17 April 2016
Mantar - Ode to the Flame
Oh, I have been waiting for this album! This could be the biggest understatement of the year when it comes to Mantar. Little history for people new to the band and the blog - when the first Mantar album 'Death by Burning' came out, I picked up the album as part of my random album search called Cover Roulette. This one simple act started what can only be described as a one of best choices I have ever made with this blog, I truly adore that album! It was my album of the year, I have purchased three copies of it, one as a present and two for myself (after the first one got lost/stolen from me); I will undoubtedly purchase it again and gladly so, even though I have a digital copy of the album as I love the original art work so much. But that is nothing without the sheer force of the music, it sounds like Armageddon mating with Ragnarok - it is such a good album. So, as stated at the beginning I have been looking forward to this record. But I cannot build my expectations up too high, sometimes this has been to the determent of an album in my mind. I will say from the opening that the art work is slightly conservative after 'Death by Burning', but in a slightly minimalist way with some historic overtones in the lettering. However, this is not talking about the music; so let’s see how it goes......
"Carnal Force" is a wall of feedback and noise, wrapped around a brick which is launched into your head. The noise that comes out of the speakers on this song is fierce from the opening note to the ending rumble, this song does not take any prisoners. It is the pause just after the feedback that makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end, the riff starting to pick with the drums kicking in; then they repeat it a few times before dropping the death growl comes into the song and you are on the receiving end of another audio mauling. After this the song goes off like a rocket, powering forward and ending far too soon; deity hail the repeat button on this one - what an opening. "Praise The Plague" continues the good form of "Carnal Force" with a different style of sonic attack on the audience; mixing between the frantic riff assault, doom funeral barge and thunderous all out metal explosion, there is everything you could ever want from a metal song in a four minute plus package; it is a strong opening with shredding riff, great drums and the standard brutal death growl you have come to expect from the band - in a word, brilliant. "Era Borealis" slows the riff and speed down, but it keeps the intensity going as it switches between slow grind and trash spectacular, it has a chanting chorus and a malicious intent as it goes for the jugular without so much as a bye or leave. The thrash element of the song is quite important on this song, it is the engine room of this number and drives the number forward, with a hint of punk to the lyrics (especially with a nod to the Dead Kennedys in places).
If you are looking for what can only be described as a slow, grinding metal number than bring a certain amount of fury and doom to proceedings, then this might be the song for you as that would be a fairly good description of "The Hint". It has a sound like an organ added to the mix on this number, also it mixes up the tones and not just rely on their brutal sonic attacks. There is a great moment where the drums are just rolling and the guitar has a fantastic amount of reverb rumbling around the background as well, it is these moments were a band can be broken or made; Mantar are kings when it comes to extracting the value of the pause in this type of moment and it makes the hairs stand up on your neck once again. It is a gentle as a lover in places, as scary as a wind when it is hallowing in the night and just fucking fantastic. "Born Reverse" injects the speed back to the album which was need for the album, after a few slower number it is always great to have the speed return to proceedings. It combines both a certain degree of amplifier and doom noise, some nods toward Black Sabbath and a title of a Metallica album is thrown into the lyrics as well, but it is all wrapped in metal, rock 'n' roll and a great amount of noise added to it as well. It is a simple formula that reverberates around the listener, it adds layers upon each listen and swirls around in a way that is only possible in a few genres; basically, this song is adding to the love letter that this review is slowly turning into...... "Oz" is not a song about the magical land created from the mind of L. Frank Baum, it seems to be a hell drive song that comes from a very dark and evil place. It has an old school metal vibe, there are shades of Black Sabbath, there is a bit of Deep Purple and there is also some Darkthrone and Satyricon as well. It is a just an old school mosh pit inducing number that makes the world a better place just for its existence - so simple, yet so effective.
"I, Omen" starts with the sound of sinister keyboards and reverb, to create a tense atmosphere before the riff erupts on the listener. It is a slower, broody number that strength likes in the slower moments of the song, going for strength rather than speed on this number. It builds all the way through to a colossal ending, sounding as explosive when they head for faster ending as when they are churning out the slow and precision perfect verses. "Cross the Cross" is another slower number, grinding out each chord with fury and venom to create a ball of fury and scorn to unleash upon the world and see who is still standing after the final chord has faded into the reverb. Much like everything else on this album, it uses everything at the band's disposal to maximum effect; when I tell you that this is the sound of two men and not a five/six-piece band, it is mind blowing to know that these guys can make so much noise! It is a brilliant song, so metal that it is magnetized and a proper, old school, devil horns in the air riff with a heavy dose of new and modern metal techniques and growls that will have demons following and tempting angels to lose their halos. "Schwanenstein" comes in from the feedback and the penultimate number of the song is another battle worn, fight harden song that is not about to take pity on the audience or give anyone a moments pause. This song has an apocalyptic vision at its black heart and another sinister riff as its main weapon, assisted by some fantastic drumming and howling screams to torment their victims. It is the longest song on the number, but your attention is never drawn away from the number as it is one of the best numbers of the record. However, it is not the final song on the album; no, that honour goes to "Sundowning". It is a fitting ending, at one point the band scream about not being in a rush; I would beg to differ as this album is over far too soon and I am still wanting more! It follows the pattern of the last few song, it is slower than anything from the explosions of the first half of the album and it is in keeping with the war machine style of the latter half of this album. It ends the album with a sound that will level the audience and any band who tries to get in their way; it is actually fitting that they end with just the drums as they have been the powerhouse of this song, just a brilliant ending to this record.
I think it is probably safe to say that this review is more of a love letter than anything else and that I am totally impressed with this album; the thing I love about this album is that they have not fucked with the formula of their last record at all, it is still loud, brutal metal with a few added editions. But it is not the same record as 'Death by Burning', you can hear the confidence and progression in the band and for me, it is great to hear that the band were not just a one trick pony and are going to be in this for the long haul. Does it beat 'Death by Burning'? I would so no, it equals it! 'Death by Burning' is one of the most important records for me in the last few years, it made me remember what I love about metal in the first place; 'Ode to the Flame' keeps that memory burning brightly (no pun intended) and cements Mantar as one of the most important metal band in the world. When I play this to people, it is always a simple joy when they realise that this much noise is being made by two people; this release has live up to and exceeded by expectations, it deserves the same mark as its predecessor and I cannot wait to see them when they reach the UK. All hail Mantar!
10 out of ten - This is proof that there is a God.
Top track - Carnal Rising
You can purchase Ode to the Flame on Amazon here
You can purchase the album from the Mantar Bandcamp page here
You can also visit the Mantar page on Nuclear Blast records here
You can follow the activities of Mantar on Facebook here
You can stream Ode to the Flame on Spotify here
You can stream Ode to the Flame on Deezer here
You can stream Ode to the Flame on Tidal
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