Look, I get it. Manimal isn’t a great band name. Hell, it isn’t even a good one. But for once, I need you overly judgmental metal hacks to look past that and keep whatever passes for an open mind round these parts. Highly dubious moniker aside, Manimal is a talented Euro-power band with the good sense to graft a ton of traditional metal akin to Judas Priest‘s Painkiller to their sound for extra muscle. Their first two albums were tons of fist pumping fun fueled by beefy riffage and the stratospheric vocals of Samuel Nyman. 2016s Trapped in the Shadows in particular has been granted several years of regular spins at Casa de Steel thanks to catchy, punchy writing and a commitment to taking the term “over the top” to heart. I was more than a little eager to get my damn dirty paws on Purgatorio, and now that I have it nestled to my apeish chest, I can sum it up in 3 simple words: Lost Horizon reborn. Are you paying attention now, chumbos?
Okay, that may be overstating things a scosche, as Purgatorio is like a high-octane sock puppet fight between that famously bombastic group of yore and Painkiller, the latter of which opener “Black Plague” borrows a helluva lot from, including that album’s titular song’s urgency and guitar tone. So much so I almost expected Nyman to start the song off wailing “Faster than a bullet!” It’s all smash and crash from there, with Nyma howling over the chaos like a young and angry Halford, and it works on pure attitude alone. And there’s absolutely no denying the title track is sheer Lost Horizon worship, and nails it uncannily well, with vocal arrangements and high-pitched histrionics that perfectly recall the mighty Daniel Heiman1 and riffing almost completely lifted off their influential albums. It has traces of Kamelot‘s super serious pomp as well, and this song keeps playing through my head demanding repeated spins. It’s powerful, catchy, classy and really grabs at the brain stem.
“Spreading the Dread” is another Lost Horizon-esque cut, with heavy, crunchy riffs driving the song as Nyman does his over-the-top thing with aplomb and power aplenty. “Denial” sounds like Lost Horizon covering a lost cut off Painkiller, and it’s as manic as that sounds, but good fun. This one is made for gym and road work playlists, and if it doesn’t get you moving, you’ve probably been dead for some time. Add a big, hooky chorus and you can’t go wrong.
While there are no bad moments, “Manimalized” is a tad too cheesy for its own good, though it does grow with repeated spins. At a slim and battle-ready 42 minutes, there isn’t much fat on Purgatorio, but there are plenty of hooks to keep you coming back, and that speaks well of the band’s evolving writing prowess. This is a superior album to Trapped in the Shadows, which is saying something, as that one was a lot of fun too.
Samuel Nyman is a very talented singer with a prodigious range, and anyone who can mimic Daniel Heiman is not to be taken lightly. He brings it hard throughout Purgatorio, singing, screaming, wailing and generally whomping the listener with an old timey ignorance of nuance and restraint. His recklessness is our reward as his vocal acrobatics put this stuff over better than most could ever dream of. His main partner-in-crime Henrik Stenross delivers crunchy, propulsive riffing cribbed heavily from the salad days of Judas Priest and Iced Earth. He doesn’t get fancy pantsy about it either, laying down heavy grooves and clearing the road for Nyman. It’s often a simple recipe but it produces tasty, easily digestible concoctions.
Manimal have a stupid name, and play music tailor-made for metal traditionalists, but man, can they drop a rocking tune! Overlook the sobriquet, paint your eyes black and get on the damn Mandwagon, because these guys get better with each release. There’s a Manimal in all of us, and it’s time to set them free. Good doggy!