I found myself surrounded by a curious mix of Opeth and stretched out post metal presented in a metalcore coat. Such is the opening track “Faithfaker” of this unusual progressive metal album by Norwegian band Mantric. It was if the band was trying to mix every possible flavour. Yet out of the apparent disorder, there was an interesting song.
Creating sense out of apparent disorder seems to be something that Norwegians are capable of doing, if I think of Atrox, Ørkenkjøtt and Manes, and this is another one for the collection. “On the Horizon” has a pungent line, harsh vocals and as the growling riff rumbles on, there’s a clean-sounding chorus, which unsurprisingly reminded me of Extol as that’s where three of the band members comes from. Of course it changes completely mid way through and to a hypnotic guitar line and drum beat, a whispering voice creates a suggestive tone. Out of nowhere, there’s an electric build up. Something’s not quite right as a sweet chorus accompanies the crunchy melody but pushing boundaries seems the most natural thing in the world to these experimentalists.
Distortion and insanity ooze out of “Give Me Eyes”. I realise that the trick with the progressive escapades of these Norwegians is not to try to work out what’s going on but to embrace the fusion of ideas. There are plenty of them. At one point in “Arrogance v Anxiety”, there’s nothing in the foreground – a compelling guitar line and confused vocals create an image that you’d associate with a spinning head after a boozy night out. It comes to the fore powerfully and again Mantric have taken over with this multi-layered, 3-D music of theirs. It’s not quite right in a normal sense but who cares? It’s compelling and imaginative. Strangely, in spite of all the challenges that this album presents, it’s not difficult to listen to. It’s intriguing too, as we sweep between energetic guitar sections, dreamy vocals and passages, which convey visions of other worlds. “Oh, how we love our enemies” ends “Die Old” after such a passage. “Maranatha” is darker, suggesting musically at least the black metal side of the band who as well as being three parts of Extol were behind Lengsel. The country-style guitar adds extra spice. Recalling that Extol were known as a Christian metal band, and maranatha is something to do with the coming of the Lord, black metal seems a strange medium of expression, but it’s a good track and I’ll leave it at that. Darkness then comes from a more post metal source on “Anhedoniac”. The lingering vocals add eeriness. As always, the shape of the track drew me in as the memorable post metal line returns. How can such the mix of harshness, delicate post-metal and whispering sensitivity of “In the Shadow of My Soul” be combined to make any sense? All hell then breaks loose on “Black Eyes”. Screams, a clean chorus and pulsating instrumental energy combine well in this antidote to clarity.
I simply don’t know how anyone can conceive and mix such a wealth of ideas, and come up with something so imaginative and compelling. Well, Mantric have done it. This is experimentalism at its most accessible.
(9/10 Andrew Doherty)