Company: Candlelight Records Release: 2007 Reviewer: Etiam Rating: 3.5
Let us be frank. This review is showing up long enough after this album's release to justify doing away with general intros and cutting right to the controversy at hand over 'How The World Came To An End', Manes's most recent foray into experimental music. At this point, it is simply unfair to judge Manes as a metal band, particularly since this LP was never presented as such, and Manes have been on an avant-garde path for years. Besides, by now we should expect Norwegian black metal to mutate, no matter how vociferously they may affect to be 'True Norwegian Black Metal'. Some changes have met with great approval (.e.g 'Anthems...'), some with derision (did anyone like 'Daudi Balders'?), but few have been met with as much ambivalence as has Manes.
Perhaps it is because the other group to follow the electronic/post-rock path, Ulver, diverged from metal so dramatically that no comparisons could be made to their earlier work. 'How the World...', on the other hand, still has some measure of metal to it (though hardly of the grim sort found on 'Under Ein Blodraud Maane'), particularly with its opener, 'Deeprooted', with an opening practically lifted form Rammstein's 'Sehnsucht' sessions.
For the most part, though, 'How the World...' carries the band into territory that no single genre can encompass. Post-rock, electronica, ambiance, hip-hop, and more are all explored here in depth. Any album with this many genres to cover is bound to have some flaws and meet with some disapproval from fans, but 'How the World's shortcomings and prickles both contribute to its overall success. Much like its tortured protagonist, this album is beset by conflict and dissatisfaction. Almost every track is a clinic in layered climaxes, with various themes returning and piling upon one another, spiraling each track upwards to a fevered finish. Admittedly, this does wear a little due to overuse, but it is better than leaving some of the sparser arrangements to taper out unaltered and inconclusively.
As fascinating as the panoply is to take in, this album's most poignant tracks come when Manes dials back on the rapping and aggressive riffing, and allows their mild, moody side to carry a song, such as on 'Last Lights' and 'Nobody Wants the Truth', both of which feature simple vocal melodies and stripped-down arrangements. Tommy's high, wavering tenor has come to be one of the few constants in Manes's sound, following their renaissance, and he does a commendable job adapting his voice to the many song textures found here.
Those who would accuse Manes of selling out are within their rights to be upset; 'How the World...' is a surprising album that could easily disappoint an unsuspecting metal fan, or even some fans of their '[View]' EP, which only hinted at what this album would bring. Still, 'How The World's music is still quite unorthodox and arguably as inaccessible for a mass market as their earliest black metal demos. It is an intimate trip into unfamiliar territory that is as controversial as it was meant to be. Is this a metal album? No. Is it a bad album because of that fact? Absolutely not. All music need not be metal to be quality music, which many of us should be reminded of more often. Manes are comfortable with the idea, and 'How the World...', a unique and highly emotive work, proves as much. Manes may no longer be part of the metal horde, but the band remains a kindred spirit. If metal truly prizes itself on being a genre that pushes boundaries and rejects the mainstream, then Manes should be welcomed with open arms.
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