Released: 2017, Nuclear Blast Records
Reviewer: Metal-Rules.com UK Team
It's quite a heady mix is sludge, black metal and punk, isn't it? Three of rock music's most extreme subgenres all combined into one would make for one hell of a racket and require an expert touch in order for it all to maintain coherence. Handily MANTAR are more than adept at it with two albums under their belt already, so the quality demonstrated on “The Spell” should come as no surprise.
What is a surprise, however, is the timing of its release. Their previous album “Ode To The Flame” only reared its grotesque head in the spring of last year – so why so soon releasing an EP? It begs the question of whether this serves as a teaser for a new album (as atmospheric death metallers FALLUJAH did with their “Nomadic EP”), or a trio of B-side-like tracks? Of course, there's no template for release order or timings, but it comes across more than a little intriguing.
Opener “Pest Crusade” bounces with a groove seldom seen in the aforementioned genres, owing far more to groove metal than anything else, with Klänhardt's vocals carrying the track along with a hoarse yell that can only be soothed with several lozenges and Lemsip. Disappointingly, though, it never really emerges from second gear thereafter. It might encourage the moshers in the pit to move or to headbang, but it rather trudges along. After acknowledging that, that's the jist of “The Spell”.
“Age Of The Vril” and the title track are certainly interesting listens, with the latter leaning further towards the black metal influence with its suffocating atmosphere. But the flat tempo and simplistic nature doesn't lend itself to mental retention. Whilst the combination of those three genres works great, it seems to blend them far too finely. You do want a cohesive soup, but the chunky stuff with morsels to get your teeth stuck into is and will always be the winner. The homogeneity contributes largely to the pedestrian approach, sadly.
“The Spell” is not a bad EP, let's make that clear. The grooves and vocals hit all the right notes, whilst the production leans slightly more towards the crusty, raw edge of the spectrum that retains that little bit of aural intrigue. It's just that it feels rather like a stop-gap; we're waiting for bigger things down the road. MANTAR fans will get a kick out of it, certainly, but one gets the impression that the future release afterwards will be the kicker. Listen for a spell and see for yourself.
Review by: Lee Carter