Manfrea – Noire Review

Novel genre mixes are always fun. I thought I had one of those when I grabbed Noire, sophomore effort from Moscow musicians Manfrea, from the bin. Blackened metalcore, it said. Russia seems to have developed a penchant for experimental, envelope-pushing metal, so it’s only natural my thoughts went to bizarre concoctions of Trivium and Darkthrone and the question how two such disparate genres could possibly mix. My esteemed colleagues immediately shot down such ruminations when I pondered these questions aloud, by proposing the suspicious half of this amalgamation might be more along the original, non-melodic metalcore line, which would make the figurative distance between genres considerable shorter. Joke is on them, however; I was right the first time.

It must be said, though, the metalcore is definitely the main component here, occasionally supplemented with more frosty shrieks, blastbeats and tremolo riffs. The thickness in application varies. Single “Noire” is straight out of that period in time where metalcore and emo locked lips on a regular basis, and that kind of pubescent sentimentality is a recurring theme, but when the black metal treads more toward the foreground such as on “Roses,” it creates weird contrasts between content and form. Sometimes two or three different vocalists of wildly differing styles and techniques, including clean male and female vocals as well as core shouting and hoarse shrieking, go into battle royale mode, all fighting for their place in the spotlight, and it becomes increasingly difficult to figure out what the hell the aim of this hubbub exactly is.

Not only does Manfrea attempt to smear a veneer of black metal over a metalcore chassis with a wide variety of vocal styles, there’s more fuckery abound. The 80’s keyboards that kick off opener “Prelude” hint at things to come, because retrofuturistic synthwave rears its neon head sporadically across the album. “Superbia” is practically a Carpenter Brut track with a bit more guitar, and its follow-up “Quit” blasts Casio keyboards over what is otherwise among the heaviest tracks on Noire. Unexpectedly, the album peters out with a baroque piano-and-violin outro at the 30-minute mark.

Most of my time listening to Noire, I’m simply wondering who this album is supposed to be for. There’s at least 3 different styles smashed together here, none of which play well with the others, and while I applaud the experimental attitude, the actual effectiveness of the songwriting leaves much to be desired. The album does not cohere, its components stodgily refusing to mix, even when they are played together. Individually, they’re mostly competently rendered; the screams have good power and presence, the female vocals manage good emotional expression. The hooks are generally memorable and the short album contains plenty of variety. The teenage melodrama is an often grating factor, though, especially with the amount of overly affected alternative vocals present.

All in all, Noire seems to be more confused than anything. Their willingness to go off the beaten track is great, but the styles chosen are either outdated and steeped in mawkish maudlin (the metalcore) or poorly represented (the black metal), and even where the individual bits work, the whole never does. Manfrea has an interesting box of concepts and the technical chops to pull them off, but despite careful construction toward lofty heights, the concepts don’t cohere into an album. The stale foundation crumbles beneath the tottering edifice and it collapses under the weight of its own ambitions. I hope Manfrea can sift through the rubble and extract the surviving parts toward something more worthy of its entrepreneurial spirit.

Rating: 2.0/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Self-released
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: September 17th, 2021

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