Ode To The Flame

Written by: AP on 06/05/2016 14:50:32

It sometimes feels like a copout when labels push artists as ‘extreme metal’, a lazy blanket term used to maximise their media appeal while glossing over the nuances that actually make them special. But in Mantar’s case, the description is oddly appropriate, as it distills the huge spectrum of influences dotting the Hamburg, Germany -born duo’s palette into two easily digestible words rather than the somewhat lengthier ’doomy, blackened sludge metal with a strong presence of hardcore punk’. It is also the better term to channel the philosophy of pure honest rage according to which the two musicians — guitarist/vocalist Hanno Klänhardt and drummer Erinç Sakarya — ply their trade, most recently on this sophomore album “Ode to the Flame” which you could be forgiven for assuming was written by a band double or even triple their numbers.

Indeed, Klänhardt’s savvy for layering and getting the most out of his FX pedals and Sakarya’s savage treatment of his skins ensure that at no point does the record rouse protest against the lack of a bassist or additional guitarist. To borrow the former’s own wording, by ”using equipment for at least four people combined with a good amount of violence”, Mantar manages to sound astonishingly heavy, yet not at the expense of atmosphere or melody. And unlike the majority of artists practicing at the extremities of the sludge metal genre, “Ode to the Flame” delivers so much more than an impenetrable wall of low end rumble and slurred guttural growls; there is tremendous lasting value seeping through the cracks, whether in the form of the devilishly groovy riff around which “Praise the Plague” is built, or an irresistible urge to mirror Klänhardt’s choral roars of ”This is era! borealis! This is death! über alles!” in the standout “Era Borealis”. Both are simple, yet effective tracks buoyed by an assortment of factors from Klänhardt’s clear diction even when growling (reminiscent of both Darkest Hour’s John Henry and former Arch Enemy vocalist Angela Gossow) to the unorthodox percussion patterns that Sakarya uses besides playing as hard as possible.

Further consolidating the LP’s appeal is the staggering variety it packs. Just in the first half, you could be revelling in the dense metallic hardcore of the already mentioned “Praise the Plague”, succumbing to the slow burning doom of “The Hint” and marvelling at the blackened grandeur of its outro, or uncorking a PBR and slipping into your mosh kicks for the rowdy southern fried sludge’n’roll of “Born Reversed”. And no matter what infusions the two musicians are working with, the end product has Mantar’s insignia all over it; the seamless movements across genres that mean the duo’s worship of the NOLA doctrine can harmoniously coexist with dark, wintry crescendos and meaty hardcore hooks. As you progress into the second half of the album, those dynamics become particularly apparent with the songs increasing in both length and depth, and the juxtapositions between grimy rawness and grandeur becoming more pronounced. “Oz”, for instance, oscillates beautifully between sections totally devoid of guitar — with Klänhardt raging over drums and subtle organ notes — incisive tremolo discharges and the sort of groove laden metallic riffage that would not sound out of place on a Helhorse record. “Cross the Cross” deploys similar tactics sans the organ, while “Schwanenstein” finds a perfect balance between grimy, lumbering doom and the chill and majesty of black metal.

It is a proper racket, Mantar generates with “Ode to the Flame” thus — intense, suffocating and deviously catchy. But when all is said and done, one is left with a sensation that Klänhardt and Sakarya often could have gone much further with some of these riffs, melodies and structures. It feels like they stopped just short of realising their full potential, wanted perhaps to incorporate too many disparaging styles into a single song without always giving each element the needed room to breathe and evolve into something unforgettable. And as a result, you are left a little unsatisfied about the unresolved ideas, the potency left unexploited. Mind you, this is no deal-breaker — “Ode to the Flame” deserves the hype, and should be essential listening for any connoisseur of raw, uncompromising extreme metal this year.


Download: Era Borealis, Oz, Cross the Cross, Schwanenstein
For the fans of: Lord Mantis, Tombs, Wolvhammer
Listen: Facebook

Release date 15.04.2016
Nuclear Blast Records

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