Title: To Kill to Live to Kill
Label: ViciSolum Records
Release Date: 3 August 2018
Format reviewed: High quality digital
I’m always rather perplexed at the popularity of some bands over another of similar ilk. These are the bands we classify as ‘The Criminally Underrated’. Whether it’s their geographical location, misguided record labels or simply a lack of marketing and promotion, it is abundantly clear that some bands just haven’t received the recognition they truly deserve. It actually pains me to say that even after 20 years in the scene, this is still the case with Danish Power Metal veterans Manticora. Now, it is without question that the Danes have a rabid and loyal following, but I am positive there is a whole fan base out there that simply don’t have a clue about this band. If they only knew! Perhaps
now, and somewhat belatedly, this travesty will be rectified with the release of album No.8 ‘To Kill to Live to Kill’.
Manticora is one devastating Power Metal band. They’re like the best Power Metal band you’ve never heard. Forget anything typically bright/shiny, happy/flowery associated with this genre, Manticora are a far heavier, darker and thrashier prospect – I am convinced there will be ample head shaking and ‘how did I miss this band’ protests once the regular Power Metal fraternity wraps their skulls around this new album. Yet having said this, those who do ‘know’ Manticora are already life-long fans and must be suitably chuffed at the return of the band after an eight year silence. And what a return it is!
‘To Kill to Live to Kill’ is a 12 track concept album; the first of two, based on the horror novel of the same name written by vocalist Lars F. Larsen. Part II will be released in 2019. Manticora are pretty much masters of the concept album having ventured down the path on ’02’s Hyperion and the twin ‘The Black Circus’ albums of ’06 and ’07. Hyperion is considered the bands high water mark and the other two not far behind. Based on the strength of ‘To Kill…’ eight years in the wilderness hasn’t dimmed the creative fire in this band at all – it’s bound to be considered in the same light.
Coming only 2 months after the release of his novel, Lars and his band spent near on 3 years putting the story to music. This is some seriously ambitious stuff. But Manticora knows their strengths and have been able to deliver a stunning set of tracks that most other progressive Power Metal acts could only dream of matching. Manticora have a plethora of positives lined up in their arsenal, but for this listener, compositionally it’s the bands darkness and heaviness that serves them so well. As mentioned previously, there is simply nothing ‘flowery’ about this band’s sound. There is a pervading dark epic tone to everything they do musically and when you capture that vibe with a
truly crushing heavy production then the results prove to be truly epic! To this end, you can thank the magical hands of Jacob Hansen – the master of producing the heavy Euro metal sound!
Stylistically, there is a tremendous balance about ‘To Kill’ – yes, this is Power Metal at its core, but Manticora provide a somewhat unique take on said style but not only threading a melodic red line throughout the album, but also upping the ante on the speed meter. Not that this would be news to any long time followers – the aggressive thrash element has always been a key factor with Manticora’s style. So yes, the balance between heaviness, melody and speed on ‘To Kill..’ is extremely convincing. As points of reference, Nevermore/Iced Earth meets Communic/Blind Guardian ball-park should work for most new listeners.
If there is anything to be somewhat critical about ‘To Kill..’ it’s the vocal mix afforded to Lars Larsen. Jacob Hansen has done wonders with the musicality side of this presentation, but I feel Lars’ vocals are set a little too low in the mix and are sometimes overwhelmed by the sheer power of the riffage delivered. Lars isn’t the greatest of Power Metal vocalists and at times some of his more dramatic moments lack a little punch on the new album. That slight quibble aside, Lars still delivers another fine performance with his own uniquely crafted high pitched style. If you are a Manticora fan then you know exactly what to expect from Lars. New listeners may take some time finding solace with
his characteristic phrasing.
Manticora have returned in a big way with ‘To Kill to Live to Kill’. Certainly, this is above and beyond anything I could have expected after almost a decade out of the game. Maintaining their dark, atmospheric trappings, ‘To Kill…’ feels like a normal 1-2 year follow up album. In fact it’s faster and heavier than ever. There is a strength and cohesiveness to their compositions and while they never stray from a well-worn path, their take on the Power Metal style is truly their own. And perhaps that’s the kicker – Manticora have never really fully embraced the full ‘cliché’ element of this style and their popularity has suffered because of it. I’m pretty sure, along with many other fans of the band that they wouldn’t have it any other way. Welcome back! 8.5/10 KMaN