There are times when listening The Modern Art of Setting Ablaze that you need to remind yourself Mantar is only a two-piece. That they are merely a drummer and a guitar/ vocalist is extraordinary when you hear the aural assault they produce. Such is the huge scale and sound of their third album that it sounds as though it should have been recorded with all the bells and whistles a fully-formed five- piece; and having recently seen the band I can confirm that there’s no studio trickery going on here and they do produce the goods live.
Following the ambient introduction of ‘The Knowing’ the album begins proper with the crashing of cymbals and a simplistic guitar line which might have migrated here from any number of traditional metal acts. After a minute ‘Age of the Absurd’ stops and reinvents itself as a dirty slab of blackened metal through blast-beat drumming and frenzied guitar work. As a band Mantar are most often grouped within the doom/ sludge genre but as the vocals arrive it is the blasphemous rasps of Watain’s Eric Danielsson that is brought to mind, rather than some Ozzy Osbourne imitator.
‘Age of the Absurd’ is the most overly black metal track on the album and although ‘Seek + Forget’ and ‘Taurus’ both rely heavily on the blackened sound it becomes evidence that Mantar’s older influences are colouring the music. The vocals are less urgent, almost clean at times, and the whirlwind drumming settles to a more sedate tempo.
When ‘Midgard Serpent (Season of Failure)’ begins it does so with a Mastodon riff and a Tom G Warrior death-grunt. It is around this point on the album that Mantar begin to mix black metal with their punk origins, throwing in a smattering of sludgy doom for good measure. The nature of Mantar means that in order to produce such a huge sound both drummer Erinc Sakarya and guitarist Hanno Klanhardt have to be on top of their respective games. At no time during the forty-seven minutes of The Modern Art of Setting Ablaze does either musician let up on the intensity, with Klandhardt’s riffs allowed to steal the show only because Sakarya’s drums give them the platform upon which to shine. ‘Eternal Return‘ slows the album down briefly and, along with the next track, ‘Obey the Obscene’, is where The Modern Art of Setting Ablaze embraces the punkier aspects of Mantar’s sound. The album ends with ‘The Funeral’, the slowest and most doom-laden track on the album, full of hard-hitting bass drum and a monstrous riff.
With The Modern Art of Setting Ablaze Mantar have produce an album of richness and variety which seems at odds with the limited creative elements of a two-piece. That they are able to combine black metal, punk and doom without compromising their sound or the intensity of the music is testimony to the unbridled understanding messers Klanhardt and Sakarya have of their craft. Stiff Little Fingers once evangelised over the power of guitar and drums and, on this evidence, I shall count myself a born again believer.