Most music fans have a section of their digital and/or physical library dedicated to boisterous background music; albums that digest quickly and provide instantaneous satisfaction. The inverse of spinning Tangerine Dream after popping melatonin, these albums provide the sonic stimulus of the body without necessitating the involvement of the mind. German sludge duo Mantar provided one such experience back in 2014 with their adrenaline churning debut Death by Burning, armed with nothing but a guitar, drum kit and the sneer of two insurmountable punk spirits. Returning now with Ode to the Flame, the duo maintain their standard of curb-stomping mayhem with an album that should satisfy fans of their debut while modestly spreading their reach to a new audience of rage-ridden sluts for sludge.
If you need to grasp the foundation of Mantar’s sound, you should first lay the sonics of Kvelertak out on the pavement and press a firm boot to its neck. Then conduct a rough de-feathering to weed out all the frills, leaving a blank, rugged canvas to spread out the viscous sludge of Melvins and mid-era Black Flag, lightly seasoned with some hints of Darkthrone. Finish ’em off with a Full Metal Jacket pep talk and a Clockwork Orange session with Motörhead‘s discography, and what’s left is a thoroughly pissed off Mantar itching to smash the nearest motherfucker into the ground.
As was implied by the introduction, this is straightforward music for your average daily dose of destruction. With Hanno’s gargantuan guitars and Erinc’s thunderous drums, the duo forms a wall of death that should inspire similar actions among festival crowds this summer. Mantar plays a brand of sludge that blends the genre’s inherent heaviness with its penchant for deafening earworms. Tracks like “Era Borealis” prove this in spades, with knuckle-dragging riffs book-ending Hanno’s anthemic, raspy recitation of the title, collectively fit to soundtrack riots in the street. “Born Reversed” brings out sludgy riffs with a southern fried charm, cushioned delicately in a black metal bed of nails, with this BM atmosphere surfacing on numerous other tracks to add a hue of depth to overwhelmingly blunt compositions. The duo strike this balance well, with tracks like “I, Omen” enveloping thumping rhythms within just the right amount of atmosphere.
By the time the duo channels their inner Winter on “Sundowning” for a doom-laden dirge, the listener feels utterly satisfied without truly knowing what befell them; like a brass knuckle sucker punch. Admittedly, Ode to the Flame leans more towards an ode to simplicity and a tested – but effective – formula. Mantar compose the epitome of boisterous background music, with tunes that only feel cerebral in the way they launch the motor cortex into vigorous acts of aggression. Hanno and Erinc know how to get to the point, make it stick and then twist the knife, a habit they’ve continued on Ode to the Flame with a sound that’s mandatory listening for anyone whose sandbox is a trash heap.
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Mantar’s Ode to the Flame gets…