Steadily releasing material since the late-90s, 'To Kill to Live to Kill' is actually Manticora's first new album for eight years. It's their eighth. And released in 2018. Something weird going on there about the number eight... or, just mere coincidence? Either way, frontman Lars F. Larsen is back with his Danish brethren - well, guitarist and co-founding member Kristian H. Larsen, as there are two new recruits since 2010’s ‘Safe’, namely bassist Sebastian Andersen and guitarist Stefan Johansson. A drummer? It seems original sticksman, Mads Volf, left a couple of years ago. Press blurb is limited for this release, the bulk of which is a band bio of their key activities to date, although a little online digging seems to indicate that Loch Vostok’s Lawrence Dinamarca was responsible for recording all drums on the album.
There’s no mention in the blurb as to why a prolific-ish band has taken eight years to deliver a new album, although I guess Lars has been busy running his artist booking, PR, management, etc. company, Intromental, with its fine roster of progressive acts from around the world. And he has penned a horror novel. In fact, ‘To Kill to Live to Kill’ is based on said book, and is the first of a planned double album concept, the second instalment of which will be released next year.
After the tranquil opening of Tchaikovsky ‘Piano Concerto 1 - B Flat Minor’, the album gets properly underway with opener ‘Echoes of a Silent Scream’. Very Nevermore-esque in parts, but with Maticora’s undeniable sound, this is a frenzied metal assault that, somehow, simultaneously combines sonic euphony and cacophony. I hasten to add it’s a fully controlled cacophony in the execution of the material, that seems to be pinned down by the compositions’ inherent euphony. From the off, the music’s awash with catchy melodies, all kinds of beefy riffage, inventive sticksmanship and emotionally stimulating vocals. This is thunderously affective metal with progressive proclivities, of both the generic and genuine variety.
Throughout the entire album, there’s an invigorating metal zest that’s discernible in just about every bar of music... so much impassioned confidence in the delivery of their material here. It's exhilarating stuff. At times, songs have that thrash-power-prog hybrid the likes of Communic have always mastered on their releases… although some of the powered-up, thrashy riffage and vocal phrasing sounds very Nevermore inspired.
To be honest, Lars’ vocals are an acquired taste. He discernibly pushes his voice at the higher end of his range; so much so that it sounds stretched… not in any kind of grating James LaBrie kind of manner, but stretched, nonetheless. It’s almost as if there’s a Michael Kiske in there fighting to be heard, but without ever hitting his refined sense of vocal drama. But, do you know what, as the album progresses, and my ears become more adjusted to his delivery, it fits the music perfectly. Besides, it could be said the songs need an over-the-top, histrionic delivery, considering the songs are narrative-based. Indeed, the music itself is so epically orchestrated in the arrangements with how drums, bass and guitars and been layered, that the entire album does actually have that narrative, storytelling feeling to it.
Overall, ‘To Kill to Live to Kill’ is a fine reminder that metal can be passionate and exhilarating by appropriating and reshaping tried and tested genre idioms in the right way, without succumbing to regurgitated, bland pastiche. Incredibly impressive stuff.
TO KILL TO LIVE TO KILL
Review by Mark Holmes
3rd August 2018
1) Piano Concerto 1 - B Flat Minor...; 2) Echoes of a Silent Scream; 3) Through the Eyes of the Killer - Towering over You; 4) Katana - Awakening the Lunacy; 5) The Farmer's Tale Pt. 1 - the Aftermath of Indifference; 6) The Devil in Lisbon; 7) Growth; 8) Humiliation Supreme; 9) Nothing Lasts Forever; 10) Katana - Opium; 11) Through the Eyes of the Killer - Revival of the Muse That is Violence; 12) The Farmer's Tale Pt. 2 - Annihilation at the Graves
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
"...a fine reminder that metal can be passionate and exhilarating by appropriating and reshaping tried and tested genre idioms in the right way, without succumbing to regurgitated, bland pastiche."