Mantar – a genre-melding metallic dyad from Germany – emerged a few years back with some interesting demo tracks and their début album ‘Death by Burning’. Whilst their first effort boasted some stand-out tracks with impressive power, in places it drifted and lost my attention in a manner which made it feel a little disjointed. Two years later and the duo from Hamburg are back with ‘Ode to the Flame’. The wide ranging parts that make up Mantar’s whole seem to have gradually combined into a more solidified entity, as if by the gravity of the massive sound that is the core of everything they do. Whether it is in the atmosphere of the blackened passages, the pounding doom of bass-ridden guitar and drums, or the energetic blasts of metallic punk and groove riffs; there are certain qualities found throughout all these places that keep the album flowing and on point. Despite pulling together such a myriad of influences, they manage to make it work as a single distinguished sound; one of unrestrained power, of vitality and passion for all things raw and heavy.
There is enough variety throughout the collection of ten songs to maintain intrigue, with the shorter tracks amplifying the immediacy of the music whilst the tail end of the album demonstrates some ability to sprawl out into something verging on a Triptykon-like interpretation of the term epic. With songs such as ‘Era Borealis’ the band exemplifies its capability to write memorable choruses between the plodding and nod-inducing riff work, and the video that accompanies the catchy ‘Cross The Cross’ shows a more humorous outlook on an otherwise aggressive and vigorous work.
The fact that Mantar is a two-piece I feel is an important one. Perhaps this will sound at odds with the dark content of such music; but to me it seems much of the effectiveness of the band is down to the kinship of two close friends creating together. There is less room for compromise or diluted ideas and instead there is this powerful dynamic of shared devotion; one where primal percussion and relentless riffs form song after song in symbiotic synergy. They even remain a pair during their live performances, choosing to recreate their sound in the same way it was conceived. Performing live seems fundamental to the music, and looking back at the band’s history you can see their dedication to the underground, performing whenever and wherever possible, from tiny squat venues to open air festivals all around the globe. I am under the impression that it is in this live environment the experience of audial kineticism would only be further augmented. Given their seemingly unending touring cycles and the fact they are now part of the Nuclear Blast roster, I would expect to see them somewhere soon on their well deserved ascent to wider recognition.