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Mandalaband BC – Ancestor (Oct. '09)
Review by Nick Gielkens.

Symphonic orchestration, haunting uilleann pipes and a tasteful guitar riff lead us into the strange and exotic world of David Rohl and his fellow explorers, as the third reincarnation of Mandalaband goes in search of our ancient ancestors. The first four minutes of the BC – Ancestors overture set the overall sound of the CD – bright, crystal clear production, rich in instrumentation, full of subtle sound effects, smooth keyboards and soaring guitars ... and a nice flashback to the “Eye of Wendor” album from ’78 as the first dramatic chord of the overture is struck. From here prepare yourself to be enthralled by tales of kings, wise men and world changing events from the distant past. With the next song "Eden" the Music really merits a capital "M" – edgy sounding guitar riffs, nice melodic prog with violins and an acoustic guitar swinging throughout. Two ladies, Barbara & Briony Macanas (mother and daughter), are responsible for the smooth backing vocals. An excellent start to this musical journey through time that writes history like no other has done before.

David takes care of most of the lead vocals. I like his warm, dark voice, which fits in with the content of the stories so well. Another singer is Woolly Wolstenholme (on “Nimrod” & "Roots"). The recording of his voice on "Nimrod" doesn’t work for me – a bit like Alan Parsons' “Old and Wise” but not as strong. And when the song gets a weird (brass band-like) twist towards the end, it becomes my least favourite song on the album.

The third lead singer is Marc Atkinson, who has a very rich and soulful voice. Listen to “Beautiful Babylon” and the catchy “Solomon the Wise”. I love this.

The 4th track “Shemsu-Har”, begins with a voice from the tombs of the pharaohs, deep and dark, with a text out of the Book of the Dead. Together with the orchestral theme that follows, it would become a perfect song for a “Lord of the Rings” movie, or a theme tune you might hear at the entrance to a dangerous roller coaster ride in Disney World. A roaring guitar riff gives the song more credits. But this and “Nimrod” are, for me, the weakest tracks on the album. After this things get much more interesting as the ancient world vibes begin to come through. Slowly but surely you become part of it as the music envelops you in its exotic landscapes. One of the most beautiful pieces is Track 5, “Karum Kanesh” – a majestic theme with, again, great guitar work from Ashley Mulford. The haunting pipes and whistles of Troy Donockley give this melancholy masterpiece some extra atmospheric flourishes.

Several more narrative songs about the ancient world follow, and they all have very clear and rich instrumentation, angelic backing vocals, strings and some truly sublime guitar work from Ashley, with Troy Donockley adding sprinklings of magic pipes and whistles throughout, as well as atmospheric Ebow guitar on “Aten” & “Akhiyawa”. This is a true symphonic work that follows musically and thematically on from previous Mandalaband albums released way back in the 70s.

In the last song “Roots”, we hear from Woolly again, this time reminding me of Sting. Ah this is nice! This could be a song from a BJH album.
Other bands which come into my mind, after hearing this classy piece of art, are the Alan Parsons Project (the "Pyramid" and "I Robot" era), the Moody Blues ("Days of Future Passed") and elements of Jeff Wayne.

David Rohl took his time over this resurrection of Mandalaband and gathered some really fine musicians around him to paint a majestic landscape behind the unusual lyrics. I can easily imagine that the music of BC – Ancestors would fit perfectly as an epic film score. You’ll discover, again and again, little twists, melodic hooks, big overarching orchestral themes and pure rock interludes that make this album a real pleasure to listen to.

For me, David Rohl, is indeed the modern day Indiana Jones of music and his fellow travelers in the Mandalaband III camel train deserve to be awarded the golden Uilleann Pipes as they go on their next adventure in search of the Holy Grail. Splendid! 8+ out of 10.

Nick from the lovely South of the Netherlands.
Edited by Nick from Takrann Fantasy @ http://takrannfantasy.blogspot.com/

Karum Kanesh
Beautiful Babylon
The Sons of Anak
Solomon the Wise
The Wine-Dark Sea

BC Ancestors (Oct '09) is dedicated to those Mandalaband members who are no longer with us;
Ritchie Close (keys) (played in Camel),
Mel Pritchard (drums), (BJH)
Paul Young (vocals) (Sad Cafe, Mike & the Mecanics) and
Phil Chapman (sax & flute).


David Rohl - writer engineer, producer, keyboards, guitars, piano, vocals,
Ashley Mulford - guitars (Mandalaband I, Sad Cafe),
Woolly Wolstenholme - keyboards, mellotron, (Mandalaband II, BJH & Maestoso),
Kim Turner - drums & percussion (Mandalaband II & Maestoso),
Troy Donockley - whistles, uilllian pipes, guitar, ebow, percussion, piano, (Iona)
Jose Manuel Medina - keyboards, hammond, (Last Knight)
Marc Atkinson - vocals, (Gabriel, Riversea),
Geoffrey Richardson - viola (Caravan),
Graig FLetcher - bass, (BJH),
Barbara & Briony Macanas - vocals,
Sergio Gracias Lajo - acoustic guitar,
Emilio Gutierrez Steve Broomhead - guitar.

Ed Unitsky - artwork.

I'm allowed to give 2 new albums away of this band: Competition.

Interview with David Rohl
November 2009.

[Nick]: David, your interest in Egyptology and archaeology began with a visit to Egypt when you were ten years old, but then, ten years later, you got lost somewhere in a studio complex and ended up as chief engineer at Strawberry Studios in the mid 70s. How did you end up there?
[David]: Well, that's a long story. But to keep it short, yes I was infatuated with ancient Egypt when I was a kid ... but I was also totally captivated by music. I remember my big brother, John (now Professor John Rohl, biographer of Kaiser Bill), playing me Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring and my young imagination immediately pictured that dramatic music as set in the Sahara Desert rather than the Russian Steppes.
In my early teenage years I was a a big Beatles fan and soon got myself a small studio set up and found four other teenagers to form my first band - The Sign of Life – based on Manchester. We played the American army bases in Germany before I went to Art College to study photography. There the band (with a completely new line-up) recorded demos with Eric Stewart (later of 10cc) and we headed off down to London to earn our fortunes. That trip included a visit to Abbey Road where we drove straight through the gate and parked my multi-coloured Mini Moke right in front of the steps and we headed straight for the front entrance. The commissioner on the door though we were the Rolling Stones and amazingly let us through (he obviously needed a new pair of glasses), past Cliff Richard prancing down the corridor, and nearly to the door of Studio Two where the Beatles were recording the Yellow Submarine album. The Fab Four's gentle giant of a roadie, Mal Evans, was just coming out and managed to prevent us from walking straight into the recording session. That's the sort of thing young naive musicians used to get up to in the 1960s! What happened next is for another time, but, suffice to say, I had caught the studio bug and spent the next twenty years working within the recording industry as audio engineer, recording artist and record producer. ... See, I told you it would be a short answer. ;-)

[Nick]: Which bands and artists did you work with?
[David]: So many it is hard to remember, but they included: Justin Hayward of the Moodies, 10cc, Maddy Prior and Tim Hart of Steeleye Span, Barclay James Harvest, Noel Redding of the Jimi Hendrix Experience, Smokie, Sad Cafe, Marc Bolan, Scaffold, Trini Lopez, Tony Christie, Nazareth, Thin Lizzy, Vega, Maestoso, and the Halle Orchestra! And, of course, Mandalaband.

[Nick]: You made two Mandalaband albums, the second called "The Eye of Wendor" (in 1978) which gained a groundswell of support and a whole load of enthusiastic followers, especially in the Netherlands. It was a symphonic-rock work with a whole team of famous session musicians, including many artists you have already mentioned you worked with as engineer/producer. After that you apparently left the music scene and went off to dig in the Middle East. Is that true, and if so, why?
[David]: Yes, it is true ... but only after several years working both at Strawberry Studios in Stockport and then Red Bus Studios in London. By then I had just about had enough of working in the studio into the early hours for months on end on an album, smoking like a chimney and having my ears permanently damaged by absolutely crystal clear but excessively loud music being pumped out of massive JBL speakers. So I decided to retire and go to university in order to study Egyptology and Ancient History. That led to fifteen years of study, excavations, exploration, TV documentary presenting, lecturing, book writing and editing of academic journals, which is all pretty much still ongoing, though on a lesser scale these days.

[Nick]: What is your biggest archievement in your profession as archaeologist and historian? Was your work groundbreaking?
[David]: Many people would say so ... some would say it is scandalous! But stuffy old academics would say that wouldn't they? What I did was revise the chronology of the ancient world, the result of which was to discover many archaeological links to the legendary tales handed down by the ancients - including the biblical stories from the Old Testament and Homer's tale of the fall of Troy. But I am also famous for finding the location of the Garden of Eden, identifying the tomb of the patriarch Joseph in Egypt and a host of other biblical artefacts in museums all around the world. Not that I am a religious person, but my archaeological work has just led me in the direction of those astonishing tales which, as I have demonstrated, in many cases, were based on real events and real people.

[Nick]: What are the major implications that arise out of your research into Old Testament history and chronology?
[David]: There are many issues involved in this huge subject but, in a nutshell:
(a) Ramesses II cannot be the Pharaoh of the Exodus (as you read in all the popular books and see in the Hollywood movies);
(b) Pharaoh Shishak, who plundered the Temple of Solomon is not to be identified with Shoshenk I, founder of the 22nd Dynasty;
(c) Jericho was not destroyed by Joshua at the end of the Late Bronze Age (when the city did not exist according to archaeology);
(d) The Exodus of the Israelites from Egypt did not take place during the 19th Dynasty (when there is little evidence for a large population of Semites living in the Egyptian Delta).
Instead, according to my research and discoveries:
(d) The Exodus happened during the late 13th Dynasty (when there was a large population of Semites living in the delta);
(c) Jericho was destroyed during the Middle Bronze Age (when a large city existed there and was destroyed according to archaeology);
(b) The Temple of Solomon was plundered by Ramesses II (who's nickname was Shisha, equivalent to the biblical Shishak);
(a) The Pharaoh of the Exodus was King Dudimose of the late 13th Dynasty.
Clear as mud!

[Nick]: On some web sites you're mentioned as 'the real Indiana Jones'. How did you get that reputation?
[David]: That was all down to the newspapers which, as you know, like to raise people up so that they can can knock them down from a great height when they feel like it sometime along the road a ways. It's not that I am fearless or anything like that (maybe a bit crazy but otherwise no swashbuckling hero) but just that my interests lie in these exotic and wild places. I suppose the reputation that the press have created is all down to my explorations of Egypt, Anatolia and Iran, as well as excavations in Syria and survey work in the Eastern Desert, and, of course, my controversial TV shows. Yes, there have been some scary moments on those expeditions ... and some amazing moments of shear, utterly unique, magic ... but that's what the landscape of the ancient world is like - full of beauty, majesty and mystery.

[Nick]: Why did you decide to return to the music business?
[David]: I just got the bug again. I never really stopped recording, but most of that work was for films and TV. Now I feel that there is still a lot more to come from me and it needs a band to record the music (not just me working on my own). And we may even take it all on the road, which would be exciting to say the least!

[Nick]: What are you doing next year?
[David]: Well, first we have to complete the recording of the follow-up album – 'AD – Sangreal' (about the Romano-Spanish legends of the Holy Grail). Then we go into a period of concentrated rehearsals in April in order to prepare ourselves for live gigs in the summer of 2010 and beyond. It is a large live band (between eight and ten musicians) and the music is complex and very big sounding, so it takes a lot of work to get it on the road. We intend to play a couple of songs from The Eye of Wendor in the set, as well as one or two movements from "Om Mani Padme Hum" (on the first Mandalaband album), plus most of the tracks from BC and AD. So there is a lot to learn and several technical mountains to climb in order to get the full symphonic sound on stage. But with modern technology all is possible!!

[Nick]: On YouTube channel you have put up a couple of songs from the recent live rehearsals in York. And there we can see a few well-known faces: Troy Donockley (ex-Iona, Nightwish, Mostly Autumn, etc, etc ), Marc Atkinson (Gabriel, Riversea, sometimes backing vocals for Mostly Autumn), Ashley Mulford (Sad Cafe) and others. Woolly Wolstenholme (BJH, Maestoso) is also involved. I asume they'll be in the live band too? It's going to be a difficult task to co-ordinate everybody's agendas. Certainly Mr Donockley is a very busy man and Woolly is out touring with Barclay James Harvest at the moment.

[David]: That's all still to be decided. These great musicians do have other band commitments and it is going to be difficult to get the Mandalaband tour schedule worked out to fit in with other shows that the guys are/will be doing with their other outfits. However, we are all aiming to free up time in the second half of next year and on into 2011 for Mandy's jaunt around the world. We are aiming for this with arrows straight and true ... but who knows what the gods have in mind for us!

[Nick]: Most of the band members have worked with you before, but Troy Donockley is one of the newbies. Where did you meet him? And did he introduce you to Marc Atkinson?
[David]: I met both via the internet. Cindy Spears, the poet from Australia, contacted me via MySpace and suggested I take a look at Iona. Apart from Joanne Hogg's stunning voice (the best female singer in that genre that I have ever heard), I was really struck by the guy playing pipes and whistle. What a sound! ... I thought to myself. I have to get this Troy Donockley bloke for the new Mandalaband. So I wrote to Troy on his MySpace page and we got talking. Next minute I was standing on his doorstep in Yorkshire and before long stuffing my face with marinated tofu as we talked, and talked ... and talked through the night (an all things ancient and esoteric). We just clicked. The next morning I recorded him playing on a couple of Mandy tracks that I had already prepared a couple of months earlier. Troy didn't even request an advance listen to the music. He just asked for the key and played over the orchestration as it came through the headphones. No, I tell a lie ... he didn't merely play ... he soared like a bird of prey over the landscape of sound beneath his wings. I have never experienced anything like it. I just sat there, mesmerised by the man and his instruments.
And no, Troy didn't introduce me to Marc (even though they live in the same part of the UK). It was a similar story with Marc. I just found him on the internet and loved his voice. But now I'm a bit pissed off because he sings so much better than me and I am going to have to give up singing my own songs in favour of the newcomer! Still, it's no big deal because I can't sing to save my life anyway, and it's what's best for the band and its recordings that matters.

[Nick]: Will there be other people involved with the next album?
[David]: Who knows! I certainly don't. Mandalaband IV may be the same line up as Mandy III. On the other hand, we might bring in some other people, depending on what the tracks require.

[Nick]: Your new album is in the shops now. Where did you sell the most CDs up until now?
[David]: Yes, the album 'BC – Ancestors' (the story of which you can read about at www.mandalaband.co.uk/albums/3/ ) was released on 19th October and, in the short time it has been out, has sold like hot cakes. In fact, sales in the first 48 hours recouped the entire CD mastering and production budget! And, I know why you are asking where the hottest sales are coming from ... yes, the Netherlands! We must come over and play there!

[Nick]: Your last album "The Eye of Wendor" from '78 was a Tolkienesque fairytale. But on this album your lyrics are based on historical events from our distant past. Is that indeed true? Do you want to educate the world?
[David]: No, that I do in my books and TV programmes, and in my public lectures. The music is themed - as all good Prog Rock should be – but that is because legends and fantastic stories/mysteries fascinate me (and I think lots of people). So I use what I know in my lyric writing ... I don't do love songs or Moon in June lyrics. In fact, I bet there are more than one hundred words in the BC album that have never been used in a song before! So there's a good reason to include them I say! Mandalaband isn't your average rock band - it is much more than that ... fantastic musicians, epic tales and majestic orchestrations - a recipe for great music ... I hope! Anyway, if you don't like what you hear, you can always go back to listening to Oasis. ;-)

[Nick]: Is there anything more about you that we must know?
[David]: Well, I think I need to leave a few things tucked away in the secret bag for now, otherwise there will be nothing else to say when the "AD - Sangreal" album comes out next year and you ask for a second interview!

[Nick]: David, thanks for your time, and thanks for the great music you have given us ... again ... after your long exile in the Egyptian desert.
Hope to speak you somewhere in the lovely South of the Netherlands, next year.
Nick from the lovely South of the Netherlands.


More info about David:

Bio &
A lecture from David.

I'm allowed to give 2 new albums away of this band: Competition.






Updated 11-11-09 by Nick.
Shine On!