From the very first crescendo of feedback, you can tell Mantar’s second full-length album, Ode to the Flame, is going to be an ass-kicking headbanger’s feast. And oh boy, what an ass kicking it delivers.
On paper, Mantar fall somewhere between Bӧlzer and The White Stripes as a stripped back, down tuned take on a thick stew of genres like black metal, punk, death metal and hard rock, that is almost as thick as Hanno Klaenhardt’s wall of guitar distortion. However, to try and define Mantar’s unique sound with other bands and genres is borderline impossible. Throughout Ode to the Flame, they effortlessly maintain a sonic barrage of old school riffery and black metal fire that pounds without rest. Even on the slower tracks like Oz and I Omen, the grating guitar harmonies and Erinc Sakarya’s deliberate drumming keep the heaviness up.
This album may be stripped back with few frilly bits, production effects or flashy gimmicks, but what makes Ode to the Flame such a blast is that it is complex in its simplicity. Mantar have made every shift in rhythm, every guitar tone and every compositional layer work for them. Evidential of this is I Omen; its jarring syncopation is contrasted by ambient lulls, which helps the track feel deliberate and well executed, and most importantly leaves listeners unable to fight the urge to headbang.
Hanno Klaenhardt excels as an axeman on this record, with some of the punchiest riffs and driving rhythms of 2016 so far. As well as this, listening to this record with the knowledge that every sound is either vocals, drums or guitar makes it an even more impressive feat when the haunting sounds of what you’d swear was an organ or keyboard ring out during tracks like I Omen.
One of the strongest tracks on the album, and there is a lot of strong tracks, is Praise the Plague. Starting off in a haze of feedback and bass drum, the track crunches along before one of those ear-ripping riffs fills in the space and the track takes off in a flurry of sound. Praise the Plague excellently demonstrates Mantar’s ability to play what they feel, shifting between fast, tight sections and slower, deliberate moments, rather than playing it safe and serving up predictable tempos and movements.
Another highlight of Ode to the Flame is the moments like those in Era Borealis where you can all but hear the stamping feet, pumping fists and throaty chanting of a crazed live crowd driven wild by stabbing guitar hooks, crunching drum beats, and choruses that were created to play live. There is something very pure about this album, and in turn the adrenaline rush it delivers to the listener. After all, metal at its purest is wo/men with their instruments and voices smashing it out, no gimmicks and no tricks; which is exactly where Mantar have taken Ode to the Flame.
It may be hard to define, but the punk, black metaller, hard rocker and headbanger in all of us will no doubt love Ode to the Flame. The album drops on April 15th, so brace yourselves for one of the hottest releases of this year!
Review by Jordan Sibberas