MadmansEspritWe should be used to the weird and wonderful emerging from the Far East by now. But South Korea’s Madmans Esprit still manage to sound like they discovered the idea with a strange and beautiful blend of metal that exists on entirely the wrong side of the looking glass. Vocals that switch seamlessly between screams, breathless lullabies and a crooning operatic style. More haunting than off-the-wall or outright terrifying, this is the sound of someone trying to find an outlet for a something pretty dark. Nacht is a big post-punk emotional implosion. But there is also a boundary-pushing freedom to this project runs deep: packing in different styles, the odd industrial sample, gothic rock and depressive black metal. It’s a little more flamboyant and vocally oriented than the previous bits and pieces that the band has released (an EP and a demo). But it’s the first time the band has really brought the various elements of its sound together and really let the vocals blossom into something that manages to set the band apart from other dark, punk-fuelled metal.

A little bit Muse, perhaps partly something a bit mental like Swans, and a little bit of Mayhem madness or maybe even, yes I’m going for it, Sigh. The end result is something darkly refreshing which sounds like Matt Bellamy and his squeaky pals have overdosed on horror films and magic mushrooms before taking the stage at the O2 arena and freaking the hell out of everyone. But despite all the influences the sound stays on a pretty narrow, stripped-down path throughout even if it never stops being compelling. The riffs at times are almost plodding and basic, clearly designed to create a percussive background to the vocals and then interwoven with orchestral sweeps and building acoustic passages. The melodramatic, unrestrained singing is undoubtedly the centrepiece now and manages to feel ecstatic, depressed and thoroughly annoyed all in the space of a few bars.

A good showcase for the vocal style is the fourth track, nine-minuter The Lily and the Rose, rising and falling like some mad, post-apocalyptic stage show. The oddity of it all is somewhat addictive even if at times you feel a bit like you are watching one man recite a bit of poetry in various vocal and singing styles as his mates provide some entertaining background guitar and samples. Off-the-wall, riveting and well worth a listen – especially if you are feeling like you haven’t heard anything new for a while. You won’t be saying that after you’ve listened to Madmans Esprit.

(8/10 Reverend Darkstanley)