Album Review: Mantar – The Modern Art Of Setting Ablaze

Mantar_Album_Cover(Feature image by Basslord Pictures)

Release Date: 24th August 2018

Label: Nuclear Blast

Genre: Sludge Metal/Black Metal

After a two year wait, Bremen based Blackened Sludgers Mantar return with their punishing third full length, The Modern Art Of Setting Ablaze. For the uninitiated, the band consists of only two members; one on guitar/vocals and the other on drums. Their mission: to completely rearrange your insides. Though this task may seem impossible, the duo manage to scrape together a sound that seems far too layered, complex and simply just too bastard heavy to be produced by such a lineup. Of course some level of studio trickery is involved in this illusion, but these guys somehow pull it off live leaving no doubt of Mantar’s ability to spew up a giant heap of primal aggression like it’s all they were born to do.

Proceedings begin with a short intro before you’re pretty much ground into non-existence for the next eleven tracks. The Modern Art Of Setting Ablaze contains a refreshing lack of bullshit and clings to that notion for dear life. The duo lump together sounds reminiscent of late 90s Neurosis and latter-day Goatwhore, creating something too pace-driven to be called Sludge, and too lumbering and monolithic to be pure necro. The vocals sound like they’re being spat by a punk who loves classic Black Metal and the guitar tone certainly wouldn’t sound out of place on a modern High On Fire album. Everything is locked into place by an earthy, groovy drum performance that always seems just behind the beat, nimbly shifting between half-blasts, driving rock rhythms and d-beats whilst retaining a consistently loose feel. However, don’t let this fool you into thinking Mantar don’t have a few tricks up their sleeve. Keyboards, samples and icy atmospherics are sprinkled across the album’s duration, most notably on ‘Obey The Obscene’ and ‘Teeth Of The Sea’, adding a level of creepiness that fleshes out the otherwise simple compositions. However it’s within this simplicity that the band’s knack for quality songwriting weaves itself subtly into the fabric of the record. Finding catchiness within the sheer weight of these tracks is clearly a massive part of Mantar’s vision. This is felt most strongly in the opening one-two punch of ‘Age Of The Absurd’ and ‘Seek + Forget’, harking back to the days of Motorhead as well as the modern Metal institution Kvelertak, allowing them shine particularly bright in the tracklist.

Despite its instant appeal for most lovers of heavy, this monotony isn’t always beneficial. With a handful of very clear exceptions, a great deal of these songs seem to blend into a mass of riffs and feedback without a break or anything to switch up the punishment. It’s clear that this is what Mantar are aiming for, but it’s easy to feel like the band could do with trimming back some of the more grinding sections thus bringing more out of their unique penchant for monster chants and hooks. Sadly, this indulgence means only a handful of songs really stick to you and feel worth revisiting after the first few listens.

That being said, The Modern Art Of Setting Ablaze is yet another good, unique heavy album to come out in 2018 and proves that these two Germans are ones to watch in the near future. By focusing on their strengths and ironing out some creases, Mantar hold serious potential to rise to the upper echelons of their scene – and possibly the wider extreme Metal underground in years to come.


Recommended Track: ‘Obey The Obscene’

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