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Manatark's music, ironically, became more and more generic as the band acquired more and more members. As a result, anything that came after the debut album is not worth bothering with, while this demo release pretty much remains to be the highlight of the band's recording history. Nominally being one of the earlier, black metal related Estonian bands, Manatark was never completely black metal by trade. Rather, it rubbed shoulders with but never fully joined the ranks. Original solo proprietor Draconic's fairly idiosyncratic riffing style and melodic sensibilities were a bit too off center to properly qualify him as a true connoisseur of all things evil. "Roosteitk", given its date of birth, sounds like a piece of work prepared by someone at the major crossroads, just about ready to step out of the black metal morass and already starting to hint at then tempting and still not yet fully charted "post" territories with one hand, while still dipping, albeit with some reserve, into the "folk-ish" tradition with the other. Yes, it all could have easily gone down south and turn into one indigestion inducing mishmash, but it did not. The chosen road junction is navigated well, for which I am grateful.
Things sound considerably legible for an old 90's tape. Not fully balanced demo quality is apparent still, particularly with the smothered bottom end. But the overall sound is not dirty and manages to erect a tone of its own. As such, the record's individual components are worth going over in a little bit of detail, because Draconic seems almost too eager to create something that stands apart and, in the liner notes, refers to only one of his compositions as traditional black metal.
His vocal style never quite sits in one register and shuttles, from song to song, between tortured shouts, lower, raspier screaming and something in-between. Situation is also not-quite-static with the drum programming and its sheepish, polyrhythmic aspirations that, however, remain unfulfilled. Instead, Draconic introduces segments of slightly skewed and sometimes broken rhythms, alongside peculiar sounding tribal fills, derived from a different, fuller drum timbre. His guitar sits more on the trebly side of delivery, yet his smart, perhaps vaguely jazzy, chord combinations endow his blackened tremolos with unusual atonal harmonies, coupled with classy, atmospheric, often arpeggiated breaks and elegantly distant folk melodies.
The man's ability to craft memorable euphonies out of droning dissonance are truly highlighted during the first three compositions (sans the intro) - all boasting stately posture and plenty of commanding hooks. Folk incorporations remind the most of Oyhra's first demo in approach, yet Draconic's melodic and atmospheric sense, despite this tape's ostensibly Pagan feel and imagery, differs palpably, paradoxically pointing towards, I'd say, unrealized progressive ambitions. Keeping in mind where said ambitions eventually went, I am, again, all too happy that "Roosteitk" turned out the way it did.
Also of note, is very restrained usage of synth, implemented to subtly enliven and saturate preexisting progressions. Using some unconventional rhythmic basis, it is executed with much style, when it comes to the fore, specifically on "Raevusuu" - track that carries the most pervasive Pagan atmosphere. Plus, an excellent acoustic instrumental "Nukruse Noogutus" makes a fine midpoint and can stand tall next to its brethren out of Ulver's "Kveldssanger" or Empyrium's "Where at Night the Wood Grouse Plays".
Admittedly, after a very strong start, Draconic does run out of steam and lowers the bar somewhat on the tape's second half. "Ood", in particular, stands as the record's most stationary and dull composition. "Kuningveri Kroonita" and "Urgolev Uks", while not quite on par with previously captured momentums, are partially salvaged by the virtue of their droning guitar tone and nifty interludes. Uncustomary, decidedly un-metallic break (almost rock-ish really) of the former piece is also worth a mention.
Nevertheless, the good by far outweighs the "not-as-good", and "Roosteitk" finishes strongly with a monumental instrumental suite "Kui Kord...", which dots the i's, crosses the t's with much confidence and spirit. The latter still predominates here over calculating rationale - more evident on the band's debut disc. And that is the reason why I still like this tape after all these years. ["We, as one in heart and spirit against the name of Christ!" - The warcry of primeval Estonians] - you can take this pronouncement (out of the liner notes) at face value or as an idealistic finger thrown against an individual perception of an imperfect world.