There is something that draws us to the macabre. The world of Stephen King and H.P. Lovecraft. The place in our mind that makes us turn on the lights as the sounds of the night prickles the hairs on the back of you neck. This album takes you on a trip to one of these wicked places, where things are not all they seem. Manticora does this with their bombastic metal foray called The Black Circus Pt. 1.
Manticora takes you back to a time when the traveling bands of gypsies would bring their circus to town and usually leave with the villagers a bit happier but with a lot less cash. Only this time, there is much more to what is going on than meets the eye. For not only do they leave with their pockets filled, they leave with...well, I will leave that for you to find out.
With a narration that is told as a letter written by someone who has joined this band of nomads, the story unfolds with a little help from these highly underrated metal giants. The soundtrack to the tale is as heavy and dark as the fable they have created. With a little help from H.P. Lovecraft, these boys have made an album that is not only a metal heads dream, it is a horror story of grand proportions.
This group from Denmark, although not as well known here in the states, is one of the premiere bands in the metal field. Their energy and pure musical ability is only highlighted by the vocals of the great Lars Larsen. He is the focal point that brings the band together and as a group they are pure dynamite. Dual guitarist Martin Arendal and Kristian Larsen are the fuses that ignite this explosion of metal mayhem that is called Manticora. Both of them create a sound that is as brutal as the story they are telling. Relentless and powerful you will be hammered by their totally unique blend of outright thrash, power metal with just a touch of the melodic aspects of progressive thrown in. The combination is a blend that will amaze and grab you, while making you wonder where these guys have been hiding.
Being able to switch it up like that is one of the elements that will make you an instant fan. Like on the song "Enchanted Mind" where the brutality of the tune gives way to a melancholy chorus that is perfect for the storyline before the harsh guitars hammer you once more at the conclusion of this chapter of the tale. Or when they take you for a ride on the "Forever Carousel" where Lars vocals weaves a magic spell as the twin guitars take you around and around on the merry-go-round from hell!
Then there is the vocals of Lars. He makes it possible for you to feel as well as hear the story with some of the most dynamic singing in this field. From a deep growl to a soaring, almost operatic quality, Larsen is a force to be reckoned with in this genre. On songs like the fantastic "Wisdom"he uses all these abilities to the max and delivers a tour-de-force performance. This song is also a great example of just how much the keyboards add to the overall sound of the band. Andreas Lindahl does a magnificent job and puts you right in the middle of the gypsies' camp with his atmospheric playing. The overall sound might make you think of a group like Blind Guardian or Iced Earth but it has, at least on this album, a darker touch that makes them so appealing.
For overall sheer brilliance though it is hard to beat the song "Gypsies Dance Pt. 1". They manufacture an absolute enthralling piece that will have you dancing around the campfire as it is not hard to envision the band of gypsies performing a secret ritual late one night with this spectacular piece. This one also shows off the great talent of drummer Mads Volf. He is a powerhouse back there and along with Kasper Gram on bass, this rhythm section gives the band the driving force that is the foundation for their sound.
This album has everything going for it. It is a cool story, fueled by the magnificent music of Manticora. This band is going to be one of the best things to come out of Denmark since...well just one of the best things to come from there period!
The way that they have constructed this concept album leaves you with a sense of wanting more. The story flows with brief interludes to keep it on track. The narrations are fundamental and makes this one work very well. But it is the music that you will buy the disc for of course and this is one that will give you whiplash from all the headbanging that will be going on. Not to mention the chills from the eerie story too. This is such a great album in so many ways that I am at a loss to really do it justice. There are few that will keep you so entertained and does not have any let up or weak spots. This is where the concept comes in. You get into the story as well and if this was a book...I would have to call it a page turner! You can't wait to see what will happen next. The bad thing is that it does have to end sometime, but even then they leave you wanting more. The last song "Disciples of the Entities" is the icing on the cake. With brute force it hammers you and leaves you a quivering mess by the end. Like any great serial though it leaves you wondering just what is going to happen. Luckily, the band lets you know with their next release...Pt. 2.
I happen to have had the pleasure of seeing these guys live. Although they were only able to play a 30 minute set due to time constraints, it was the most intense half hour I have seen on stage. I cannot imagine what it would be like to see the full set!
1. Enter The Carnival
2. The Black Circus
3. Intunerie I
4. Enchanted Mind
5. Intunerie II
6. Forever Carousel
7. Freak Show
8. Dance of the Gypsies Pt. 1
9. Intunerie III
11. Intunerie IV
12. Disciples Of The Entities