Manticora - The Black Circus Part 1 - Letters review


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Band: Manticora
Album: The Black Circus Part 1 - Letters
Release date: August 2006

01. Enter The Carnival
02. The Black Circus
03. Intuneric I
04. Enchanted Mind
05. Intuneric II
06. Forever Carousel
07. Freakshow
08. Gypsies' Dance Part 1
09. Intuneric III
10. Wisdom
11. Intuneric IV
12. Disciples Of The Entities
13. Soul Devourer [Japanese bonus]
+ Private Hell (video) [Live In Paris] [Korean bonus]
+ Manticora On Tour (video) [Korean bonus]

"My dear friend, I bid you welcome to the show!"

With this whisper Manticora welcome the listener to "The Black Circus Part I - Letters", the by now fifth full-length and the third concept album in a row of Denmark's prime Power Metal outfit. I must confess I've been waiting for this album for quite a while, after all these guys have consistently released one high-quality album after another, and still they are criminally underrated.

But let's look at Manticora's new album now. "… Letters" tells a Lovecraft-inspired story and takes us back to the New England of the late 19th century, where a young man joins a carnival of traveling gypsies and regularly sends letters to his friend about his relation to his new companions and the mysterious things going on at this circus. These "letters" are sometimes separated from each other by interludes (the "intunerics") which go on with the story and get the listener in the mood for the upcoming song.

As always the songs are typical Manticora and untypical Power Metal pieces: neither happy nor cheesy, but rather heavy and powerful, garnished by Lars F. Larsen's impressing voice and the thrashy, crunchy riffs of the guitar faction. If you're looking for a band that puts the "Power" back into "Power Metal", these guys are for you. Unfortunately the progressive aspects from the preceding two albums have nearly vanished again. Instead the Blind Guardian influences have grown stronger, which becomes especially apparent in the album's title track. Aside from that the Mantidudes sure know how to make their rather complex and lengthy songs (clocking at about 6 minutes averaged) catchy and memorable - may it be "Forever Carousel", which reeks of single-potential from start to end, "Wisdom", which features the female vocals of Karin Bodum ("Hyperion" fans, rejoice!) as lascivious fortune-teller, or "The Black Circus" with its overwhelming heaviness and its epic choirs. Also the repetition of themes is a common practice throughout the album - you'll have quite some problems trying to forget the main theme of "Disciples of the Entities" again after having heard it in two other songs before.

A "problem" with Manticora always were the vocals though. Lars Larsen is a very good singer, no doubt about that, but his voice isn't your stereotypical Power Metal voice, which actually is a good thing in my opinion as it adds to Manticora's uniqueness, but might be something you'll need to get used to. His voice is very charismatic, darker, stronger and fuller than the voices you are used from Power Metal and occasionally with an aggressive edge, but it also sounds somewhat throaty and sometimes, seldom though, a bit whiny, such as at the beginning of the chorus of "Gypsies' Dance Part 1". The vocal delivery itself is flawless though, except for that one passage, and fortunately there are none of those typical Power Metal screams, which still were present in the pre-"Hyperion" albums.

So is this yet another masterpiece of Manticora? I'm afraid to say no. The band had developed its very own style with the first two albums and refined it even more with the two follow-ups; abandoning the prog influences they acquired in "Hyperion" and "8 Deadly Sins" and letting some slight (!) Blind Guardian reminiscences slip through here and there gives the impression that they are trying to become more accessible again after the preceding album hasn't really been an easy listen. While this lack of complexity (this is still way above-average in terms of complexity compared to the rest of the Power Metal flock) is deplorable for the fans, it might be a good thing for you, if you haven't heard of this band so far and want to know with which album to start. Either way, this is a marvelous album and in my opinion a worthy contestant for album of the year. And at the end there are only two questions left: What will "The Black Circus Part II" sound like? And why are you still sitting there reading this review and not on your way to the record store already to acquire this great piece of Power Metal by the in my opinion most underrated band of our time?!

Recommended songs: Disciples of the Entities, Forever Carousel, The Black Circus

Streams: Flash MP3 Player with "Forever Carousel" as full song, "Enchanted Mind" and "Wisdom" as clips

Rating breakdown
Performance: 9
Songwriting: 8
Originality: 8
Production: 9


Written on 13.09.2006 by Daniel "Promonex" Pereira loves to enthuse people with stuff he's enthusiastic about; as writer, photographer, promoter and DJ. Metal Storm staff since 2005.


Comments: 7   Visited by: 78 users
13.09.2006 - 07:44
Account deleted
ive been a huge fan for years now.. and i love manticoras sound.. why? because they are different.. and better than the rest.. ive been awaiting for this album for a long time, and afetr reading this im scared, i dont want them to sound anything like blind guardian, and on top of that i hate chiors. i didnt mind the chiors on some of the songs in 8ds, but id rather manticora stick to the "traditio0nal manticora" i hope in the future they go back to their roots and create more kick ass music.,
13.09.2006 - 11:02
Mind the "(!)" in the conclusion, those influences aren't all that obvious, so no need to be awfully scared about that (alright, in the title track they are quite obvious, but it rocks nonetheless). The reduction of complexity was more of a drawback for me.

And don't overestimate the choirs. They aren't all that overwhelming, but nonetheless quite effective in the title track, which is scattered with those polyphonic contributions, which is one reason why that track reminds me of Blind Guardian. In "Enchanted Mind" they play a central role by singing the chorus as equal partner of Lars Larsen, but here it isn't as negative as in the title track as it in no way sounds like the same old, same old, but indeed like Manticora. Unfortunately the chorus enters at about 2:00 and the sample in their Flash Player is clipped at 1:54

So all I can recommend you is go to the record store and give it an extensive listen. It's still Manticora, so you might need some time to let it grow on you, but don't expect it to be a second Hyperion or 8DS.
All life begins with Nu and ends with Nu... This is the truth! This is my belief! ...At least for now.
- The Mystery of Life, Vol. 841 Ch. 26
14.09.2006 - 03:10
Account deleted
"and still they are criminally underrated" What a so big truth. Here in spain nobody knows 'bout them and I got it all of them 'cos I like them a f*ckin' lot. They came here to Barcelona opening for Angra's show and nobody knew their songs but me and it rocked somehow 'cos they saw me and gave me some things but it also sucked in the way that nobody was really enjoying their show completely. I really hope they'd grow bigger here in Spain and they can come back to barcelona as big band in their own tour.

They Reaaaaaaaaaaaaaally Rock! 9'5 to this album by the way.

keep on freezin'

14.09.2006 - 03:40
It is quite saddening indeed. I've just come home from their concert with Andromeda in Frankfurt after having waited to see them live for 4 years now. There were maybe like 50 people maximum attending their gig and I seemed to be the only one who knew their songs.
All life begins with Nu and ends with Nu... This is the truth! This is my belief! ...At least for now.
- The Mystery of Life, Vol. 841 Ch. 26
14.09.2006 - 08:37
Jason W.
I agree with your review fully, Promonex, great work . I also noticed the blatant Blind Guardian influence in the title track, and it disappointed me a bit, because the band does not need to copy any one else. "8 Deadly Sins" is a masterpiece, whereas this CD is around a 9 - which is still great but it just does not satisfy the way their 2004 disc did. They are still one of the best power metal bands out there though - and yes, Lars's vocals are some of the best in metal today.
"After silence that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music." - Aldous Huxley
14.09.2010 - 15:15
I don't like this band and this album is not an exclusion.Very simple music, nothing new, sometimes "looks" stupid.
01.11.2011 - 05:26
Saw these guys open for gamma ray/helloween a few years ago and it was a great show. the band was very fun and looked like they were having fun. i still dont own any of their albums though. i need to get on that.

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