Mantric- Die Old

By Chris Dahlberg

Published on Sunday, October 11, 2015

Mantric’s debut album The Descent impressed me back in 2010, as it merged so many different elements of metal and hard rock together that every track seemed to have something new to offer. Formed by ex-members of Extol, the group seemed to be pushing towards a progressive oriented sound that equally incorporated harsh and melodic elements. A lot of time has passed since The Descent that came out, and their sophomore effort Sin was released a few weeks ago. As I was preparing to dive deeper into that to prepare for a review, I remembered that Ole Halvard from Mantric had emailed me a link to an EP titled Die Old over the summer which was a stop gap release between the two albums. With Sin available, is it worth spending some time with this three song effort?

Having spent the better part of the day with Die Old the answer to that question is a clear yes, especially if you were a fan of their debut and want to see the band explore some slightly different territory. Only the title track “Die Old” appears on Sin, with the other two only available on this release. “Die Old” kicks things off, and it’s evident from the start that Mantric has chosen to dive further into rock territory for this release. Whereas their previous material fell smack in the middle of the metal and rock spectrum, the driving beat from the drum and bass and crunchier guitar work has more of a hard/alternative rock vibe. It gives off a very different feel, but once the additional melodies are added in three quarters of the way in there’s that same sense of warm atmosphere that was one of the main elements that drew me in to the group’s previous album. “How We Love Our Enemies” is the song that sold me completely on this EP though, and while vastly different from Mantric’s previous output I think it might be one of their best compositions yet. The instrumental work on this piece starts off extremely mellow, with an acoustic guitar lead that has a folk feel to it before transitioning over to warmer textures and even some progressive rock style keyboard melodies towards the end. It’s filled to the brim with catchy hooks over the four minute forty five second run time, and is a song I’ve had on repeat all day. Die Old ends with a cover of The Cardigans’ “Hanging Around” which slows down the tempo of the original, allowing the group to provide their own unique interpretation and makes it feel like a worthy addition to the EP.

The Descent had a pretty even split between soaring clean vocals and harsher screaming that kept some of the old Extol style. With the band’s decision to explore mellower ideas on this EP, the vocals have transitioned over completely to clean ranges which allows Ole Halvard the chance to demonstrate his full range. It’s another decision that proves a wise one for Mantric, as Halvard’s singing often starts off with a commanding pitch that instantly grabs the listener’s attention before soaring off along the atmospheric melodies. There’s just the right balance between more high energy singing and mellower exploration, and while sometimes when groups that started off on the harsher end of the spectrum don’t always have vocalists with strong enough singing ability to complete the transition that’s certainly not the case here.

Mantric has chosen to leave behind the heavier elements on this in-between EP and fully explore high energy and atmosphere oriented rock. It’s a transition that feels completely natural, and with the absolutely stunning “How We Love Our Enemies” only appearing on Die Old that alone makes it worth spending some time with this one. Stop gap releases can sometimes feel like throw away attempts to appease fans between albums, but these guys seem to have really spent some time on these pieces and it’s great to head off into fairly different territory.

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