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The pinnacle of power metal - 95%

Ungolianth, June 20th, 2005

Ah Manticora, Denmark’s finest band that are criminally underrated. In 1999 the band released their sophomore album which definitely is their crowning achievement in my opinion. So where to start? Well first of all the best thing about this band are the riffs, they are very fast and thrashy with a great sense of melody. Flemming Schultz and Kristian Larsen have really done a very fine job with the twin guitars creating lots of great leads and headbanging friendly thrashy rhythms. Apart from the riffs the strongest feature found here is the fact that it’s a very solid album that doesn’t suffer from any fillers but instead consists of one strong song after another. The songwriting itself may not be that spectacular and the arrangements may be somewhat simple, even if the band does show that they are capable of writing longer songs which they demonstrate on the ending title track which is as a wonderfully crafted 11 minute song.

Keyboards are used sparsely but once added they give the music another dimension creating a dark atmosphere that is something pretty atypical for the power metal genre. Same thing goes for the occasional acoustic guitars which are also very well used and are a nice contrast to the heavy riffs making it a well balanced album.

The production found here is outstanding with a crystal clear sound with lots of power giving the album a very huge sound, especially the drums sound very powerful and the guitar tone is also excellent. Even the bass if fairly audible making it almost impossible to believe that this was recorded with a small budget. Every cheesy power metal band who have forgotten the importance of strong production should do themselves a favor and listen to this one before going into the studio again.

Vocalist Lars Larsen is somewhat bizarre as he pretty much uses the same mid-ranged style throughout the entire album and very rarely tries to hit higher tones, which is a shame since he certainly proves that he has the capability of doing this. Yet his vocals are very strong without being especially aggressive and has he has a very unique style, which adds to the originality that this band has. Though calling this album extremely original is a slight amplification since the twin guitar work is at times reminiscent of early Iced Earth and possible even Blind Guardian and Metallica. And of course as with any power metal band the Iron Maiden influences are hiding somewhere in the background. But thanks to the vocals, keyboards, drums and the overall atmosphere this album possesses this makes for an album that doesn’t really sound like anything else I’ve heard.

All in all I’d say that this is a very fine crafted power metal album, and I’ve certainly not heard anything better from this genre. Mandatory purchase for any power metal fan and due to its thrashy riffs it should be appreciated by most thrash and heavy metal fans as well.