Mantar – Ode to the Flame (Nuclear Blast)Friday, 8th April 2016
Mantar are indicative of Nuclear Blast’s current roster tussle, where the old (see: Hammerfall) are being replaced by the unconventional (also see: Ghost Bath). Such moves may not reap similar sales figures, but in terms of underground credibility, yeah, both Ghost Bath and Mantar work, although Mantar is the better of the two. A German duo comprised of Erinc Sakarya (drums, vocals) and Hanno Klänhardt (vocals, guitars), Mantar were first heard from via their 2014 Death By Burning album, which was handled by Svart. Two years on, and with a fresh deal from the aforementioned Nuclear Blast in tow, the band is back with Ode to the Flame.
A caustic, near-punk take on the crusty black metal/sludge sound (in fact, DR wouldn’t be surprised if the pair refer to themselves as a punk band), Mantar’s raw, no-frills approach drips of what modern black metal has become, most notably on biting numbers like “Carnal Rising” and “The Hint.” Quite easy to get down for a good rockin’ on “Era Borealis,” which is far and away Ode to the Flame’s best cut, a fiery, Satyricon-like jam that is quite capable of some neck snapping. From there, only marginal dynamics and reach make their way into the album’s running order, perhaps bogged down by the all-too-simplistic riff approach on hand. It’s the obvious deterrent with these two gents; Mantar never fully gets out of the chord-y, sideways riff tangents, thus making “OZ” and “Cross the Cross” feel a tad forced.
As a sidebar, Mantar debated on not using any formal cover art to accompany Ode to the Flame. Wanting the music to do the talking, as well as properly represent the one-dimensional approach of the album, it makes ample sense. It explains why the album’s cover hovers on the bland side. On the same page, Mantar should tread carefully – they’ll need more firepower down the line to stay out of the generic bin. For now, Ode to the Flame keeps the German duo in safe company.