Deaf By Metal, A Q&A With Mantar’s Hanno

Ode to the Flame sounds like a typical Nuclear Blast release. A valiant knight astride a white armored horse. The knight’s hand is aloft, in it he’s holding a great flaming sword, for which he’ll use to the slay the malignant flying beast perched behind him on the top of a snow-capped mountain. But Ode to the Flame isn’t a typical Nuclear Blast release. Not by its cover or band the band, Mantar, that created it. Mantar’s new album is about fire. Plain and simple. The very thing mankind tamed to spark civilization, a primitive but powerful element. Like fire, Mantar’s cross-genre blasts (crust-black; punk-death) are simple but effective. Throughout Ode to the Flame, the German duo lay waste to preconceptions that power trios make the loudest noise. No, that would go to Mantar, two dudes who play by DIY rules and have a penchant for excessive volumes. Follow on as Hanno [vocals; guitar] tells Decibel where the group found their sound… between rock ‘n’ roll and black metal.

Where’d the name Mantar come from?
Hanno: Erinc [drums; vocals] is from Turkey. It’s a Turkish word for mushroom. And no, we don’t care about psychedelic bullshit and other hippie stuff. It’s just a word that sounds cool, heavy and powerful. We thought it suits the band and its characteristics.

Mantar’s self-described as “Black Metal Doom Punk”. What does that mean?
Hanno: We obviously have a straight, 100 percent DIY punk background. Which most of all refers to how we do things and not too much to the actual ‘music’. Nevertheless, we are much more a rock ‘n’ roll band than any kind of extreme metal project. We don’t know much, but we sure know how to groove. But, of course, we celebrate the slow, heavy moments as much as we do the fury and rage of faster parts. Black metal has been an important influence for me in the past [few] years. No music ever could take me on that kind of trip, soul journey, and is able to cause almost out of body experiences. Black [metal], for us, doesn’t mean image. It’s about intensity. And a certain level of devotion.

Who are your primary influences? I’m not just talking about music either.
Hanno: Hands down nature. Nothing could come close. Woods, silence, power, humbleness. Next to that the joy of the destructive frenzy we are in when the two of us play. It’s a certain energy I never experienced with any other musicians before. It’s almost like a black out in its best moments.

How much of Germany is in Mantar? If anything German at all.
Hanno: It could not matter less where we came from. Only good thing that comes into my mind that Germany without a doubt has a big tradition in heavy metal. We experience that wherever we go. Especially in the US. People like that. We don’t care for nationality though. But indeed people from the rest of the world tell us we act very German, as we are always on time, work hard, and take things very seriously.

You’ve railed against “copycats and polished plastic recordings”. Where does this anger come from and who is it aimed at?
Hanno: It’s no real anger. It’s more a feeling of pity. For people without an inner drive, without a certain possession which makes bands unique.  A lot of people think ‘material’ in any form and shape could give them an identity or at least a hint what to play or how to act like as a band. We never used producers, shitloads of equipment or whatever to display our power. No hard feelings, but I think most bands have no identity, even though they play 10 times better than we ever could.

What’s it like being a duo?
Hanno: Being a duo never has been a dogmatic thing for us. It’s just how it turned out to be. I don’t think we could ever play with any other band members. I mentioned the special feeling between Erinc and me already before. Another member would probably dilute this energy. No matter how good he or she was. Furthermore, I think that we never could be heavier than this, not even with five people on stage.

Death by Burning was well received. Ode to the Flame is also garnering rave reviews. Surprised?
Hanno: I am quite sure that all people who liked Death by Burning will like Ode to the Flame as well. We didn’t even try to reinvent ourselves. Why should we? I just think we got a little ‘better’, probably have better riffs and the overall sound became even more ‘Mantar’ as we now are playing for almost three years as a band. People told us the overall is even more sinister and darker. Maybe there are a few more details to discover [on Ode to the Flame].

What do you think fans hear in Mantar? The rage, the intensity, the spontaneity?
Hanno: Yeah, I think they get the energy. The rage, the fury, the passion. I think people who like Mantar don’t listen to us because of the musical genius. People who want that should listen to math rock. We are a violent band. Violence is a motor and outlet at the same time. I think weestablished a very elegant way of violence though. You should never lose a certain pride. Most of all I really think people like like how straight the band is. One–dimensional in its best meaning. We don’t care about ‘art’ too much.

What do you mean by the title, Ode To The Flame?
Hanno: It’s a reference to the first record as we wanted to keep up the universal and cleansing power of the guiding theme of ‘fire’. Fire is eternal. It has the power to reset everything to zero and wipe out any kind of plague. The flame furthermore is a symbol of your own iron will. Passion so to speak. And I am not talking about the passion of an artist or any other trivial things. The fire we are referring to is about the will to survive. Or the will to destroy for good. Battle in general and times long gone full of eternal ice and long dark winters are a constant lyrical theme on this record.

What do you enjoy the most about Mantar?
Hanno: Playing live. Forgetting yourself in ecstasy.

What do you guys do outside the band?
Hanno: To be honest, there is not a lot we could to within the last two years as the band is a 24/7 thing. We’ve worked really hard. The band is above everything else.

** Mantar’s new album, Ode to the Flame, is out now on Nuclear Blast Records. It’s available on vinyl and CD, in various configs, HERE.