Manes - Maanens Natt/Ned I Stillheten
Self Release, Re-released by Hammerheart, 1993-94
Part of the 'Unveiling the Wicked' demo series
For a while I had been somewhat hesitant about approaching these two releases, first broadcast as tape demos in 1993 and 1994, for various reasons: the references to 'true' black metal that I had been hearing everywhere, the way that people described this band as 'quite similar to Darkthrone', the lack of availability, the fact that Hammerheart still, to this day, refuses to send this magazine promo packages, etc. Actually it was not until I happened across a MP3 version of 'Ned I Stillheten' off the second demo disc that I was able to listen to this duo of mysterious artists. Right after that, I purchased these two CDs (so much for MP3s taking money away from record companies). My first question: why are these two demos not on one CD? 'Maanens Natt' is about 16 minutes long, and the second is a little lengthier, at 26 minutes. Was it some kind of attempt to preserve the distinct nature of these tapes? Greed? A strange record company policy that nobody outside of Hammerheart could hope to understand? I don't know. What we have here, though, is a collection of utterly dark, atmospheric, slow, Thorns-inspired black metal, done in the old style (there is really not much of a similarity to Darkthrone outside some of the aesthetics of the packaging and the 'ambience' of the recording'), with a drum machine rumbling somewhere in the background, some very nice sparkling arpeggiated chords laced over thick rhythm work, a vocalist that combines spoken word passages with high possessed screaming, and epic keyboards that only accentuate the air of dread, decay, and horror spread by the other instruments. Sounds very traditional, doesn't it? And yet, there is something about this band - almost an indefineable melodic sleight-of-hand that takes these run-of-the-mill elements and transforms them into something delicious and darkly satisfying. In fact, I think this material is actually much closer to doom metal than black. I found myself constantly trying to imagine what this band would be like live while I was listening to these two CDs - what it would sound like to experience this music full-force, in a small black room perhaps, filled with a funeral fog, high in the mountains...there is something undeniably pagan about this music, it speaks of another time, another place...enchanting to those who are stuck in environments such as mine. Needless to say, I was really struck by these recordings, as this sort of thing is tailor-made to appeal to my black metal biases. Listening to these demos really makes me want to check out their full-length album - I suppose that's next on my list. Why can't the other black metal bands coming out of Scandinavia follow the direction of this band, instead of striking out into Dimmu-ish territories? It takes all kinds, I guess.