Canada has just about overflowed with great underground metal in recent years.
While the country has gifted us with plenty of great death metal lately, we’ve also seen bands like Metalian and Spell ratchet up the quality in the old school heavy metal stakes.
Manacle, a newer project coming straight out Toronto, certainly know what they’re about. On the strength of this seven song demo, they could well be on their way to joining the ranks of the above.
The first thing that strikes about this promo release is how, while being DIY as hell in with handwritten song-titles and creepy photocopied art, the songs are remarkably assured and well-written.
Think the classic era of 80s metal, complete with grim tales of regret, jagged riffs, and an enjoyable, varied pace.
The individual aspects of what makes up these songs are interesting in their own rights. However, it’s clear at this point in time that there’s a real character and togetherness that defines these tunes.
Opener ‘Fight for your Light’ deserves particular merit. An echoing guitar intro quickly gives way to a whiplash inducing riff right out of the NWOBHM arsenal. The vocals, dramatic without going completely overboard, deserve particular attention. The song keeps shifting and changing, with the ripping command of “Forever fade!” sounding absolutely piercing alongside the tasteful guitar.
As the songs progress, there’s a sense of real command in the vocals that come to the fore. “Never Again” and “Tears of Wrath” nicely set out vocalist Kevin Pereira’s stall. There’s a sense of wounded pride and storytelling at work here that impresses from the off.
While the band remain focused on driving every tune along, there’s enough tasty licks, tom rolls and bass breaks to keep thing interesting. The band seem to have the ability to rein things in, to the arcane and introspective – then rip it out again with a headbanger riff.
Some Canadian bands take their retro stylings very seriously – and almost go overboard with the vocal histrionics and super-targeted sounds. Not so here – with the songs standing up for themselves.
Taking another close look at the charming artwork, and it’s all there. The undead monarch, the moonlit landscape and the chains ‘n’ blades aesthetic. There’s little doubt that the spirit of classic Manilla Road and Heavy Load was imbued deeply into this one.
Blessed with great riffs, short punchy songs, and an impressive command of melody and melancholy – you’d do far worse than shackle yourself to this release for the duration.
The question is if they can broaden the scope from this rather thin sounding demo and inject some serious power into the next recording. The hard work – crafting songs and a style – looks like it’s already been tackled in spades.
4/5 – Lorcan Archer ::: 4/05/17