(Loyal Blood Records)
Some Jehovah’s witnesses knocked on the door this morning and woke me from my slumber, which seems as good a place as any to talk about this sophomore outing from Norway’s Mantric who comprise of three fifths of Christian extreme progressive metallers Extol; a band who I’ve always been quite fond of ever since the release of Burial. (You really need to hear that one if you haven’t. It’s an absolute must.) Ole Sveen mans the guitar as well as the vocal element, which he does with a fascinating touch that seems grounded in progressive experimentalism as much as it is modern post metal, providing a sort of atmosphere that seems to communicate throughout the disc and truly feels like a mantra of sorts. The record certainly does come off as being of a higher realm, be that spiritual, metaphysical or whatever one might call it – but it seems a bit more peaceful than the slew of metal albums I’m usually approached with. There’s nothing wrong with letting out one’s rage, anger and veritable disgust on a subject, as well as singing about movies, books and video games, but it’s interesting to hear something of a different colour, which is what Sin provides. Along with secondary guitarist/vocalist Tor Gildje and bassist/vocalist John Mjaland, the group echoes something that feels like Extol gone post and you can really hear that Neurosis and Floor influence throughout the recording. It feels “airy” to be precise, with Sveen’s vocal approach as fragile as glass. Despite the fact that the album is called Sin, it feels like an experiment in progressive purity. In fact, Sin is the kind of record that I don’t feel too many non-metal listeners would actually have a problem with, even though completely calling them metal doesn’t exactly fit all the notches of the release, especially with the first couple of songs on the disc.
As it goes on, frantic screaming starts to take the place of what began as a rather beautiful idea and it sort of ruins the whole thing for me. I’ve never been a fan of such senseless core screaming, but I have a feeling that those that revel in such erratic vocal octaves will have an absolute field day with these ending choices. In a sense, Sin begins very much like a post-progressive record should; but it launches out into a full-out sense of aggression that totally kills the vibe. I guess that they do have to have a couple of heavy numbers here in order to balance out the soft and clean tones on which this record began, but it’s a kind of listen that never warns you when it’ll erupt into a blazing inferno of rapid emotional outbursts. In the end, it leaves me only in appreciation of half the record as I find myself unexpectedly segued back into the mid-era core experimentations of Extol, which I was never exactly that fond of. Yet even though these untimely intrusions exist, there’s still enough of an intriguing performance at hand to melt even the coldest of hearts. In any case, it’s a much better way to hear a witnessing of the holy spirit, than to have to think of things to say in order to get the Jehovah’s witnesses to go away; so that you can finally get some sleep. (Eric May)