Demo:listen: Worn Mantle

It takes but a glance to see that the Minnesotan three-piece Worn Mantle are a band apart from the crowd. Instead of a promo photo, they have what looks like an alien fungal growth under a microscope. Turns out, it’s artwork by Monolith of Flesh, who also plays bass and does vocals under the initials IE for Worn Mantle.

hen, as you get to know Worn Mantle, by listening to them, perusing their Bandcamp page, becoming transfixed by their strange cover art, and your instincts are affirmed. Whether they’re doling out black/death intensity or death-doom despair or doom/sludge punishment or filling your ears and thoughts with guitar-driven psychedelic ambience, Worn Mantle are indeed a unique band. 

Genre-wise, we more or less agree with that characterization,” replies I.E. after we ask call Worn Mantle black/death done noise metal-style. “Obviously the black/death elements are very central to the sound,” IE says, “but our writing process was fueled more by a pursuit of intensity and less by a strict adherence to a specific style.”

I.E. goes on to tell us how Worn Mantle began. As you might suspect from their tight sound, there’s a bond that goes back a whole decade-plus here. IE tells us they met ND “around 2010 in middle school and pretty quickly started learning [their] instruments together.” IE says, “Our music making was pretty private for a long time and evolved naturally as our music tastes matured. This band ‘formed’ without a name in late 2019 after we mutually decided to end our prior doom/post-metal project to clear the way for something fresh. We met CHS in 2021 the summer before recording, originally as a session drummer. However, we got along extremely well and invited her to join the band after recording was finished.”

Unpredictable as their sound may be, if they weren’t nailed-shut-tight, the result would be  a mess. No wonder then, according to IE, Worn Mantle “practice completely in-person and on a regular basis.” IE says, “We meet almost every other day to practice old material and write new stuff. Once something feels good, we bring it to CHS, who really breathes life into it.”

As for their likewise unpredictably awesome name, “The band name is actually derived from some lyrics in a Bardo Pond song,” says IE. “It had existed as a cool combination of words for some time in my mind and we decided it fit well when this project needed a name. Worn Mantle also evokes images of a tattered cloak or a donned mask, which seemed to suit this project.” 

Looking deeper into the meaning behind Worn Mantle, we ask the band about their lyrics. They tell us, “The lyrical themes revolve around the emotions we experienced during the zenith of the 2020 uprising. Our beliefs and morals corresponded to a primarily anarchist analysis of race, class, gender and capital. From this ideology came the perception that we had a nigh religious imperative to do as much as we could at this invaluable watershed time to help be a small part of both ourselves and other people potentially reshaping the Twin Cities to become a better place for life. At the time, we believed we had to do everything we could possibly do to achieve this, and that anything less was essentially blasphemy. The absolute moral goalpost we set for ourselves, in conjunction with the pressing imminence of the time, led to a sensation that we had to “cut” away from ourselves anything that was not utterly devoted to doing the right thing, so that we could be a “knife” and do whatever it was that needed to be done, at whatever level of expense to ourselves. The writing of this album spanned both the advent and the demise of this mentality, as later our beliefs matured from being akin to a religious crusade to being a more serious philosophy that also honored our well-being.”

IE goes on to tell us about their artwork for Worn Mantle under the name Monolith of Flesh. IE says their style of “visual arts really came into its own around the time we were writing this album. Branches, tendrils, roots, veins and all similarly organic complexities have always had a strong grasp on my imagination and mid-2020 was when I was really able to articulate my fascination. The resulting overgrown, jagged forms and dark horror vacui psychedelia ended up fitting the needling, intense music we were exploring at the time.” 

By now you’ve noticed how deliciously heavy and organically pulverizing Worn Mantle’s self-titled debut sounds. Turns out, according to IE, “We were extremely lucky to live in the same city as Adam Tucker and Signaturetone Recording. We didn’t realize it for a long time, but he’s been the recording or mastering engineer for countless bands we love and admire (Void Omnia, Anicon, Thou/Emma Ruth Rundle, Sunless, Void Rot, Forn, etc.). He’s the type of person who telepathically knows what you’re trying to achieve and as the virtual patron saint of the Twin Cities extreme metal scene, it made sense to bring this to him.”

Grindcore this is not. Just looking at their epic song lengths, you’d almost think Worn Mantle were  a prog band. “We come from a doom metal background, and enjoy the possibilities of longer form songwriting so it was inevitable,” IE says. “Without even thinking about it, most of the songs we write usually fulfill their purpose after the 10 minute mark.

“The best art is the stuff that exists unto itself and makes no attempt to court expectations,” IE continues. “Just entities of expression that have the potential to wreak emotional and creative havoc on you. This piece of music is an attempt to craft something like that, we scrapped hours and hours of material before we had something that sat like a stone in our bowels.” 

Worn Mantle are only getting started and seem eager to continue exploring and refining their sound. They say, “We have some more dense slabs in the works. One will hopefully be arriving sooner than later. They add that they “would love to get it out to a wider audience.” We’ve done our part here at Demo:listen. Go forth and do yours.

Go get a Worn Mantle CD