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Mantric - "Sin" (CD)

Mantric - "Sin" CD cover image

"Sin" track listing:

1. FaithFaker
2. On The Horizon
3. Give Me Eyes
4. Arrogance vs. Anxiety
5. Die Old
6. Maranatha
7. Anhedoniac
8. In The Shadow Of My Soul
9. Black Eyes

Reviewed by on February 15, 2016

"Musically, Mantric is an odd beast to be sure, shifting between harsh noise segments and atmospheric clean singing with acoustic strumming and about six or seven other distinct styles."

As every press release and review should have already told you, Mantric is composed of previous members of Extol - a polarizing band both because of major sound shifts and religious lyrical themes. I've got an interesting history with Extol that put the band on my radar in an odd way. Growing up in an extremely religious home not appreciative of metal, I was actually allowed to listen to the “Mesmerized” EP since it came from the local Christian book store. Religious themes or not, being allowed to own a heavy album without having to hide it was a plus, as this was in the days when my parents had tossed out my cassette copy of Metallica's “Load” for being Satanic (now granted, I suspect many metal fans would agree with that decision, just for different reasons).

The memory of picking up that EP with the weird dead bird on the cover is etched in my brain forever as I'm staring in wonder at a Norwegian black metal album on the shelf of a Family Christian store in Montana. Frankly I don't think that store realized what they had, as there was never anything with a cover like that in their collection ever again after I picked up the sole copy. Although I leaned solidly more towards Emperor than Lengsel in the intervening years, I still followed Extol and the various associated side projects of the band members down the line.

That leads us to Mantric.

Now, I'm not particularly interested in the lyrical message of “Sin,” but then again that's also true of the various Satanic, pagan, and even Muslim metal bands (yes, they exist) I've reviewed over the last eight years at Metalunderground, so we'll skip that altogether and you can do with those what you will. Musically, Mantric is an odd beast to be sure, shifting between harsh noise segments and atmospheric clean singing with acoustic strumming and about six or seven other distinct styles. There's technical parts and organic parts, shoegaze rising and falling sections, and straight up metal – and that might all be in one song.

The end result is a very odd combo, probably more-so because of the choice to make the production less distinctly clean and more muddled, that gets called “prog” in press releases but isn't exactly the right term, as it implies something that's not present here. “Sin” is progressive in the sense that many different styles of music get meshed together, and not that it sounds like Haken or Dream Theater.

“Marantha” in particular does a really interesting job of mixing different styles, starting with banjo style strumming surrounded by a void of empty sound, and then Mantric repeats that same riff much heavier when the harsh vocals and other instruments arrive in a wall of sound. Speaking of the non-clean vocals, they arrive in a most unexpected manner, incredibly chaotic and noisy with more of an “I don't give a fuck” punk delivery than an actual black/death scream, creating a very jarring sensation on tracks like “FaithFaker” and “Black Eyes” (the opening and closing tunes, respectively).

On the downside of the constant juxtapositions between harsh and soft, some of the music ends up fairly boring, and there are places where the clean vocals come off as more sleepy than emotive. That middle to ending part of “Give Me My Eyes” is one of the prime offenders, not really offering much to keep you hooked. Overall I also wish there was more payoff. The tracks go on long journeys, but frequently don't really reach a destination that will leave much of an impression. On the flip side of that is the previously mentioned “Marantha,” along with the more interesting atmospheric journey “Anhedoniac,” and the truly odd alt-rock focused “Die Old” that comes out of nowhere.

“Sin” didn't quite take me back to those days of exploring early Extol and it doesn't quite match the modern day experimental or prog metal bands, but the huge range of sounds here is enough to make the album worth giving a listen if you prefer something a bit different, or if you're the sort of person happy switching between Tesseract and abrasive extreme metal back to back.

Highs: Lots of different styles to work through on a diverse disc that dips in and out of metal.

Lows: Some of it is frankly boring, and there are only a few tracks that stand out as memorable.

Bottom line: Mantric goes all over the map musically in this odd blending of harsh and soft from former Extol members.

Rated 3 out of 5 skulls
3 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)