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Manitou > Entrance > Reviews
Manitou - Entrance

Manitou, Important Chapter from Viking Mythology - 89%

bayern, March 23rd, 2017

By the mid-90’s the second wave of black metal had already been established as a legitimate phenomenon on the metal field, so the Norwegians had to look for where next to conquer on the scene. And what a more appropriate and similar-sounding style to the bombastic, hyper-blasting operatics of black metal than the good old progressive. Yes, that was the next niche that had to be subdued, and before you know it there were these young upstarts named Conception who were producing some of the finest metal the world had ever heard.

Not so fast since before them there was this demo named “Desert Storms” (1990) which brought the American epic power progressive metal to the Scandinavia. Yes, the spirit of Manitou was domesticated on Norwegian soil by the band under scrutiny here who produced six complex battle hymns with echoes of Warlord, early Queensryche and the more adventurous spirit of Slauter Xstroyes. By all means a very interesting sound provided that said style was already fading away on the other side of the Atlantic. Alas, it didn’t become clear whether this gathering was intended as a serious project, or was just a one-time spell since nothing else followed…

Not until five years later when the album reviewed here appeared. Has Manitou’s presence been further consolidated in the North region? Well, it has to some extent although the guys have taken a much more diverse and more experimental approach. The eccentric pyrotechnics of Slauter Xstroyes have been preserved, but they’re now in the company of fusion-like panoramas ala Cynic, jarring mathematical equations in the spirit of Watchtower, intelligent twisted riff-patterns akin to Psychotic Waltz, and Sieges Even-sque labyrinthine mosaics. Yes, quite a bit to swallow, and definitely a material for quite a few listens. In other words, the band have made an amalgam of everything that is intricate, mind-stimulating and absorbing progressive metal, and have managed to produce an enchanting, albeit ultimately elaborate, listen.

The moment the jumpy staccato riffage of “Servants of Greed” starts stretching the listener’s nerves, one will know instantly that this won’t be an easy listen. What alleviates the demanding picture to a large extent are the great melodic leads, and the excellent emotional clean vocals ala Jeoff Tate (Queensryche) the latter ruling the proceedings with panache coming close to perfection on the warmer, more quiet passages like the ones on “Ache Falls”. Linear, more conventional rhythmic-patterns are very rare, and one would be delighted to hear the more dynamic, more orthodox riffs on “Coven (Autumn Arrives)” which sounds for a bit like a chapter from Lethal’s “Programmed”; or the dreamy melodic strokes on the oblivious semi-ballad “Ship of Dreams”. The balladic motifs are a very regular presence, and although they may annoy the hardliners, they do provide a relief from the multi-layered riff-formulas which twist and turn from here to infinity.

What makes this opus even more respectable is that it’s a pure “fruit” of the old school; nothing here comes even close to groovy or alternative charade; the approach is deeply immersed in the classic metal canons confidently echoing a number of great works from the not so distant past. The musicianship is so mature and assured that it’s difficult to believe that the guys only had a solitary demo released previously of which a reminder is the more epic, marginally less intriguing closer “When Silence Descends”. The Jarzombek brothers’ (see Watchtower) new collaboration Spastic Ink. started their journey around the same time as well, and it’s very interesting to see how the two bands were using very similar ways of expression, the Norwegians more spacey and elaborate, the Americans more aggressive and hectic.

It would have been great to hear something more coming out of the hands the guitar duo Ole Fredriksen/Jan Schulze, but the guys never got tempted to venture into the metal industry again. However, it was the vocalist Oyvind Haegeland who carried on, and took part in the foundation of none other than Spiral Architect, the progressive metal behemoths whose only contribution to the scene so far is “A Sceptic’s Universe” (2000). He must have brought some unused material from the Manitou recording sessions as the style of the Architects owes a lot to the multi-layered mathematical complexity constructed here. The band are reportedly still active, and not only that, but the spirit of Manitou is rising again as well since the guys are back together. When these two outfits would hit us with any new material, that no one can tell; it definitely takes time to compose such infinitely elaborate tapestries, but whenever they show up, rest assured that they would be way more intricately crafted and mind-stimulating than the exploits of all the Pagan’s Minds and Circus Maximuses “strolling” through the scene at present.