REVIEW: MANTAR – “The Modern Art of Setting Ablaze”
When Mantar’s first album ‘Death by Burning’ came out, I remember a slew of sludge releases around the same time, some interesting, and some tiringly mundane. I could not give much attention to the album then beyond a glance, until I revisited it when their second release ‘Ode to the Flame’ came out on Nuclear Blast. ‘Ode’ got the band a lot of attention, a few voices concerned about the band being signed to a big label, and its impact on the music, was heard as well. While the first album had an unpolished characteristic to it, the second had a more dynamic writing but more polished, which means liking one or the other would depend on how you like your sludge in terms of rawness.
‘The Modern Art of Setting Ablaze’ though blows Ode out of the water for me. It is heavier, filthier and the vocals sound wretched – how I like my sludge. Mantar always had the tinge of black metal influences in their music, and that gels with the rest of the music on this album very well. The band has often said that Motorhead is a huge influence on their music, and you don’t need the band to tell you that – the rock’n roll fun can be identified sprinkled all over their discography, including on this album. There is this interplay between brighter riff melodies peeking out between absolutely filthy and borderline nihilistic sounding riffs, that works like a charm.
A lot of times when bands attempt at stitching different influences and styles together in their tracks to avoid stagnation, they run out of ideas by the halfway mark and you can observe this typical and predictable patterns of ups and downs without any interesting ideas. Mantar successfully avoids it with this album. “Age of the Absurd” is one of the earlier tracks that sets up a mood and the band manages to persist with it effectively. It is a heavy visceral track with a lot of black metal in it, yet sounding very much like the rest of the album that has the black metal influence diminished to an extent.
There isn’t a bad track on this album, but if I have to mention some personal standout tracks, “Age of the Absurd”, “Eternal Return”, “Obey the Obscene” and “The Formation of Night”. The disjoint section at the end of “The Formation of Night” took me by surprise by how emotive and anthemic it sounded and it ending up being one of my favourite moments in album.
‘The Modern Art of Setting Ablaze’ is arguably Mantar’s best album yet. It takes the best parts of the previous albums and gets a fucking facelift leaving anything they have done before this far behind. The album exudes a nasty aura while also being so much fun. Well done.