Manticora - The Black Circus Part 1 - Letters review
|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
08. Gypsies' Dance Part 1
09. Intuneric III
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
||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.|
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| Jason W.
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