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Manimal - Armageddon

by Chris Hicklin at 06 December 2021, 10:56 AM

Not to be confused with the now defunct French Death Metal band of the same name, MANIMAL are a melodic Heavy Metal band native to Gothenburg, Sweden. With three well received full length releases and numerous high-profile tours already under their belt, the band has a well-established presence in the Metal fandom. Described by their label as Power Metal, the band takes a more serious approach than some of their supposed genre-mates, eschewing bombast for bold, chunky riffs with an occasional progressive edge. The band spends little time building too many layers of vocal harmonies, or tracking guitar after guitar, preferring to keep things simple and straight to the point. The band has more in common with the 80s school of Heavy Metal heroes such as SAXON, and mash that up with the more intelligent approach of QUEENSRYCHE and you have something approaching MANIMAL.

The album kicks off in classic style with “Burn in Hell,” I love a good creepy intro, and this plays out like a scene from a horror movie as a Jack-in-the-box gradually chimes toward an inevitable conclusion. When it arrives, it is explosive and could almost knock you out of your seat with its raw power. Having established itself with this delirious moment of excitement, the track creeps towards an elative chorus. You imagine the band will be using this track to arrive on stage to, as it seems custom made to build audience anticipation, and have them jumping by the time it wraps itself up.

Following this heady cocktail of Metal madness, we have the album’s title track “Armageddon,” one of the few pacier tracks, which sees Sam Nyman letting loose the full range of his technically impressive voice. At times a low roar, at times a soaring scream, at times even a derogatory sneer. The verse riff hurtles forward at breakneck speed, but with a flamboyant melodic signoff to each guitar passage, while chorus features a crisp ascending riff that will quickly have you nodding your head.

Slaves of Babylon” slows proceedings down a bit, more Heavy Rock than Metal it is more atmospheric, and utilizes synth sounds to a greater extent than most other tracks, a well-timed theremin gives the track a spacey feel, the chorus is simply enormous, and the guitar solo a delight. I can’t help but hear “Slaves of Birmingham” in the lyrics, but this might just be the ghost of JUDAS PRIEST lingering over proceedings.

Forged in Metal” is a traditional powerhouse, perhaps one of the most very Metal tracks you are going to hear this side of Christmas, this is pure pulse pounding 80s style fantasy Heavy Metal heaven. The lyrics are as straightforward a Power Metal fantasy as you could hope for, dystopian future landscapes where bloodthirsty maniacs hunt the weak and engage in battle for dominance. The addition of some authentic Death Metal style roaring vocals really sets it off, but the cherry atop the cake is a spectacular solo from Henrik "Hank" Stenroos, it just doesn’t get any more Metal than this.

Leading us to the halfway mark, the anthemic “Chains of Fury” brings the pace down, but not the power levels. Buoyed by a monstrous sing-along chorus, the verse features a solid grooving riff effectively backed by what sounds like the grunts of shackled souls, with shades of THE HU. Nyman playfully rolls his Rs as he delivers his superb vocals with a theatrical twist, and the guitar solo oozes style as it rains down cascading arpeggios. This is a good foil for one of the albums faster tracks “Evil Soul” which, while opening melodically, soon develops into something much more aggressive, making the most of the dynamic double pedal skills and raucous bass stylings of the always-tight rhythm section of André Holmqvist and Kenny Boufadene.

While the attempt at entering the 21st Century (well, maybe the late 20th) in “Path to The Unknown” is admirable, it is also perhaps ill-advised. In keeping with the name, the song walks the road less trodden, the main body of the song is a headbanging groove with strong late 90s Alt-Metal vibes (think DISTURBED), but towards the end Nyman sees fit to engage in some rapping alongside the Nu-Metal riffing. It sounds like KORN in a bad way, although this may be my bias showing as I am not at all certain there is a good way to sound like KORN. It feels awkward and as though the band wanted to show they can turn their hand to anything they wish, except in this case they can’t. “Master of Pain” is another attempt at taking a left turn, but this time to far greater success. This is a brutal, unrelenting, and unforgiving track, by far the least digestible course of the meal, revolving mostly around a handful of chords delivered at differing levels of violence. It’s good to take the listener out of their comfort zone from time to time, however you probably won’t be singing this one in the shower.

While “Insanity” is a solid but unambitious track that trades on fare the album has already delivered, final song “The Inevitable End” features some trancey sounding keyboards that lend a thoroughly modern sound to the production, the verse riff is driving and intense and the choruses provide one last opportunity to sing your heart out. A satisfying ending to the experience, but the album does feel a little top heavy. It packs in so much goodness in the first 5 songs that it feels like it starts to trail a little in the second half, there’s a little less focus. But it still holds together, and this is not a failing of any particular track, but perhaps of the sequence.

The production is very strong throughout, the guitar sound is huge, the drums crisp, the bass clear and resonant. Nyman it seems, can turn his hand to almost any style of vocal such is the power of his range and ability. Chief song writer Henrik "Hank" Stenroos is also a guitar virtuoso and has some outstanding solo moments throughout. While the album could perhaps do with some reordering, it is a welcome release and a hugely entertaining listen. This gets a solid eight from me, and who knows, without the rapping it might have been a nine!

Songwriting: 8
Musicianship: 8
Memorability: 8
Production: 8

4 Star Rating

1. Burn in Hell
2. Armageddon
3. Slaves of Babylon
4. Forged in Metal
5 Chains of Fury
6. Evil Soul
7. Path to the Unknown
8. Master of Pain
9. Insanity
10. The Inevitable End
Samuel "Sam" Nyman - Vocals
Henrik "Hank" Stenroos - Guitars
Kenny Boufadene - Bass
André Holmqvist - Drums
Record Label: AFM Records


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Edited 02 April 2023

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