousness, the material universe and time/space, ontology, spirituality … concepts that we are conditioned from our birth to believe and accept as ‘reality,’ with much of that reality essentially still being based upon  significant assumptions that science can still actually only infer so far back to a point before theoretical constructs form the foundations.

Our reality could possibly be entirely not what we think it is at all … heavy stuff! Haha. So there is much profound and comprehensive philosophical sources to draw on for lyrical and songwriting influence that Royce dives deep into the rabbit hole with … I imagine inspiration won’t be drying up anytime soon.

What was the songwriting process like for the album?
Essentially the core songwriting had already been done by Royce prior to the rest of us joining the band, but from what I know a lot of the music was composed by him during a period of poor health, so the downtime enabled a window of opportunity for his creativity to be channelled into songwriting.

I guess I have played some part in working more closely with Royce in revisiting the existing demos with some new ideas and contributed to new instrumentation (Royce and I worked on most of the bass lines together), plus, I performed the percussive elements in our pivotal track ‘Dualism’ and assembled the additional programming/samples in the track.

I guess we kind of work fairly independently on songwriting, then bring our work together to compare and deliberate over the preferred ideas and approach. I feel that we have a kind of synergy in just intrinsically understanding each other’s ‘musical frequency,’ so we can have the freedom to just work on our own components, then come together to collaborate on assembling the work knowing things will be at least aligned reasonably well.

Having said that, we’ve had a few moments where we’ve completely missed the mark on each other’s vibe (I guess things aren’t always perfect, right?), but we usually find common ground in compromise pretty easily. I daresay that future releases will become more collaborative as a band—our guitarist Jarod (Callow) is also the mastermind behind his own Perth death metal outfit (Sanzu), so it’s exciting to contemplate what our collective creativities will conceive subsequent to this initial conceptual chapter of the band.

Do you have anything coming up that you want to highlight in addition to the EP?
We actually ended up dropping one of the planned songs for the Henosis EP when we came up with the idea of the instrumental centerpiece track ‘Dualism’ … so we’re working to release that track as a single sometime in the near future. We still have material from the original pool of demos that Henosis was sourced from, so would like to drop another EP just to round out this ‘conceptual chapter’ I guess, and approach an alternative underpinning conceptual idea for the next iteration of songwriting.

We’ve had an idea in mind since the Henosis EP  is structured with a centerpiece track encompassed either side by juxtaposing tracks, that we mirror that idea by encompassing this somewhat juxtaposing residual single between another similar EP on the other side of it to round it out conceptually on both a ‘macro’ and ‘micro’ level … it kind of has this cool equilibrium about it, which is a theme rampant throughout the songwriting concepts.

The global pandemic has made it very difficult for us to plan an official launch at this stage (which has already been rescheduled numerous times now) so an official EP launch is now scheduled for very early next year, and we’re currently on the lookout for some potential support shows in the meantime, to fill the anticipation void … but considering the significant delays we’ve had in getting the music out there for a number of reasons (it took almost five years!),  we decided to go ahead with a digital release initially and just get the music out there as soon as possible.

Where would you like to see the band in five years?
World domination, of course!! Well, considering the state of the world right now it’s hard to tell where things might take us in five years, compared to the usual organic progression of things historically. I guess living in Perth with some heavy restrictions around interstate and international travel due to the pandemic currently, we’ll be over the moon to simply be able to take our show on tour nationally if things ever do return to some state of the familiar norms, if not internationally in time.

But I guess ultimately we would want to be still working towards releasing great music—Royce has no shortage of creativity or ideas in sight, and is an absolute post/doom/sludge riff master haha … So the well is far from dry. We’ve had a great initial response to the EP so we would hope that momentum continues to carry to see us eventually playing bigger stages and getting some good support opportunities in the meantime, so I guess we’ll just keep doing what we do with passion and persistence, and see where things take us.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?
It’s been a long time coming to release an EP, five years since the band’s inception, but monumental for us finally reaching the point now where things are finally getting good traction, and with more great material already in the reserves to go towards our upcoming releases to round out this ‘conceptual chapter’ for lack of a better term. It also feels evident to us that this challenging time in our world history has inadvertently fostered all sorts of creativity and a proliferation of creative outputs, I guess in keeping our own healthy balances (and sanities!) together under trying circumstances.

We hope that being part of those creative offerings to people through music helps to keep the perseverance up to see through this shit-show eventually … but also to provide some interesting mental stimulus around the concepts we approach and to get people thinking about the nature of reality, and if this is all actually what we are conditioned and taught, or part of a bigger, more profound alternative picture. It’s also devastating seeing the impact the pandemic has had on the music industry nationally and around the world, but also hits close to home with our own friends and local industry talent struggling financially and with mental health for those hardest hit throughout these times. Please continue to support local artists and your local music industry in any way you can, and keep looking out for each other.

Stream the new EP Henosis here:

For more from Neomantra, find them on Instagram, Facebook, and Bandcamp.
Photo courtesy of Neomantra
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