Heathens – Manntra (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

I have to admit that I grew up listening to the formative years of the NWOBHM, yes, I’m that old! Some of the favourite subjects of those spandex-clad, foot-on-the-monitor pioneers was ancient battles and bloody mythologies, which suited the music well, but the way that it was presented seemed a bit lacking in integrity, feeling more like the soundtrack to a group of 14-year-old’s weekly Dungeons and Dragons session than sonic art.

And this is why Manntra is so great. They take that same subject matter, of medieval warriors and daring pirates, dark histories and the stuff of legend and turn it into raw-edged battle hymns and heroic narratives. There songs seem full of authenticity and authority, integrate nd inspiration and Heathens is their latest epic seeking to bring history to life.

Blending Croatian folk traditions with raw rock riffs, thunderous metal swagger with dark gothic swathes, Heathens, like much of the music found on their latest album, Monster Mind Consuming, is a tale of the battlefield, of war and defiance, of finding inner strength and of standing up to new challenges.

But they are songs that can be seen as analogies too. The challenges can be seen as the stuff of modern life as easily as those of the history books, the battles are those of the mind and heart as much as physical. But whatever you take away from songs like Heathen, we can all agree that they take these subjects and deliver them in a way that excels. Heathens is big, brooding and bombastic but also invented, textured and deftly crafted. Truly the stuff of legend.

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