Thursday, December 8, 2011

Review: Manifest - Written In Blood (2010)

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Written In Blood

Manifest - Written In Blood
Norway's Manifest is a modern thrash outfit that delivers quite an energetic performance on Written In Blood, their third full-length release since forming in 2005. With a sound more comparable to early Mudvayne than Anthrax, Manifest fits together modern metal aggression with a bit of traditional thrash melody for an album that will likely be of interest to a wide variety of extreme music lovers.

The core of the Manifest sound is comprised of pummeling beats, angry riffs, and gurgling growls. Frontman Stian Leknes sticks primarily with a style that hovers somewhere between blackened shrieks and deathish barks. This approach is certainly not remarkable, but Leknes takes a few risks here and there that end up being some of the brighter spots on Written In Blood. Emerging on "They'll Have To Carry Me Home" is a style reminiscent of Zakk Wylde's gravelly drawl, which Leknes fully adopts on "Pitch Black Inside". Along with his vocals, the plodding, doomy riffs punctuated by some nifty leads and strong bass lines - as well as a bit of an epic atmosphere during the latter moments of the track - propel this song to the best of the pack. Elsewhere on Written In Blood, Leknes experiments with clean vocals. "Letter From The Grave" is a stripped down piece with nice acoustic leads over which Leknes cleanly croons, but his struggles to hit the upper reaches of his range hint at this type of singing being a tad outside of his comfort zone. Although handling the vast majority of the singing himself, Leknes is joined by the band a couple of times on tracks "The Worst Is Yet To Come" and the title track for some gang choruses that lend the album a bit of old-school thrash appeal.

Photo: Siri Hovland Kaldal
The riffs and leads are proficiently delivered by Ole Marius Larmerud, whose dominant style is the swirling, downtuned groove that came to prominence in the late '90s. There are some staccato moments to be heard, particularly on "Tonnie von Adelaine" and "A .45 To Pay The Rent", but Larmerud ably injects some nice melody to keep the album from stagnating. Besides the aforementioned "Pitch Black Inside", the groove comes through clearly on "They'll Have To Carry Me Home" and "Irreversible", that latter track also featuring one of Larmerud's most frantic solos. While his axework is far from flashy, he does exhibit enough progressive tendencies on "Savage" to hint at his versatility.

The rhythm section, comprised of Griffin bandmates Johnny Wangberg (bass) and Alessandro Elide (drums), is responsible for the lion's share of Written In Blood's punch. Elide really works the kit to provide ceaseless fills and pummeling beats, often accentuated by just the right amount of crash and hi-hat. Wangberg's presence is a bit more pronounced than the bass usually is in this style of metal, not only adding depth to Larmerud's riffs but rising to the top of the mix in several spots with some nicely intricate lines.

On first listen it's easy to categorize Written In Blood as a predominantly modern thrash release with sometimes overly harsh vocals, and for the majority of the album's run time that is an appropriate summation. Subsequent spins, however, bring Manifest's intricacies to the surface and expand the band's appeal to fans of both modern and traditional thrash.

Track Listing
1Tonnie von Adelaine4:04
2They'll Have To Carry Me Home4:15
3Food For Flies2:32
4The Worst Is Yet To Come3:59
5Pitch Black Inside5:52
6A .45 To Pay The Rent3:40
7Lullaby (Bedtime for Bastards)2:56
8Letter From The Grave2:45
11Written In Blood4:15
Total Runtime42:25

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