ACTUS – Mandala

After many years of silence, the Hungarian cult band ACTUS reappeared like a mythical phoenix at the recent Wave Gotik Treffen in Leipzig. A concert for which I had high expectations. They were only partly fulfilled, mostly through a too loud and distorted sound. I could hear though that the new material was pretty fascinating. They played long soundscapes, both orchestral and electronic, sometimes epic, sometimes psychedelic sounding, with martial chants in Hungarian. The music of A.C.T.U.S. (Archaic Cultural Traditions United in a Society) has always been hard to describe. A neo-classical sound is at the base, with strong ritual/sacred elements as well as folkloristic influences. Besides there are more contemporary electronic sounds to be heard.

The new album, the first one since 1997, contains 4 tracks, ranging in length between 7 and 12 minutes. I will not try to describe the individual tracks of the album. When listening to “Mandala” I hardly notice when a new composition has begun. The tracks are titled “Középpont” (Centre), “Spiral” (Spiral), “Körforgás” (Spinning) und “Ösvények” (Paths). Together they form a circle, based on the esoterical concept of the ‘ACTUS’ symbol and four as the number of wholeness (cardinal points, seasons, eras, elements, primary colours). An explanatory text is printed in the booklet, along with the lyrics, which are not very extensive, just a few mantra-like lines for every song.

Compared to earlier albums like “Sacro Sanctum” and “Das Unbenennbare” the material is perhaps a little less song-based, with more experimental structures. The variation of the tracks on “Mandala”could drive any reviewer mad, every track contains a large number of original ideas and surprising turns. There are experimental parts, but also accessible melodic passages. Bombastic orchestral parts, atmospheric electronic layers, ritual bells and percussion, neoclassical passages, male chanting and ethereal female singing, monumental choirs keep alternating each other. Electronic guitars seem to play a bigger role than in the past, though never too dominant. Sometimes the sound of ACTUS is bombastic and overwhelming, then suddenly followed by calmer, meditative elements. “Mandala” is a spiritual journey with many musical stations, which will stimulate your imagination for quite some time.

artist: ACTUS
label: Naturally Organised Elements
details: 4 tracks, 42 min, 2005