The Chi-Town jam-rock phenoms take a different tack on Mantis, delivering a platter full of brand-new songs yet to be road-tested. It’s usually the other way around for jam bands, which might explain why most such albums fail to match concert sales. But Mantis offers a collection of relatively concise tunes — excepting the 12-minute title track — that gives the album an old-school feel.
That epic title track is a prog-rock masterpiece that blends guitar virtuosity with the classic psychedelic influences of Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Rush, and others. Guitarists Jake Cinninger and Brendan Bayliss form one of the tightest six-string duos in music today, and Bayliss’s lyrics and vocals are becoming increasingly accessible. “Red Tape” finds the band at its catchiest, with melodic riffage recalling some of Eddie Van Halen’s vintage work, while “Made to Measure” and “Cemetery Walk” offer memorable melodies as well. Mantis, the Greek word for prophet, demonstrates an evolution that shows the band is still growing into its prime.