MANTAR’S first full length, Ode To The Flame is an implacably savage Black Metal record. As diverse as it is aggressive it is an impressive start by the Germanic two-piece. As their major label debut Ode To The Flame builds on the strengths of Death by Burning, establishing MANTAR’s sound and shows great promise for what is to come.
At its core, the real strength of Ode To The Flame is its diversity in sonic assault. Switching from savage blast beat and thrashing guitars to guttural bass MANTAR showcase an extraordinary breadth of sound for a two-piece. Opening track Carnal Rising showcases this better than most songs on the album fading in with a buzz of feedback, finding its groove in mid-paced BATHORY worship before swapping to other-worldly guitar textures for the last few seconds. It’s this ability to switch approach whenever required that makes Ode To The Flame such a joy to listen to.
The musicianship of Klaenhardt and Sakarya is a huge part of why Ode To The Flame is so good with the two-piece regularly sounding far larger than two musicians yet, when needed, they are fully capable of stripping back the compositions to their basic simplicity which contributes so much to the breadth of sound achieved by MANTAR. The production, too, deserves credit for keeping the ideas coherent, and listenable but still keeping that lo-fi edge that stops it from sounding too well-rounded. The songs still sound unhinged enough but don’t sound like they’ve been recorded with a length of string and an empty baked bean tin.
Ode To The Flame doesn’t have many identifiable weaknesses as such. It’s a very good album, perhaps the main thing that stops it being elevated to the highest scores is the lack of any particular ‘centrepiece’ moments other than Era Borealis. While an excellent record, and we really are grasping at straws here to find something to dislike, there’s very few of these aforementioned ‘centrepiece’ moments that draw the attention of the listener and can drag them back. While its perhaps unreasonable to expect ear-worm choruses on a black metal record by a German two-piece the lack of these ‘moments’ is something that holds Ode To The Flame back as a ‘great’ record, rather than an ‘excellent’ one.
Such complaints are difficult to keep up however and, really, MANTAR’s latest work is a good album. It might not be bothering the upper-echelons of the end of year lists but it’s one that hints at immense creative promise for the future.
Ode To The Flame is set for release on April 15th via Nuclear Blast Records.
Like MANTAR on Facebook.