02. Come to Pass
03. I Watch You Fall
04. A Cancer in our Midst (Plague One)
05. Last Lights
06. Nobody Wants the Truth
07. My Journal of the Plague Years (Fuckmensch Warmensch)
08. The Cure-All
10. Son of Night Brother of Sleep
2007 Candlelight Records
In every genre there are always a handful of bands that either abruptly or gradually decides to dramatically change their sound from what they originally were. Perhaps the genre in which these transformations have been the most notable in the past is black metal. Bands such as Ulver and Ephel Duath have shed the orthodox limitations of true black metal for electronic, neo-classical ambience and free jazz-inflected metal, respectively. While there are plenty of original fans who are quite simply betrayed and pissed off after these transformations, the end result is usually something that is not only superb, but that is better and more mature both musically and conceptually than its preceding incarnation. Manes is another band that has decided to move on from the rigid confines of black metal and try its hand in, of all unrelated things, a conglomeration of electronic, trip hop, industrial, and progressive metal genres.
Ok. I might have already lost you. But, please, stick with me. Manes, at one point in the early 90s, was a very typical black metal band from Norway. Over the years, however, they have progressed in every sense of the word. Their newest release, How The World Came To An End, is probably the most drastic departure for any band which had previously started in a different genre. Nevertheless, this newest offering by the band, either experimental or completely purposeful, is utterly amazing. However, to realize this, the listener must not go into the first listen of this album with any preconceived notions, especially concerning the band's history in black metal.
It might help if I can offer some examples of stylistic elements found currently in Manes. In some crass way, combine the following into a large mixing bowl: Godflesh, Massive Attack, Tricky, Einsturzende Neubauten, Squarepusher, lighter moments of Katatonia, recent the Gathering, recent Ulver, and a dash of black metal influenced guitar (you really have to listen for it sometimes). Mix the ingredients well until all of the individual characteristics are unidentifiable and each ingredient absorbs the characteristics of the others and allow to ferment for at least a week. Then consume. Heavy, distorted bass followed by electronic glitches and sampled voices followed by rapped vocals in both French and English followed by subdued tremolo picked guitar followed by operatic vocals followed by, well, hopefully you get the idea now. Taste weird Good. That's the charm of How The World Came To An End.
Many other bands or albums that try to pull off a feat such as this usually fail, with the end result sounding like a mentally retarded schizophrenic at the helm of a computer-based mixing console. However, Manes pulls it off flawlessly. I know it's hard to believe, but absolutely nothing sounds out of place. Part of this may or may not be due to the outstanding production on the album. Everything stands out in a crisp, clear way without stepping on the toes of anything else. (Listening to this album with headphones would be a plus). Another reason why this seems to work could simply be the talent of the musicians (both mainstays and guests) involved, which is certainly apparent.
Bottom Line: How The World Came To An End is a special musical statement that only comes along once in a while. Because of this, the current incarnation of Manes will appeal to a diverse base of music lovers from multiple genres. Maybe the point is to completely ignore genre boundaries. Maybe the point is something completely different. Maybe we (i.e., old fans from the black metal days, current fans from this relatively more eccentric period, and new fans yet to discover any incarnation of Manes) should just shut the fuck up and appreciate what it is this band is trying to accomplish.