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A recent trend to be observed within the metal community is the emergence of groups, which merely consist of two people, guitars and drums. One -person-metal bands have been around for quite some time, dating back as far as the early 90s when Norwegian Black Metal was on the rise. The latest two-piece mania causes ripples within the international black metal scene, especially. Mantar from Bremen are one of such new and vital bands, which stir the inner black flame and proclaim chaos and hatred all over the globe.
No wonder that three of their four albums in total had something to do with fire in their titles. „Death by Burning, „Ode tot he Flame“ and „The Modern Art of Setting Ablaze“. Their fourth full length entitled „Pain is Forever and This is The End“ has been released in July 2022 through Metal Blade Records and offers ten tracks of unbridled rage and fury.
If you look deep down into the malignant gazes of the two mean-spirited men that comprise Mantar, then it should be immediately clear that they mean dirty business. The soundscapes Hanno Klänhardt and Erinc Sakrya conjure up are some of the sludgiest and straight-up pissed off anthems of anger in recent years. Hanno and Erinc should not catch wind of this, since they vehemently disdain the idea of being called a mere sludge band, yet the Mantar´s music is undeniably sludge in nature.
Sludge metal marks a hybrid genre, which is composed of the raw-hitting energy and attitude of hardcore punk and the painfully slow dirges of doom metal. Both hail from Bremen, Germany, yet they have both since moved to different places across the globe. Erinc moved tot he neighbouring metropolis Hamburg and Hanno relocated to the sunshine state Florida, from where he mixes and masters the finished Mantar tunes. It is incredible with what force the two musicians unleash their cacophany of sounds, bearing in mind that they entirely rely on guitars and drums, respectively.
As mentioned earlier, Mantar play a style of blackened sludge, which is heavily infused with apparent rock structures. Some comparisons link them to the legendary Motörhead, who managed to create a fresh new take on heavy metal, namely speed metal. The music of Mantar is not completely revolutionary, by any means, yet the diabolic duo succeed in borrowing from their inspirations, whilst maintaining a strong identity of their own. One way to prove that are the very intense live shows, which force both guys to reach beyond their physical limitations in order to present an experience to remember. At times, they would throw all their force onto stage that it eventually caused them to throw up on stage. Sheer will and determination seem to be the most apt descriptions of Mantar`s live energy, where the scrawny Hanno bellows his soul out and makes for a formidable front man.
Despite the fact that Mantar refuse to be called a mere sludge band, the abrasive nature of their music drives the point home that it is indeed heavily influenced by the twisted cousin of hardcore punk. Although in 2020, the duo released the full length album „Grungetown Hooligans II“, which is completely comprised of different cover versions from the most prominent influences of Mantar. Among those inspirations for the band is none other than Nirvana, and if the ears are a bit more accustomed to the general harshness of Mantar`s sound, then the grunge elements clearly stick out.
There is even a song on the latest album „Pain Is Forever And This Is The End“ via Metal Blade Records called „Piss Ritual“. On the one hand, the riffs and drums are undeniably rooted in grunge music, only to be get more distorted and sped up. And on the other hand the title reveals an allusion to one of Nirvana´s lesser known songs, delicately named „Territorial Pissings“. On top of that, the etymology of grunge basically translates into literal dirt, which is very fitting with regards to these two guys´ music. Mantar have long come clean about their affection for grunge and punk, two musical ingredients that make up a significant amount of their hellish brew.
A more typical trait coming from their Black Metal peers is the complete exclusion of any lyrics in Mantar´s album booklets. Judging from Hanno Klänhardt´s voice alone the verdict would be that the band´s lyrical themes seem to stem from a deep pit of anger and anguish. He spits and bellows like a madman, who truly sounds hateful towards anything that breathes. The vocals of Mantar are probably the most straight-up Black Metal ingredient to their wild mix of abrasive sounds, along with the inclusion of occasional tremolo picked guitar riffs.
Yet they are not merely the banshee-like wails that listeners of Black Metal have grown accustumed to, because they are injected with a good dose of hardcore punk energy. Tracks like „Cross The Cross“ and „Walking Corpse“ showcase this blend very effectively, while also displaying the opportunity to make out the lyrics by yourself. Hanno´s high-pitched voice is very well integrated into Mantar´s outbursts, giving a sharp contrast to the meaty and rocking grooves whilst integrating itself flawlessly.
Mantar has had a great deal of success in the international metal scene, but is that lasting success in any means justified? Can a mere two-piece substitute for an entire band of usually four to five people? In recent years, more extreme acts decided to perform as two people only, which has paid off in most cases. Mantar are no exception to the rule and continue to carve out their own niche within the scene and stick to their broad influences with conviction. Always maintaining a rock vibe and simultaneously delving into delicate dissonance whilst creating a wall of sound, that is Mantar`s modus operandi. Let´s delve into the history of the band.
Formed in Bremen in 2012, the band didn´t beat around the bush and released their first full length, „Death by Burning“, two years after their inception to great acclaim. The actual name is of Turkish origin and translates simply into ´mushroom`. The sheer energy is immediately felt, rendering any additional instruments such as bass and a second guitar obsolete. Mantar´s debut is slightly unfocused, however both the opener „Spit“ and closer „March of the Crows“ make for some exceptional material.
Another two years after that, the successor record „Ode to the Flame“ turned everything up by a notch and marks a special place within Mantar`s discography. Their most anthemic track up to this point in time, „Era Borealis“, among other great tracks, turns „Ode to the Flame“ into a vast improvement over its predecessor, whilst keeping the lo-fi rawness intact. In 2018, Mantar´s third album „The Modern Art of Setting Ablaze“ was released with a longer runtime than usual and a much more polished sound. Are cracks finally appearing in the construct of Mantar?
On a critical level, the third album did not do its usual magic and presented a definitive and confident sound of its own. Of course there are some fire songs, like the sonic successor of Mantar`s ultimate anthem called „Age of the Absurd“ or the groovy „Eternal Return“. Yet the bloated length proves to be quite the chore to listen through, and there is not as much focus as on their previous record. The wait for a new album took twice as long as compared to the rest, but on July 15th, 2022 „Pain Is Forever And This Is The End“ was finally released. Has the longer wait been worth it? Right from the start, the clear production remains, yet the runtime has been significantly shortened, which works to Mantar`s advantage. Their blackened grunge seems to be brimming with newfound purpose without sacrificing their trademark aggression.
„Of Frost And Decay“ is one of the band´s most melodic songs to date, and is clearly a winner on the album. Also, the band managed to rival their previous banger with „Hang ´Em Low (So The Rats Can Get Them)“ and finish with an oppressive, yet hopeful closing track. It certainly helps that the two gentlemen of Mantar never saw themselves as part of the greater metal scene, but merely two guys who like to rock dirty. Hanno and Erinc are two outsiders levelling the international metal scene piece by piece and one can only hope that the last album´s title is not to be taken literally and that they continue to rock on.
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Originally published on February 1, 2023, updated on March 4, 2023