Not much is known about the mysterious entity Dead in the Manger. And by not much, I mean virtually fucking nothing. The band choose to remain anonymous for whatever reason, perhaps due to the overwhelming fame and fortune that comes with life in an underground band playing extreme metal. Whatever the case, last year Dead in a Manger released a EP titled Transience that unfortunately passed me by and now they return in quick time to deliver their impressive full-length debut. I use the term full-length quite loosely here, as Cessation features a mere six tracks and a running time of a shade under 27 minutes. Fortunately the brevity of Cessation actually works in the band’s favor, especially when they are entrenched in a metal scene with a serious self editing problem.
What is most evident on this release is that Dead in the Manger are a talented unit that are onto something interesting here, creating a nasty clusterfuck of grind, black metal, sludge and doomy post-metal that reveals a hell of a lot more than meets the eye. While “Part II” and “Part IV” leave bloody trails of blast beats, scorched grind riffs and tremolo melodies in their relentless wake, elsewhere the band traverses more varied and interesting terrain. The extreme component of Dead in the Manger‘s formula couples grind and black metal to pleasingly ferocious effect, however, it’s how these elements are skilfully juxtaposed with unsettling ambient textures, off-kilter melodies and dense, dirgey instrumental passages that lends Cessation its unique edge. For instance, “Part I” opens with some gentle chords and restrained percussion, lulling the listener into a false sense of security before ugly feedback and pained growls cut through the peace and the last third of the song unleashes a caustic barrage of grinding ferocity. The guitar work isn’t overly technical, yet it wins points for inventiveness, coming across like an unhinged amalgam of Buzz Osborne and Mick Kenney.
Dead in the Manger are skilled at building tension and creating a gritty, unsettling atmosphere with their music, illustrated through the doomy wallop, unusual melodies and discordant riffs that highlight the creepy march of “Part III.” This is an aspect of Dead in the Manger’s sound that I find particularly appealing, as it displays their out-of-the-box use of melody and understated riffcraft. Meanwhile “Part VI” brings Cessation to its epic conclusion and may very well be the album’s highpoint. The swollen eight minute epic ties together all the strands of the band’s sound into a poisonous behemoth of unhinged atmospherics, grinding blasts and trudging sludge riffs. The track is extremely well paced and constructed despite its weighty length.
I dig the production quite a bit on Cessation. There’s a raw, unvarnished crunch to the feedback drenched guitars that doesn’t compromise overall clarity, while the mix is uncluttered and the drums sound satisfyingly punchy without overwhelming the other instruments. Of course the disparate styles can produce a jarring effect at times, although in all honesty the transitions and track sequencing create a reasonably cohesive listening experience. An issue I have with Cessation is in regards to its replay value. While I’ve enjoyed my time with the album, its lack of genuinely catchy moments and bleak vibe pushes Cessation into the mood music category, which I’m not sure I’ll be revisiting on a regular basis.
Nevertheless, when all is said and done Dead in the Manger have developed a unique sound and crafted a quality album well worth investigating for metalheads seeking adrenaline charged extremity with an artful spin. I’ll definitely be keeping the band on my radar to see if they can capitalize on the potential shown here and deliver something truly special down the track.