REVIEW: MANIMAL – “Purgatorio”
Swedish four-piece group Manimal rely on strong modern power metal elements and have been around for a while, releasing two albums prior to ‘Purgatorio’. Borrowing from the 2000’s and 90’s eras, these dudes have been showcasing music which could be traced to bands like mid-career Nocturnal Rites, Primal Fear and even Judas Priest.
Samuel Nyman, leader and vocalist, is once again at the helm and orchestrates his peers to form a more heavy, less power album than its predecessors ‘The Darkest Room’ (2009) and ‘Trapped in the Shadows’ (2015), which in fact can only be entirely seen from the mid-tempo “Manimalized” on. The first two tracks carry the trademark of the band’s early entries and while the high pitched screams Nyman got known for are gradually giving place to a more clean approach, the choruses in the title track is still approached with a pure power metal style.
“Black Plague”, less flowery and more direct, resembles the heavy/power vibe of acts such as Cage and Brainstorm. With a strong and manly bridge and chorus, it quickly pumps you up to the best song in the album, “Purgatorio”. Creating a cool atmosphere right from the start with killer riffs and awesome drumwork by André Holmqvist, the track soars high in the chorus, where Nyman shines with Ralf Scheepers-like howls.
Like I said above, “Manimalized” is where the band starts to play around more and more with the “heavy” portion of the heavy/power genre. The main course from now on is guitar lines reminiscent of Judas Priest/Accept with surgically inserted melodic elements.
“Spreading the Dread” continues with the slower approach by giving Nyman the spotlight, which he then shares with the lucid bass lines by Kenny Boufadene, giving a cool groove to the effort. The solos in the album, courtesy of Henrik Stenroos, are another great asset here, by being prolific or objective when needed without sounding arrogant.
Songs like “Traitor” and “Denial” further consolidate Manimal as a modern sounding reliable band, as the crunchy riffs, blasting drums and carefully crafted mix of instrumental and vocal lines seem always like the right choices at the right times, making the entire endeavor sound organic and fun. “Behind enemy Lines”, for instance, use these elements quite well by allying the overall instrumental with some nice keyboard lines in the backgrounds and a bang-along chorus; a song that will definitely be played live.
Another good track, “Edge of Darkness”, mixes things up even more with some prog/power elements, similar to what bands like Borealis do by adding an emotional charge to their work. While the chorus is not that exciting, the instrumental part serves as the main feature here.
Closing the album in decent form comes “The Fear Within”, which revisits the band back catalogue and once again make use of the 21st century power metal approach, with slower and denser playing in the verse and highly melodic elements in the chorus, something that bands like Bloodbound are masters at and, by the look of it, so will be Manimal.
With great production, decent songwriting and a good amount of memorable parts, ‘Purgatorio’ illustrates the image of a band focused on doing the best job possible without losing their musical guidance or proposal. The album does loses a bit of steam in the middle portion, but quickly picks up the pace again and ends on a high note, and the length of 42 minutes is a breeze compared to other pompous power metal albums out there.
At the end of the day, this ranges somewhere between a very good and a great album, but won’t be able to reach seminal releases of the genre so far like Judicator’s ‘The Last Emperor’, Frozen Crown’s ‘The Fallen King’, Riot V’s ‘Armor of Light’ or Powerwolf’s ‘Sacrament of Sin’, to name a few. It is, however, a quite impressive work by a band that’s receiving the recognition it deserves.