It’s perfect that Norway’s Manes have chosen now to release their fifth LP, Slow Motion Death Sequence. There seems to be some increased interest in the metal that was released around the turn of the century (let’s call it 1998 through 2004). Most of this interest centered around nu metal — see Steve Hyden’s amazing piece on Korn’s Follow the Leader in The Ringer. The consensus on this time period is negative. Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Metallica, Slayer and other legends were at (arguably) their weakest. Worse, mainstream metal was at its most obnoxious.
Underneath the surface, this period sprouted a hotbed of innovative bands. Pig Destroyer, Cave In, Opeth, Mastodon, Enslaved and more began their careers or found their sounds during this time. We’re still living in the turn of millennium’s shadow.
And also around that time, Manes started. Previously known as Perifa and Obscuro, the Norwegian outfit began as a black metal act and very quickly into something … other. Their sophomore LP, 2003’s Vilosophe, jettisoned metal almost entirely. Instead, they embraced jazz, pop, hip-hop, heavy electronica and other sounds. They weren’t the first black metal band to turn their backs on rock (Ulver remains an obvious comparison – more on this later). But they maybe left it the furthest behind. They’re a shoe-in for “Mean Deviation” author Jeff Wagner’s new (and excellent) Radical Research podcast.
Slow Motion Death Sequence streamlines the radical approach from Vilosophe. It zeroes in on the best of Vilosophe the same way that Ulver’s The Assassination of Julius Caesar did with Blood Inside. It is far and away the most listenable Manes release, especially thanks to the emotive choruses in songs like “Building the Ship of Theseus.” No wonder much of the band also spent time in overlooked melodic death/doom act Atrox.
“If dying or death in itself becomes trendy, we’ll be bigger than Bieber,” Manes tell Decibel of Slow Motion Death Sequence. “But no. We have been answering a few questions from magazines here and there in relation to the release of Slow Motion Death Sequence, and many – if not all – want to know how we would describe or categorize our music. We avoid it, try to circle around it or throw hissy fits left, right and center. We are equally unprepared for that question every time. What bands would we compare ourselves with? I don’t know. We try to urge people to find out for themselves, but that is the wrong answer. In reviews I read that we are a mix of rock, metal, pop, prog, jazz, trip-hop and industrial, with adjectives, pre-nouns and other words like dark, post, hypnotic, disturbing and many more attached in one way or the other. So, there you have it, I guess; the full answer. We play that. Maybe it could be that; if you like one or more of those, you might like Manes. Do you like prog? No? How about pop? Not really? Metal? OK, then you’ll just love Manes.”
Slow Motion Death Sequence is out today via Debemur Morti Productions. Order it at their Bandcamp.
Need more Manes? Read the history of the band in Black Metal: The Cult Never Dies, available via Decibel Books here.