Norwegian experimental/electronic metallers MANES have always a bit of an elusive band to me. I first discovered them when they released their third studio album How The World Came To An End through Candlelight Records. I heard Deeprooted on a sampler and it stood out amongst the rest of the extreme metal and after that I was trying to find out more about them and find their music. This was before the majority of bands were on social media and before Spotify was easily accessible so I could never find out much about them. They were a mysterious entity to me and that’s one part of why they’re exciting. Now in the age of all the information of the world being at our fingertips I’ve discovered more about them and their music. However having said this, they’re still a mysterious and unpredictable band and MANES continue to exude this with Slow Motion Death Sequence, their fifth album.
I’ve always relished in the intensity of MANES. Their compositions have always been a brooding and tense affair but with such a clever and expertly executed delivery that makes the tense atmosphere subtle at the start until you’re too late to escape from the enveloping darkness. Slow Motion Death Sequence is no different. It took a few listens for the album to ‘click’ but when you can give it your full attention it is easy to succumb to its cinematic ambience.
Slow Motion Death Machine opens with the haunting Endetidstegn. MANES always have superb climatic songs and this opener is no different. The build up slowly fills your ears and lapses into a hectic ruckus. An atmospheric frenzy also occurs towards the end of Scion, the track which arguably has the best intro of the album. The song itself is an unsettling, dramatic electronic extravaganza with its 80s vibes and textural depth.
Chemical Heritage is a little treat. Opening with a dreamlike sequence and soothing bass, the vocals grate less on this song giving it a warm tonality. The guitar tone is also glorious and makes for a brilliant guitar-driven break in the middle of the song. Things go a bit old school in Therapism. At the start it sounds like it’s going to go full-on 90s club music, but MANES reign it in and let the atmosphere slowly escalate. The band also show once again how effectively they use spoken word samples (I’m thinking again of Deeprooted).
After a slow ‘ballad’ in the form of Last Resort (think ARCADE FIRE mixed with a bit of BOWIE) things get interesting with Poison Enough For Everyone. With it’s unsettling, whirring intro, it sprawls into an experimental mass of clunky NINE INCH NAILS style notes, crooning vocals and OPEN HAND-like use of layered female vocals. This is MANES at their stirring best.
Building the ship of Theseus sounds suspiciously upbeat on the surface, with its bold riff and melodic start. It’s one of the band’s straight up rock songs, but it doesn’t sound out of place on the album as it is still expertly composed and delivered with a MANES flourish. The mystery and intrigue return in bucketloads in Night Vision with its unnerving piano and heavy guitars. One of the masterpieces of the album, this song is oddly addictive to listen to.
Slow Motion Death Machine is at serious risk of exposing MANES as heavyweights in experimental music and a sublime album such as this needs a spectacular finale. Luckily Ater is the brooding conclusion this record deserves, with its atmospheric textures and echoes and haunting vocals it makes for a superb ending. The Norwegians have once again outdone themselves, their mad genius is hard to replicate, ensuring their sound is uniquely MANES.