Baz Mantis is the entrepreneur and musical genius behind Tauranga’s collaborative group ’The D-Day Saints’. This collection of songs is a veritable masterpiece of 10 highly creative tracks featuring seven different vocalists from around the country, 2 of which are based in Tauranga, Dhaivat Mehta (aka: Archaeo) and Kingsley Smith, as well as the man himself, Baz Mantis. The other singers include Jason Borgueta, Brendon Maher, Gus Kirkland, Simon McGrath, and Katriel. Baz has just released this album onto CD along with the previously released digital online version. To find out more visit The D-Day Saints on facebook.
As you have probably just worked out, I’m one of the guest vocalists who appears on just one of the tracks, but I want to make it abundantly clear that this review is not based on bias or favouritism. This was not my project, it was Baz’s. I was just a guest, but I genuinely feel that all the tracks from the other artists are some of the most original and highly creative musical pieces to come out of the B.O.P in a long time. And I mean ‘original’ in the true sense of the word. Baz doesn’t give a rat’s bottom if his music isn’t commercially en-vogue. He has written all the music for the true sake of writing music, which is to entertain, inspire and ‘wow’ the listener (and himself for that matter) !
Upon listening to the album, in it’s entirety, you will be left feeling emotionally drained and creatively dazzled ! It will feel as though you’ve taken a journey and traveled across a wide sonic landscape in a kingdom of many spectral colours with many perils and triumphs. Such is the nature of any epic journey ! And when I say perils, I mean that in the best possible sense. ie: an extreme moment which ignites your adrenal glands. The emotional value of listening to the music (as an entire collection), means that you experience all the perils, all the soothing moments, and all the musical triumphs that are the sum of any epic journey.
To translate this eclectic musical experience into terms that are more understood, I will attempt as follows. The album opens with a kick-arse rocking track called ‘Final Call’ sung by Jasson Borgueta. Baz doesn’t waste any time with the start of the album and this opening track really bombards the listener in all it’s hard-rocking glory. I love the unashamed retro rock sound to it. Great rockin vocals from Jasson and ripping guitar lead from Baz with a crunchy fat rhythm guitar sound to die for. Final Call is a catchy hard rock number that’s unapologetically ‘in your face’.
The second track, Altar of destruction, up’s the anti even more and takes the album’s style into the realm of metal opera. Wow, what a truly epic track this is. Where to start… Brendon Mayer’s vocals are beyond impressive. He combines his formal classical vocal training with powerhouse metal singing to create something that’s remarkable and world class. A heavier and more academic version of Rock opera comes to mind. The lyric writing is as impressive as the singing, and the subtle nuances in Brendon’s voice mean that he keeps you glued to your front row seat in the D-Day Saints theatre. Baz’s rhythm guitaring generates a solid juggernaut to back up Brendon in this powerhouse assault.
V Formulation cranks the anti up even more, (if that were possible at this point), with a heavier number featuring Gus Kirkland on vocals. His very seasoned metal growling is executed expertly. For those who shy away from this style, they need not on this track as it is actually very listenable and the combination of Gus’s vocals with Baz’s metal guitaring and symphonic keyboards really hit the right mark without taxing the eardrums too much. Together they formulate a track that is still very much in the same creative tradition that you’d expect from any Saints track.
The 4th track features Archaeo, local poet, rapper, and bohemian artist. This track really turns a corner, but takes you into the heart of the Saints neighbourhood. ‘Good Morning’ is the archetype Saints track, along with ‘The Electric Dragon Rises’. It represents very much what Baz and the D-Day Saints are all about. Baz create’s a sonic tapestry of various musical styles woven together; ‘guitar drivin’ (because that is Baz’s natural instrument), but interspersed with threads of dark ambience, trance, percussive stylings, and embroidered with anthemic rock. This is a truly colourful and stunning sonic canvas with which Archaeo add’s his rich spoken dialogue and ingenious poetry to. The result is something very unique but truly wonderful. You feel like you’re in a movie or theatre play. If this album tells a story, then this track is one of the plot points. It generates so much imagery in the mind and Archeo’s dialogue is oozing with personality. Here’s a sample: “so, we kinda walked into this strange looking building, which sorta looked like a church, but it was more just, ah, it’s so hard to explain, but when we got there we realised that we were here just last night, a very long time ago…”
The 5th track is nicely positioned on the album and creates a sort of respite. The previous track, Good Morning’, which navigates you through a kind of dark, dense forest to finally bring you out into a sunnier clearing amongst the sonic landscape. This clearing is a simple uplifting tune aptly titled ‘Chill Pill’. While the main body of the song is familiar and accessible to music listeners, the introduction to this little ditty sports an ambient jazzy kind of flavour. You can feel the horizon getting clearer as you leave the woods into this bright intro and then stroll further into the sunny disposition of the main song. This is the track that you’ll find myself singing on. It’s a simple tune, but embodies an anthemic singalong quality to it. It’ll have you singing out loud without caring what the neighbour thinks.
Simon McGrath sings vocals on the 6th track, ’Tornado’. This is a well named song as it indeed has the force and feel of a tornado. It has a punk-rock flavour and is a very strong song with catchy vocal melody’s. Simon was born to sing this song as his vocal stylings really suit the punk-rock flavour. Baz weaves a tasty blend of guitar riffing through the song. It feels that this is the perfect spot in the album to place this track: ie. after a walk in the experimental woods (Track 4) and then a stroll along the softer side of the Street (track 5), track 6 becomes a triumphant return to the rock flavour, a’ la Saints style.
After a brief return to the familiar rock avenue of the Saints, the 7th track diverts as again into the back alley’s of Trip hop. This dark, yet soothing track is sung by Katriel. She deliver’s her vocals with beautiful precision and a maturity beyond her years. The track is titled ‘Undone’ and there is a sense of sweet melancholia to the musicality of it. Baz’s lead guitaring fits very well into the mood of the track and it helps create a link back to the earlier Saints flavour.
‘And the Electric Dragon Rises’ explodes in your face as the 8th track on the album and is a welcome return to that archetypical Saints signature sound of Archaeo on vocals and Baz’s raunchy guitaring. Wow, this track is epic ! It is true entertainment and a pure expression of the Saints ‘getting on down’ and celebrating the joy of music. Archaeo steals the show with his masterful ‘rock style’ rapping. If there is a New Zealand rapper that deserves to be recognised right now, I strongly believe this is the guy. Archaeo not only executes his blend of rockstar-rapping like a pro, he also completely ‘owns’ this tune. Baz has evidently laid down a very strong canvas for which Archaeo has taken and signed his name all over it, turning a strong track into something undeniably massive !
Track 8 ends with an onslaught of thrash guitaring where it successfully transitions into the 9th track. This is a return to the metal stylings of Gus Kirkland, much like the flavour of V Formulation, but kicked up another gear or two. The track rages to a climax where it ends with an almighty fury.
This leaves the album to be resolved by a final epilogue, the 10th track entitled ‘The Electric Dragon falls’. This really is the perfect track to finish the album, for a number of reasons. Firstly it creates a beautiful antithesis to the previous track and a masterful closure to the sonic journey that you have undertaken. It is a truly beautiful way to round off the final steps of this musical adventure. Archaeo narrates this piece with his rich poetry. Some of which is very deep with symbolism and imagery, and other lines which are more literal, but always executed with instinctual timing and artistic brilliance. After the final words have been spoken and the last notes have been plucked on the guitar, the listener starts to feel as though they have come to a destination and achieved some form of closure. For me, it was a kind of spiritual experience and I have heard similar comments from other listeners.
The D-Day Saints album, in my mind, is a true masterpiece. Not only is it a New Zealand album, but it was produced right here in Tauranga. It is really something for this community to feel proud of. True musical art at it’s best ! I think a big reason for the artistic success of this album is that Baz has collaborated with such a diverse & talented group of singers/artists. Masterpieces often come out of such collaborations, and this is no exception. You can get your own free digital download of this album via Soundcloud or contact Baz at ‘The D-Day Saints’ on facebook for a tactile CD version of the album.
Kingsley Smith is a veteran musician who cut his teeth in the Hamilton music scene 25 years ago. He has been in dozens of original and cover bands. Has opened for Tania Donnelly, Anika Moa, Pluto, Renee Geyer, and The Black Seeds. Has 3 solo albums and recorded keyboards for other artists including Cassidy and Max Creepy. He is a multi-instrumentalist in his home recording studio and has been working hard this past year on new material for a new studio rock project known as Audio Storm. Kingsley also produce’s and DJ’s a music radio show called the NZ Hard Rock Show featuring the latest original hard rock from all around the country. It is played on 12 FM stations around NZ and also overseas on Rock Bandom Radio.