Sankara is the band formed by vocalist and keyboard player Gareth Jones and drummer Vinden Wylde, both formerly of The Reasoning, and guitarist Jay McDonald, formerly of The Bluehorses, with bassist Rhayn Jooste completing the lineup. “Enigma” is their first release.
The four track EP gets off to a strong start with the opening title track. Building from a piano arpeggio to a big soaring chorus the end result is a song you just can’t get out of your head. This and the following hard rocker “Exalted Star” with it’s growling riff and multi-layered vocal harmonies recall bands like Styx before they descended into cheese. The ballad “Lay My Body Down” is perhaps the weakest of the four songs, never really coming to life despite some good guitar work from Jay towards the end, but the EP ends on a high note with the hard rock of “Full Flow”.
This highly melodic mix of hard rock and AOR ballads is quite a way from the prog-metal leanings of Gareth’s and Vinden’s previous band. But there are still definite echoes of some of Gareth Jones’ earlier songwriting contributions for them, and his accomplished vocals prove he’s more than capable of fronting his own band, not that it was really in any doubt. On this disk he sings all the harmonies as well as lead, which makes me wonder how they’ll reproduce the songs live; I guess it depends on how well the rest of the band can cope on backing vocals.
This is a promising start for the band. Even if the production isn’t slick and polished, the quality of the songs and playing shine through, and I’m sure we’ll be hearing more good things from them in the coming months and years.