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Manatark
Chaos Engine

Metal only rarely greets us from Estonia, on our pages we so far only have KALM, ASSAMALLA and IGNORABIMUS, now we can add MANATARK to this list. I know the band of main man Kaido "Draconic" Haavandi for many years now, more precisely ever since their first demo "Roosteitk" (1998), when Kaido still had recorded everything on his own. "Chaos Engine" is their second complete album after “Viimanegri Veri” 2000, which I unfortunately do not know, and I can understand the line from the info sheet: “leading Estonian Metal band”, even though I can only base this on my knowledge of the very few bands I know from the northernmost of the three Baltic states.

The visual side right away is very interesting, not just that everything is tastefully held in black and white (so not just to save on effort), but the lyrics are printed on white paper that is alternating with the regular booklet page, interesting idea that also adds to the overall mood of the album, which does not just rehash the usual Black Metal clichés, but is based on a rather open concept that deals with the beast in man, its creative and destructive force and how man grows and evolves through it. The whole artwork is nicely void of clichés, no skulls, no inverted crosses, swords, spikes or corpse paint anywhere, really nice!

Who does not know the MANATARK sound yet, the foundation without any doubt is Black Metal, at times even pretty heavy one, but the Estonians know how to weave in great melodies, which makes the brew even digestible for somebody, who normally is not into this heavier variant. Sirens start off “The Principle”, together with a few spoken computerised vocals, which is a pretty doom-laden beginning, before “Parallels And Parity” storms by with the speed of an express train, with melodic keyboards in the foreground, which then give way to Kaido’s harsh vocals, an altogether pretty hefty song, which always has some more or less subliminal melodies through finely threaded guitar melodies, which loosen up the inferno.

A song such as “Four Walls“ then brings us a completely different structure, far less straight and at times bordering on progressive, with rhythm changes and constantly shifting intensity, while “We Stole Your Death” incorporates a lot more melodies, but without losing any of the intensity. Add to that a few clean vocals, which partly are doubled with the Black Metal vox and you have something really interesting here.

Now I am not a specialist in the heavier side of the Black Metal spectrum for comparisons, but I do not really hear any obvious influences with MANATARK as they do not sound Norwegian or Swedish and despite the very populated genre stand out by a few electronic influences (which for a change don’t send me running) and interesting song structure, which is best showcased by the super dark hymn “Devilchant“, with its sad melodies, which had been announced with their label colleagues of CASKETGARDEN, yet they can be found only here, very variable structure, very strong song!

What you could hold against them is Kaido’s at times somewhat monotonous voice, which in my opinion does not drag the very interesting and intense music down as it is the counterpart for the variable music and this contrast has got something.

MANATARK won’t re-invent Black Metal with “Chaos Engine”, but still they have unleashed a damn interesting and at the same time pretty original piece of music and I must say that Estonia has something very interesting growing there, which we should keep an eye on! (Online March 2, 2004)

Alex (8/10)

Author: Alex
Zine: Metal Observer
www.metal-observer.com

Check also:
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22-02-2013 Urt - Ussikuningas - Saatanhark II
18-02-2013 Neoandertals - Ebu Gogo Gutting the Child
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