Say what you will about the quality of metal in 2014, there was certainly no shortage of impressive debut offerings from hungry up and comers led by killer full-length debuts from Artificial Brain, Black Crown Initiate and Dreamgrave. Another band that released a stellar first effort worthy of your time and cash was Hamburg-based duo Mantar. The guitar/drum duo of Hanno and Erinc had only been together a relatively short period of time before delivering their raucous Death By Burning album and the crackling chemistry they share rings out loud and clear through the raw power of their unsophisticated, punk-infected sludge metal.
Influences range from the feedback drenched wallop of The Melvins, to the blackened attitude of Darkthrone, and boozy rock ‘n’ roll swagger of classic Motorhead without blatantly aping either band. Some of the riffs, melodies and raspier vocals are touched by black metal, yet overall Mantar’s sound is undoubtedly rooted in sludge and their own riff-driven form of rollicking extreme rock. Apparently Mantar detest the term sludge being applied to their music, but when cranking the likes of the poisonous dirge of “White Nights” or the teeth-gnashing intensity of opener “Spit,” such a term, however generic it may be, certainly fits Mantar’s profile.
As directly straightforward as Mantar’s motives appear to be, perhaps the most impressive aspect of their uncompromising formula is how dynamic and varied the songwriting truly is. Tempos are regularly tweaked, sneaky melodies seep through the band’s tough, hard-hitting exterior, while there’s an absolute abundance of top shelf riffs, surly grooves and catchy vocal hooks to latch onto. The songs are catchy, well-written and easily distinguishable from each other, covering ample territory without deviating far from their signature style.
The catchy, mid-tempo clip of “Astral Kannibal” is one of the most addictive songs I listened to all year, while “The Stoning” has an irresistible up-tempo gallop that successfully changes the pace once more. Hanno’s varied guitar work easily compensates for the lack of bass or second guitar and his venomous, semi-decipherable snarl is a fittingly imperfect accompaniment to the band’s hefty aural assault. Erinc’s drumming is yet another strong element to Death By Burning, whether locking into a concrete groove, unleashing an occasional blast section or embellishing his aggressive playing with more subtle nuances.
Death By Burning has a visceral in-your-face production that captures the raw aesthetics of the material well. The guitars and drums come through clear and punchy, and despite a measly dynamic range, hovering around a DR 4 or 5, I find it less bothersome than most albums with such squashed dynamics. Respectable as this self-produced recording is, I would like to see the band explore outside producers to help develop their sound on future releases. Death By Burning was released by Svart Records early in 2014 and is available in physical formats and as a digital download on Mantar’s Bandcamp page. Don’t miss one of 2014’s unsung gems.
Tracks to Check: “Astral Kannibal,” “Spit,” “The Huntsmen”