Manimal – Armageddon Review

Music doesn’t always need to be smart, timely or “important,” folks. Metal especially of all the genres lacks these requirements and sometimes it’s best served in its raw, unrefined form. Since pouncing onto the Swedish metal scene in 2009, Manimal made it their stock in trade to deliver the metal goods in pure, unadulterated classic metal style in the vein of Painkller era Judas Priest with slight power metal elements at the outer edges. Led by the stratospheric Halford-esque vocals of Samuel Nyman, Manimal is a simple, straightforward beast, and as with much of classic/traditional metal, it’s big stupid fun with zero effort made to be important or intelligent. Albums, like Trapped in the Shadows and Purgatorio, were easy-to-digest, hook-laden platters of 80s metal adulation, and for an old guy like me, that’s just fine. As the years have passed, the distance between Manimal and Primal Fear has shrunk to an increasingly small, deadly space and basically, they’re doing the same thing with slightly different tones. Now we get fourth album Armageddon. Will there be growth? Maturity? Important themes? Manimal says no.

Instead, you get another uber metal, uber direct slab of 80s ideas, formulas and traditions wrapped up in slightly modern window dressing. Songs like lunkheaded opener “Burn in Hell” and title track “Armageddon” are balls to the Manowall classic metal without a deep thought in their blessed heads. It’s all meaty, crunchy riffs, wailing, over-the-top vocals, and pounding war drums. Nearly everything is set to Painkiller and you need to make peace with that. Manimal do step into slightly different spaces here and there though, as on the super silly but 120% pure chrome of “Forged in Metal.” It’s still pure Priest worship but the inclusion of death metal vocals makes it feel way heavier and crushing than it should as Mr. Nyman wails and warbles like a deranged person with an endless helium supply.

They also deviate a bit on “Path to the Unknown” which is more like Roy Khan era Kamelot and reminds me a lot of “The Haunting (Somewhere in Time)” in the best of ways. It’s a high point and quite classy for a bunch of filthy Manimals. As on their last album, scattered moments even conjure memories of the long-departed but still mighty Lost Horizon, for example, the excellent closer “The Inevitable End.” Sadly, there are some teething issues here that bring Armageddon down a peg or two. Enjoyable as they are on a surface level, cuts like “Burn in Hell,” “Armageddon” and “Master of Pain” aren’t the kind of songs I can see seeking out for monster metal blast attacks a month from now. The choruses just don’t have the same hook and snap as the better stuff and though they aren’t filler, they aren’t that memorable. Much like the last Primal Fear outing, you get some scorcher and some lukewarmers and though the album plays well enough, it falls shy of that next-level experience. At 43 minutes, it’s a brisk enough, easy-breezy spin though.

As with the prior Manimal outings, Mr. Nyman’s Halfordisms are the star attraction. While he can nail those high-register screams like a pro, he also has the ability to sing like Daniel Heiman (Warrior Path, Dimhav, ex-Lost Horizon) when it suits him, and that my friends, is a powerful tool in the weapon box. His delivery is old school but effective and he brings a lot of lung capacity to the material. The other crucial component is the collection of thick, crunchy, riffs by Henrik “Hank” Stenroos. He knows how to keep it simple and very metal, churning out the meaty leads over which Nyman shrieks like a stuck banshee. It’s the oldest formula possible, but it still works when done properly.

As I listen to Armageddon, it occurs to me this is exactly the kind of band I would be in if I could sing (I cannot). It’s loud, obnoxious, dumb and trve, just like your friendly neighborhood Steel. It may not be sophisticated or the band’s best outing, but it’s still plenty fun with a few tunes that will blow your face off. I like dumb metal because at my core I too am a Manimal. What are you? Woof.

Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 5 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: AFM
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: October 8th, 2021

Written By: Holdeneye

Back in 2018, AFM Records released two no-nonsense heavy metal records within weeks of each other. Brainstorm’s Midnight Ghost was a huge, riff-filled platter of anthemic metal that won some accolades around these parts, but its partner in crime, Manimal’s Purgatorio, was no slouch either. I still remember reading both of Steel‘s reviews at a time when I—like some of you may be at this very moment— was patiently waiting to hear if I’d been selected in the AMG casting call. Fast forward almost exactly three years and, once again, Brainstorm and Manimal are releasing albums within a month of each other. This time around, I’m a full-fledged, successful, exquisite, valued, admired, and humble member of the AMG staff, and I’ve somehow managed to weasel my way into a double review of Manimal’s ArmageddonSteel has already established that the newest Brainstorm is a formidable force, so let’s see if Manimal can hold up their end of the bargain.

The name ‘Manimal’ tells you everything you need to know about this band. These Swedes shamelessly peddle steroid-laden heavy metal tunes without an ounce of nuance or subtlety, and I absolutely love it. Everything about the Manimal schtick—from the distortion-saturated, modern guitar tone, to the hyper-aggressive lyrical subject matter, to the piercing screams of Sam Nyman— is dialed to ’11,’ landing the band in the same camp as a band like Mystic Prophecy and reminding me a bit of a faster version of the sound found on that classic Judas Priest record, Demolition.1

The vast majority of Armageddon is built for speed and power, perfect for household activities like vacuuming, doing the dishes, drag racing, heavy lifting, and poser slaying. Manimal waits all of twelve seconds to unleash the first filthy power chord on opener “Burn in Hell,” a track that builds and builds to a mosh-pit-ready chorus—I can already see the crowd pumping their firsts as they scream the title. “Evil Soul” and Chains of Fury” really bring out the Ripper-era Priest vibes, with Nyman’s screams soaring higher than billionaire ‘astronauts’ dare to go on the former, and the mid-paced stomp of the latter sounding like it came straight off of Demolition. The staccato assault on “Master of Pain” recalls the glory days of Iced Earth, and “Forged in Metal” just might be the most purely metal song I’ve heard all year. The thrash riffing on the latter is just nasty, and I bet I’ve listened to the track about 40 times by now.

There are a couple of awkward moments that hold Armageddon back from greatness, but they do little to prevent the record from generally kicking ass. A couple of times, the band falls into the trap of trying to sound a bit too mainstream. “Path to the Unknown” flirts with disaster, ultimately succeeding despite its polished Kamelot-meets-nu-metal sound, but penultimate track “Insanity” sounds a little too much like radio hard rock for comfort and “Slaves of Babylon” contains a bonafide breakdown—a somewhat strange thing to find on a true metal album. Still, the good outweighs the bad by a wide margin, and with amazing tracks like “Burn in Hell,” “Forged in Metal,” “Chains of Fury,” “Evil Soul,” “Master of Pain,” and “The Inevitable End,” Armageddon can stand up to its predecessor with confidence.

It’s pretty cool that exactly three years after they both released really strong albums, Brainstorm and Manimal have seen fit to repeat. I’ve been spinning Wall of Skulls and Armageddon back to back for a few weeks now, and I’m honestly not sure which one I’m enjoying more. So why pick? Have both! If one is good, two is better. Right, Steel?

Rating: 3.5/50

Show 1 footnote

  1. wut. – Steel
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