The two-piece band Mantar (Turkish for “mushroom”) from Germany is hard to define in terms of genre. Call it Metal, call it Punk, don’t call it Sludge – labelling them does not add anything to the fire with which drummer Erinç Sakarya and guitarist and vocalist Hanno Klänhardt create music and after which their records are apparently named: Their first entirely self-produced record ‘Death by Burning’ (2014) was released through Svart Records, and after extensive touring in Europe and the U.S., they caught Nuclear Blast Records’ attention and released their follow-up ‘Ode to the Flame’ through them in 2016 without losing their signature DIY character. Their title of their next full-length record ‘The Modern Art of Setting Ablaze’ promises a continuation of what Mantar stand for musically, while at the same time allowing room for innovation and growth. Let’s give it a listen!
After the beautifully mysterious intro The Knowing featuring a radiant crescendo from softly distorted guitars into straight-up rawness, the next track Age of the Absurd hits the listener with full energy. As usual, the heavy drum sound with a strong focus on the low frequencies as well as the three-dimensional guitar sound create a perfect symbiosis that does not make us miss a bass guitar for a single second. The characteristic hoarseness of the vocals is brought out by the booming production and works well with the Black Metal vibes of the catchy riffs. An impressive start that makes us hungry for more!
Seek and Forget knows how to satisfy the hungry listener: After a strong focus on vocals, the guitar, drums and organs in the background blend together into a warm sound wave that confidently pushes forward. The catchiness and industrial flavour of this tune promise intense party and sing-along potential.
With Taurus, Mantar show a different sound colouring yet again: More confronting rawness, piercing guitars and cool slow passages and breaks showcase the irate vocals that powerfully end the tune with the words “you are nothing”.
The next tune Midgard Serpent (Seasons of failure) oscillates between guitars that shine like light rays in a dark and dusty soundscape, and dirty and obscure distortion. Before a last chorus we thrash forward only to slow down and soften, albeit with angry vocals layered on top.
The staccato rhythms in Dynasty of Nails make no fuss, and work with just the right amount of cymbal work and straight-forward aggression. We later feel a carpet of sound spreading over our ears – this slow and resounding melancholia does not last long, however, as the song ends with a variation of aggressive drumming and rhythmic guitars partly amplifying their sound power with half-tempo elements.
Eternal Return starts off mighty and slow; the feedback effect in the background of groovy instrumentals makes the listener want to move to the nifty drum work, wide-ranging guitar sound and slightly less-hoarse-than-usual vocals. The energetic rawness and slow drum hits of the chorus make this track a satisfying undercover title track.
Organs and a darkly buzzy guitar sound at the beginning of Obey the Obscene give us non-kitschy Dracula vibes that are soon followed by a more humble yet captivating riff playing with an ethereal and simultaneously dirty guitar sound. The organ resurfaces later, tying the entire tune together nicely and working impressively with the spoken word at the end.
Anti Eternia again shows off Mantar’s astonishing variation regarding both vocals as well as forward-pushing drum work. Unfortunately the somewhat digital-sounding solo followed up by a warmer rock guitar towards the end does not quite harmoniously match up with the blackened guitar sound that otherwise dominates the tune. At least we get another chorus at the end that distracts us from our confusion.
The Formation of Night gives us a pleasant break with its slow and smooth guitar riffs and groovy vocal-drum teamwork. A quite extensive break followed up by ambient softness could mislead us into thinking a new song has started – until the guitars set in with obscure energy and leave us in pleasant shock.
We get a short breather before Teeth of the Sea fully sets in: It delivers a convincing mix between brighter guitar and darker slightly muffled rhythmic work. This tune builds up tension that lasts until the very end: The final slow-down is just a fraction not slow enough to make us lean back and relax. This is a good thing, however, as the song flies by incredibly quickly.
The record ends with The Funeral, a tune playing with cosmically ambient sounds, a groovy rock guitar sound, nearly spoken screams and open sound spaces as the chords are left to resound. The relentless lyrics make it clear to us that the remotely peaceful synth sound at the end is only fake safety – thus, the album ends on a tense note and certainly leaves its impression on the listener.
If you haven’t heard of the German mushroom fiends yet it is about time you do. Put your genre expectations aside, get ready for the grim anger unleashed by only two musicians and let yourself be set ablaze.
Order your copy of ‘The Modern Art of Setting Ablaze’ out 24th August via Nuclear Blast HERE!