Where to begin? Manntra has so much going on in its music that it is really hard to sum up what they do concisely. But I will try. Imagine if Rammstein decided to change direction and become a folk band? Or if System of a Down had formed a musical collective with Gogol Bordello? Or if Nightwish had joined the navy. In 1607.
It’s heavy music for sure, but what’s going on here is way above the mundane realms of your average metal band or rock outfit. There is a gothic heart pulsing at the core of the music but also a sense of their Balkan homeland, the lyrics are often as brutal as the music that drives them, but there are moments of finesse and delicacy to be found. And then, on top of all of that mixing and matching, blending and borrowing, the music is brilliantly accessible, inspiring the listener to sing along, punch the air and howl at the moon. Either that or start a war.
This rich combination of folk deftness, metal grunt and groove, Balkan sonic traditions, martial force and rabble-rousing lyrics makes for a heady mix. One that is slightly otherworldly, which seems to describe an alternate world, or at least one long past, a place of daring deads and heroic quests.
And this might not be exactly new ground for this genre but they do it so much better than most of the competition, which at times feels like it has been lifted from a Dungeons and Dragons adventure…written by a 14-year-old.
No, this is quality stuff, lyrically stirring, of course, but it is the attention to detail in the music which is the real charm. The way that Ori Ori feels like a traditional folk song being subsumed by the heaviest metal vibe. The way that Voices of The Sea mixes sea shanty singalong, rock and roll groove and an almost pop sensibility. The way that the title track is about as heavy as it gets but doesn’t forget about groove, dynamics and accessibility.
I don’t know how they do it. How they fit so much into their songs yet still manage to make everything work so well. Instruments seem to have their own space and never get in each other’s way, genres are chopped up and reassembled as anagrams of their former selves, the dynamics are…well, dynamic and it sounds like nothing that you have heard before.
No, I don’t know how they do it. I’m just glad that they do.