Mantar – “Ode To The Flame” (Nuclear Blast Records)
A dastardly duo if there were any, Bremen’s Mantar are set to become the most famous extreme band of their city if this awesome release is anything to go by. Formed in 2012, their 2014 album “Death By Burning” already had plenty of heads turning, but “Ode To The Flame” is on a new level altogether! As stated a duo, in the form of Hanno Klärhardt (vocals, guitar) and Erinç Sakarya (drums, vocals), Mantar isn’t exactly one of these studio dwelling bands who ponder every note and poetically scribe lyrics within the comfort of their thought bubble – these guys record exactly as they play live with the same equipment, self recorded and produced. With the obvious omission of a bassist, equally perplexing is how Mantar’s sound is so heavy? Well, that’s cos Klärhardt plays through bass amplifiers and cab, along with a lot of octavers like the poly-octave generator. Sakarya, a night club bouncer by trade, needs no further explanation for his bashing! Making for one fat sound, years of touring in Europe and the US have also made the material on “Ode To The Flame” far deeper and also atmospheric, not to mention reflective of Klärhardt and Sakarya’s emotions. Equally enigmatic is the Mantar sound: mixing black metal, hardcore punk and DIY a la early Clutch, with this album also introducing some groove and even epic elements on some songs. The slowish, crushing wall of noise completed by Klärhardt’s harsh n raw vocals makes songs like the grim ‘Schwanenstein’ tell it all in tales of young children being frozen solid in the winter through bleak shoegaze riffing and Sakarya’s stark, militaristic drumming. Unleashing the octaver on ‘The Hint’ to provide a massive Helmet wall of noise sound as Sakarya really starts smashing into his kit, Klärhardt takes on Neil Fallon’s tortured drawls amid a catchy chorus overlaid by a cool keyboard like melody really showcasing the additional levels of Mantar’s evolved style. For me the fave had to be ‘Oz’, dedicated to the now deceased Hamburg tagger Oz that begins with cold black metal riffing a la Vreid before Sakarya hammers in again. Together he and Klärhardt settle into a cool groove, heavy at times, but otherwise almost trippy in its atmosphere that keep the momentum going on this powerful song that measures up to the almost symbolic aura of the sprayer, who was as much revered by the underground as he was despised by the authorities. As potent in their passion as in their playing, the dynamic duo of Mantar bring it all home in this striking sophomore that few will find hard to resist!