Malist – To Mantle the Rising Sun Review

Atmospheric black metal is as rife with possibilities as it is with generic clones. In theory, the term describes music that chiefly adheres to black metal rvles, while also utilizing various sonic tools typically found beyond the box ov black metal tropes, in order to create a much more – you guessed it – atmospheric variant of black metal. Techniques such as building reverb-laden tremolo walls of sound and employing shifting clean/heavy dynamics have proven themselves incredibly efficient means of lending black metal’s sound a more robust sense of gravitas which we can label as atmosphere, yet this has lead to post black metal – which essentially relies solely on those two tricks – largely co-opting the atmospheric tag, rendering it a bit broad. The fact that post black metal isn’t so clearly at peace with its own identity doesn’t help anyone, either; my point is that atmospheric black metal is a pretty useless handle nowadays, so when you see it attributed to Malist’s sophomore album, To Mantle the Rising Sun, ignore it entirely.

The difference between what one might expect from something labeled as atmospheric black metal versus what to expect from Malist was something I stressed when reviewing their debut, In the Catacombs of Time, and I really can’t stress it enough this time around. The songwriting is just as multifaceted now as it was then, if not more so; Catacombs found Malist exploring the concept of… well, exploration, whereas Mantle sounds like the work of seasoned explorers. The twists and turns taken along the 7 track way are maneuvered with a graceful sense of command, confident forays off the beaten atmoblack path made with little warning which arrive at surprising and satisfying sonic scenery time and time again. Detours to the realms of death, prog, thrash, ambient, and more are seamlessly worked into a travel itinerary designed to explore black metal at large, making for an inspired and consistently engaging adventure all in all.

Just because Mantle isn’t ‘just’ atmoblack doesn’t mean it isn’t still atmoblack all the same. One-man sovereign kvlt nation Ovfrost certainly favors a blackened aesthetic, doling out distorted fretboard dissonance and shrieks as grim as they come. Guitars etch jagged patterns of riff and atmosphere alike into the very air, carried adrift by pummeling currents of percussion, and Ovfrost’s shrieks and roars match every bit of blackened instrumental intensity herein. In a manner not far removed from the explorational, alchemical spirits of The Negative Bias or Gaerea, the core ov Malist’s sound is built upon the skulls of 2nd wave black metal and allowed to fester in its own filth, incessantly growing and mutating into a new, hostile ecosystem of sounds. There’s the occasional whiff of melancholy in the air a la tracks like “Tempest of Sorrow” or closer “Karsted Hearts,” but by and large Mantle is a seething thing of hate and energy, a wrathful tour de force through black metal and beyond.

This is the point where I typically kneecap some poor album with a list of grievances, usually delivered with much cursing and velvety contempt. Not today, you sub-Muppet fuckwits, since I’ve no complaints to speak of – not regarding To Mantle the Rising Sun, anyway. Shall we discuss the horrors which have befallen my as of late over-used and under-maintained slippers, instead? Didn’t think so. Catacombs was a particularly promising portent of potential and possibility,1 and Mantle came through on every level. There’s a certain familiar, grim feel which can now be recognized as a distinct sonic identity, and while Mantle retains its predecessor’s eagerness to explore, it likewise exhibits a certain sense of control and direction that Catacombs only threatened. Songs such as “The Ultimate Possession” don’t just sound multidimensional and imaginative, they sound big and fucking scary, harnessing the full evocative capabilities of atmospheric black metal and unleashing them unto deathier, proggier terrain. Malist took everything they once did right and then did it better, rather than diving into the safer waters of homogeneous anonymity that every other atmoclone is currently drowning us with, and that in and of itself deserves some kind of medal.

For 47-ish minutes, To Mantle the Rising Sun provides me with an oddly two dimensional view of black metal. On one level, it lets me peer back to my earliest successful flirtations with the genre, when everything was new and exciting and I was unable to predict the next twist or turn of any given song. On another, it cautiously opens an optimistic eye that I didn’t even know I had,2 allowing me to peer into the murky future of the genre I love and glimpse hope on the horizon. It’s the kind of follow up that every reviewer knows better than to bother praying for, and I’m not sure why Jørn saw fit to bestow Mantle’s greatness upon such undeserving wretches as we but it does my trve faith good, all the same. If this grand panorama of sounds before me is what you call atmospheric black metal, then atmospheric black metal is not dead.

Rating: 4.0/5.0
DR: 5 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Northern Silence Productions
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: April 24th, 2020

Show 2 footnotes

  1. I don’t care that that’s redundant, I was determined to jam my P in there, yo.
  2. And should probably get removed, or at least looked at.
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