Mantric- Sin

By Chris Dahlberg

Published on Monday, October 12, 2015

Mantric’s Die Old EP may have found the Norwegian band heading off into mellower rock territory and fully exploring their melodic tendencies, but on sophomore effort Sin they’ve returned to that perfect blend between atmospheric rock and harsher metal riffing. With an increased emphasis on progressive instrumentation and unpredictable twists and turns, these guys have continued to carve out a path for themselves that’s impossible to lump into one particular genre but has both the hooks and intensity that could easily provide for a lot of crossover between rock and metal fans. Considering the nearly five year gap between The Descent and Sin, it’s clear that the time has been spent very productively after listening to their finished album.

Over its forty six and a half minute run time, Sin manages to touch upon a lot of different territory while remaining cohesive all the way through. Mantric makes it clear early on that they haven’t completely abandoned some of the heavier riffing that were a hallmark of Extol recordings and popped up at key moments on The Descent. “FaithFaker” is the perfect example, as this opening piece kicks things off with a darker guitar lead and driving bass line that has a rougher edged feel to it before branching out into an airier melody that takes on a more atmospheric, progressive rock style. While it never gets quite as heavy as what you might have heard from Extol so many years ago, there’s always that harsher edge to quite a few of the songs that perfectly treads the line between rock and metal. But it doesn’t really matter how you choose to categorize Sin, because chances are that your attention will be on the riffs themselves rather than on what genre they fall into. Mantric’s once again managed to write songs that are extremely catchy but twist back and forth in unexpected directions. Despite having some repeating choruses and other sections that take some traditional rock structure, the album never dwells on them for too long and just when you think you have a song figured out it might transform into something completely different. The interplay between high energy hooks and shimmering melodies is what drew me back again and again, and despite offering plenty of ideas that sounded familiar at certain points the overall combination feels fresh and it’s clear that these guys have pushed further towards a style all their own.

Ole Halvard may have stuck entirely with clean vocal ranges on the Die Old EP, but for Sin the screaming/singing combination is back and stronger than ever. Both styles cover even more territory than I remember on The Descent, particularly the singing which is able to hit everywhere from gruffer pitches to extremely light ranges that sound like they’re just barely hovering over the instrumentals. When it comes to the screaming, Mantric ups the level of abrasiveness and allows them to absolutely tower over the rest of the material. As with the instrumentation, there’s a bit of unpredictability to the vocal performance as this isn’t just another case where the screaming only comes in at normal intervals as the riffing gets heavier. Instead, there’s a regular tradeoff between the two and while the sheer range of the melodic pitches stole the show for me the screaming added extra bursts of intensity that justified its inclusion.

Sin is an impressive sophomore effort from Mantric that seems to offer more surprises as you spend additional time with it. It has straight up hard/alternative rock hooks mixed with a healthy dose of atmospheric and progressively oriented exploration that makes the material as catchy as it is unpredictable, and with tonality that refuses to fall squarely into 100% rock or metal territory there’s room to grab listeners with fairly varied tastes. Whether you’ve come across them before or are ready to dive in for the first time, these guys have plenty to offer and they’ve been able to push beyond the boundaries of their past projects and come into their own. I suspect there’s room for plenty more exploration in the coming years, but hopefully we won’t have to wait another five.

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