posted on 6/2010 By:
The tide has come in.
There once was a band of Norwegians/devout Christians, that for the love of God, propelled fierce melodic and progressive death metal forward into a ten-year career, taking their official hiatus in 2005. This entity called themselves Extol, and every two years within that ten-year span, they challenged the definition and themselves, rising to method actor-like status by churning out uber-believable left turns that incorporated more classical elements and unorthodox time-signatures as time went on. These twists and turns somehow resulted in the (oft-referred to as) "confusing" swansong, The Blueprint Dives, an album that reached for post-punk and post-Metaldom heights but did so by ironing out the very wrinkles that defined them and in turn didn't quite grab. It was an awkward kind of closure, which is to say that it was closure never really felt, but the saving-est of graces could always be found in their musical prowess. Specifically, the talents of Tor Magne Glidje, Ole Halvard Sveen, and John Robert Mjåland, their two guitarists and bassist, respectively. So it turns out that what I've been doing for the last five years is sitting around waiting for the real last breath, and seeing as how this Mantric deal consists of these three-fifths of Extol, what I'm getting with The Descent is a tomb and a womb.
The Mantric clean-slate version for the Extol-unknowing: the posh aggression of Refused, the soft brick sonic-layering of Cave In, and the slick and cold, tragic romance of Deftones. For all intents and purposes, The Descent is just another stab at post-stuff laced with shoegaze, not exactly late-breaking news, but this time they've got it so right. The attention to detail and crafting of song inside of these twelve tracks is bigger than my need to draw comparisons to a previous effort, even if it does fuse together the brightest parts of Extol's last two releases. But in all fairness, this is a journey all unto its own, starting with the haunt of the lead-off track, "Asylum 2013", which uses clean, sparse guitar, slight synth and discordant pauses, met with a rolling drum build at its halfway point to bring it from a trickle to a flood. From that point forward, the album gets charged, throwing out overflow after overflow of melody and angles, led by a vocal attack that combines heartfelt screams with cleans that sound like the odd offspring of Thom Yorke (sans the falsetto) and Denis Bélanger. There's enough saliva and aggression here to satisfy the pissed-off and hungry just as much as there is pillow talk, as heard through the Synergy-era Extol in "Symptoms" (it's simply impossible not to make the comparison), on down into new ventures in the hypnotic with "Uro", the album's instrumental closer and doped-up ode to minimalism. Mantric really knows how to bookend it and then fill all of the space in-between with consistency. This is Progressive Art Metal at its best, and based on the quality with which they've taken on this barren genre, they just might be their only competition.
Mantric's aura not only has me in an obvious trance, but also has me guessing that they're holding God's hand the way that Extol did (Google these dudes and you'll come up with gracious handfuls of Mantric galore at Christ-oriented sites). If you find this sort of spirituality put-offish, too bad for you. You're about to miss out on one of this year's best offerings.
On and on north of heaven.
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