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Norwegian Dissonance Extravagganza - 70%

LefterisK, January 30th, 2015

Manimalism is the bizarre entity that has risen from the ashes of Taarenes Vaar (formed in 1992) having only produced two demos, dating back in 1996 and 1997 before falling into obscurity. Kim Sølve’s (the band’s founder and head of Trine + Kim Design Studio, along with Trine of course) mind was too uneasy to follow the classic Norwegian black metal scene of the early nineties. Those familiar with his design studio already know that Solve always works in the vanguard, both for the minimal or maximal impact, and never with indifference. It stands to reason that we can expect the same from his debut album. After 22 years of hibernation, Manimalism rises again.

Bridging the 17-year gap since the last demo comes ‘Demons in Tuxedos’, our introduction to the quintet’s frenzy. The dissonance ringing forth from the first chords unveils a strange, eerie setting that comprises the perfect hideout for every devil in disguise lurking under his attractive and formal integument. It is an appropriate opener, concise but complete, and leads quickly to ‘Carnal Catering Service’ which presents some abrupt, pleasantly disconnected but effective rhythmic riffing. The Ved Buens Ende influences are evident, but it's its combination with the palm-muted syncopated riffs that grants a special character to the self-titled effort. The work with the bass and drums is exceptional as well; Plenum and Bjeima’s performances shine throughout the whole record, skillful and subtle. Indubitably, Manimalism seems like a distorted continuation of Yurei (Bjeima’s other project) had it not been written decades earlier. Kim Sølve on guitars, is responsiblefor the liquidity of the sound, hauling the intertwining, disharmonized chords into a labyrinthine delirium. The black metal element is quite apparent, arising not only through the dark, claustrophobic tones mentioned above but also through the suffocating, uneasy atmosphere the album creates. It's worth noting that all these songs were rerecorded with loyalty towards the original compositions, always alluding to the Old Norwegian mindset. Manimalism celebrates that blackened era but also dares to establish a new one.

Illustrating the point is the soothing presence of ‘The Crooner’ which is, to me, one of the highlights of the record. The bass leads the first half of the song; building up melodious lines over discordant passages, a nice counterpoint transitioning between the heavy, down-picked riffs and dark, stressful arpeggios as the song slowly unfolds. The vocals are also performed with such tension and theatricality, seemingly contradicting the song’s title. Given the album’s highly unorthodox nature, its lyrics could not be any different. They stress subconscious matters that flirt with irrationality, motivated by sensual, physical or carnal appetites rather than moral or spiritual ones. Indeed, the surrealistic song-titles and the overall lyrical content is filled with strange meaning: words hiding behind metaphors revealing messages definite and ever relevant.

The fact that most of this album was written between 1993 and 1999 but is only a month away from its official release is proof that these fine gentlemen have not lost an ounce of their vision or inspiration and that their experience helped them deliver the material exactly as they wanted. Every song is well-crafted, and despite being full of details, still manages to sound fairly simple, maintaining consistency throughout their length. Quoting the band’s words: ‘‘Manimalism is recorded like a black metal-inspired doom band performing twisted 60’s crooner ballads’’ although, I might add, it sounds as fresh as ever. To summarize, if this album was released during the period of its initial conception, we would now likely include it among classic avant-garde metal albums such as Written in Waters and Min tid skal komme.

Lefteris Kefalas
http://www.avantgarde-metal.com