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Dead in the Manger are another one of those obscure bands that I have to fishtail around about to fill in the introduction to their review. They're the most secretive band to appear thus far on Volumes of Sin; literally nothing is known about them. Location? International. Members? Unknown. Formation date? Unknown. Releases? Just one for now, their debut EP Transience which has been released via 20 Buck Spin. Now that you're filled in as much as I am, let's get to it.
The album is sectioned into six 'parts' of what is best described as summer black metal; along the lines of Woods of Ypres, but with more traditional black metal vocals, and no where near as remarkable. Also staying with the ancient rites of unholy ritualistic metal, the material features compositions that are centered around tremolo riffs and blast beat drumming. A promising start is established with warm, humbly distorted picking arrangements and echo encased whispers during "Part I", however things soon take a turn as the compositions resort to relying on repetitive black metal staples. Though the band classify themselves as black metal and grindcore, there isn't a second of the content that shows any tendencies of the latter genre.
Aside from the occasional picking, the material is very stiff and mechanical, especially where the drums are concerned. The melodies feature a lot of quick blast beats that are inhumanly tight and fail to flow with fluidity. The guitar is just as typical, being mostly comprised of tremolo riffs and some rung out power chords. Aside from the whispers in the first track, the remainder of the content features shrill, mid-range vocals. On their website, 20 Buck Spin describe the music from Dead in the Manger as having the ability to summon sadness, which quickly turns to high BPM aggression and walks a line between sensory violence and post-traumatic exhaustion. This isn't the case with Transience, it fails to set any feelings kin to coldness, aggression or sadness, and the beats per minute are mild at best.
Transience is a bleak attempt at deviating from typical black metal. While the album has promising features such as wooden picking and a warm foreground with a pitch black backing landscape, there is far too much redundancy to make the material worth more than a couple of spins. "Part V" is the most intriguing track of the six, as it comes with atmospheric synths that are laid over an audio snippet; "Part IV" is a close second for its mesh of black metal and picking segments. Ultimately this one is a listeners choice, just don't expect anything near the description given by the label; nor any grindcore, a genre that the group label themselves a part of.
Digital Download Provided by: Earsplit PR
- Villi Thorne
With Dead in the Manger’s debut EP, Transience, two genres that are not usually associated in the least bit come crashing together in one eighteen minute assault on your senses. Combining the harrowing atmosphere of depressive black metal and the intense blasting nature of grindcore, you’re senses are sure to be pulled in several directions all at once. Completely forget the fact that these genres have, until now, been incompatible, because Dead in the Manger forces these two opposites to merge into a cohesive, destructive opus unlike anything else out there. The band’s label, 20 Buck Spin, claims that there is little known about this band, including their location and members’ names. Sure, there are a lot of bands attempting to go for the whole obscurity and anonymity thing lately, so who cares if there’s another.
Regardless, with Transience the band is intent on creating a violently malformed and mentally exhausting trip through the darkest depths of your subconscious. The album starts with what could pass as an introduction to any depressive black metal album, all cold and hopeless, but without so much as a faint notice, things get ugly fast. When the label said that the band was mixing depressive black metal and grindcore, they were right, but it’s in a way that really defies description. The album’s intro and some other moments throughout the EP have that depressing, lifeless void kind of feel to them, like the melodic minor key picking during “Part VI”, but the drums stay within the realms of blasting and pummeling creating a caustic sound with influences from both scenes. Most of the EP’s runtime is dominated by those blasting drums, which, into aside, never let up. It’s up to the guitar patterns to alternate between dismal minor keys and grinding trem riffs.
Really the band’s music sounds the most gripping during the chaotic drumming and melodic, yet fast paced and cyclical, trem riffing during “Part IV”. It’s trance-inducing with its repetitive nature, but rather than a meditative state, it’s a trance similar to shock where your body is responding by instinct alone. That’s not to say that the band’s most aggressive styling, like on “Part II”, with its two minutes of grinding blasting, isn’t equally impressive. As disjointed as it sounds on paper, it works surprisingly well. Everything sounds bleak and lifeless, even when the band is firing on all cylinders. While the guitars are a little too far forward in the mix and the drums are a little far back, the production isn’t terrible like more grindcore and most depressive black metal albums, as this is completely listenable from start to finish.
Dead in the Manger have really stumbled onto something special here. Combining the atmospheric loneliness of depressive black metal and the violent, malignant tendencies of grindcore, the band are playing something no one else has touched. Intensely haunting, disturbingly violent and unlike anything I’ve ever heard before. Transience could possibly be considered the first depressive grindcore album, and it is one that really puts it all on the table. Dead in the Manger have released one of the most original pieces of metal this year and you would be hard pressed to find a better example of a band forging into new territory.
Written for The Metal Observer.