ManimalismChances are you have never heard of this rather obscure Norwegian entity but if I told you their roots spread right back in time to the early 90’s when the black metal scene in the country started going all weird courtesy of Ved Buenes Ende, Fleurety, In The Woods and Virus they are no doubt a band you should be wanting to check out. They actually started out as Taarenes Vaar and were founded by none other than Kim Solve of Blitzkrieg Baby, K1000, Swarms etc and known today for design work on many album covers you should hold dear as Trine and Kim design studio. They released a couple of demo tapes in 1996 and 1997 and if you have them in your collection you are one of the very few. As Manimalism they have gone and put together a debut album based on some of the ideas laid down there and recorded between 2002 and 2012 in we are told the “utmost respect for the original compositions.” In doing so Solve has gathered help from an equally enshrouded cast list of eccentric characters such as Member 01 of The Konsortium on vocals.

I have to admit that dipping into this for the first time it was pretty much a sound that I expected to hear which kind of worked well as it was one that I was comfortable with and clicked with straight away. That’s not to say that it won’t sound completely alien if you had not grown up with the familiarity of the aforementioned bands, it’s certainly an odd avant-garde world that this comes from. The sublimely entitled ‘Demons In Tuxedos’ irresistibly leads the way. Guitars at first really remind of early Killing Joke with that arcane and occult feel about them before the vocal crooner joins in with vocals and lyrics that are pretty much out there. Strange time changes and lots of twists and turns are found throughout the music, some of the instrumentation no doubt belonging as much within the spheres of experimental jazz as anything else. Stories unfold that are strange and abstract, the title of these first one is harmoniously delivered and latches in putting all sorts of images in your head. Some backing chants are every bit as odd sounding like they are emitted from a carnival of the deranged. Vocally there are times that this reminds me of early Bauhaus and Pete Murphy so much it hurts and I have to practically go and check that it’s not him putting in a guest spot. We slip and slither straight into the ‘Carnal Catering Service’ which no doubt if filmed would be as outré as Peter Greenaway serving up a lunchtime feast. It’s one that makes me think of a bunch of aristocratic cannibals sitting down to tuck in with fine wines to accompany every special cut of meat! Theres even some grating sounds on this that sound like something grinding through tough bone.

There’s a lot here that despite being comfortable with by construction, theme wise it’s completely the opposite when the imagination runs wild with it and one tries to dissect what the band could be getting at. With gothic, doom and post punk textures all wrapping themselves around you this is certainly not black metal as it was envisaged and that adds to my enjoyment as it really does push any boundaries away. ‘The Gentlemen Is In The Details’ is one to sip Absinthe with if ever there was a song designed for such hedonistic pleasures. The vocal croons really hit prime pitch here and as the song says it’s all “splendid and grizzly.” We go into a slow touch of ‘Romance’ and I get the image that the vocalist is serenading a skeleton of a long dead flame for some reason and then can’t get it out my head. Each song seems to call to me and unveil new hideous mysteries it’s all a bit Grimm as some plucking sounds pave the way for ‘The Dandified And The Devilish’ and we move into a song that operatically tells of an “intoxicated predator” that has me now considering an age old decaying vampiric count brooding over his manse hoping to trap the unwary traveller and feast upon their blood. ‘The Crooner’ is a natural enough title considering the vocal stance but it’s never overstated, more worming its way in than anything else and possessing your very soul. Musically this is really creepy but has a good melody lurking within the shadows ready to jump out and bite. If you have survived so far without getting taken down by anything too sinister there is the sweet poison of ‘The Cocktail party To End Them All’ and you are cordially invited.

This one certainly got the juices flowing and it’s excellent that bands like this are around tapping into the imagination and playing around with avant-garde black forces akin to summoning an ancient spirit up at a séance. This taps into the vein nicely and lovers of the previously mentioned bands along with the likes of early <Code> , Ebony Lake and the excellent new album by The Deathtrip you will be reading about here shortly should all get aboard and join the ride. Devilishly good!

(8/10 Pete Woods)