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Mantric – False Negative

False Negative
by Joseph Brewer at 16 June 2020, 9:37 PM

While delving into the history of Norwegian rockers MANTRIC, I think I got pleasantly lost in the details. This trio of musicians, John Mjaaland, Tor Gildje, and Ole Sveen, have been performing together since they were kids in the early 1990’s, a lengthy and diverse musical friendship. Their first band, in fact, was called LENGSEL, a progressive black metal outfit to add to the numerous bands populating Norway. Fast forward past different bands and projects and the intent of MANTRIC becomes clear; creation and expression are their vision. They refused to adhere to genre expectations, image, status, labels. This driving force of creativity and independence has followed them throughout their careers and has helped to define their third album as MANTRIC entitled “False Negative.” Diversity of sound and imagination fuel this release as it is far from boring, far from being plain, and not bound to any certain genre mold.

The first single, “Polyanna,” is definitely the star of “False Negative.” I think I would consider it their best overall track as it is easy to approach, melodic, and catchy as hell, and the one that you think about hours later when the earworm in your head wakes up. MANTRIC starts off what ends up being a heavy hitting album with a fairly light track. The song kicks off with a bright synth line progression, backed by quick technical instrument fills, that shows off their ability to balance the light with the heavy. I found that throughout the album they play with different elements of sound a lot, implementing a diverse approach to vocal production and delivery, keyboard sounds, and even just volume. But what can’t be denied is the joy and brightness in the chorus that will have you headbanging with a smile on your face.

Blame The Beggar” is a pulpy, synth-driven song with a moving bass line that carries you up and down throughout the track. The song hits in waves, contrasting the simple verses with the upbeat synth and harmony driven chorus that builds and builds. That synth line is fantastic, and I wanted to play that piece along on repeat. “Dawn” gets off to a slower, more isolated start. It’s one of those tracks that tends to repeat the same few lyrics over and over, but in this case, it doesn’t detract from the song. It provides a piece to hang onto as the song slowly (and I mean slowly) builds to that inevitable crescendo about halfway through the roughly 6-minute song.

The Towering Mountain,” the other single from “False Negative,” delivers on the powerful imagery that the title of the song promises. Out of the gate, the band hits with pounding bass and snare drums, the vocals reaching near black metal screech, but restrained enough to be clear and coherent. One of their hardest hitting tracks on the album without a doubt and really emphasizes the variety of ideas that MANTRIC can deliver. The tracks near the end are similar to this vein, “Darling Demon” relies on those same black metal-ish vocals and lots of pounding, thrashy riffs. “False Negative” though, ends with an epic, the 8+ minute track “Starmonger.” MANTRIC takes you on a journey with this song, but I appreciate that it brings together a lot of the strong elements heard throughout the rest of the album. Slow and delicate verses, restrained atmospheric interludes, powerful pounding choruses all orchestrated to finish the album in a majestic way.

As I’m sure the members of MANTRIC would appreciate, I will not try to narrow their sound into any particular metal genre. More than most bands, in their album “False Negative,” MANTRIC has managed to successfully write and perform an impressive variety of songs that fans of any genre would appreciate. What stands out is their focus on balance (deftly bouncing between light and heavy moments within a song) and hooks (catchy, melodic choruses that are damn near perfect). Their track “Itching Soul” hits this theme perfectly, reaching a powerful peak after a gentle buildup. I would highly recommend this album to any listener that is looking for interesting, catchy metal.

Favorite Songs: “Polyanna”, “Norwegian Dastard”, “Itching Soul

Songwriting: 8
Musicianship: 9
Memorability: 7
Production: 8

4 Star Rating

1. Polyanna
2. Itching Soul
3. Queen Fatigue
4. Norwegian Dastard
5. Blame The Beggar
6. Dawn
7. The Towering Mountain
8. Every Day Is Independence Day
9. Darling Demon
10. Starmonger
John Mjaaland
Tor Glidje
Ole Sveen
Record Label: Solid State/Tooth and Nail


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