Mantar. MANTAR. It evokes a VO shout from a B-flick trailer. HE COMES IN THE NIGHT. MANTAR. Wearing a congratulatory smirk, you slide over and hit up “Spit” on the ol’ Bandcamp. Out of nowhere, the German duo drags you into their tent, beating you with the aluminum riff bat. Ow, ow, sorry! Following a few thwacks, the endorphins flow. Then: Dio, does their amalgamation of abrasive metals feel good. Great, even. How could anyone doubt this? Sure, the pleasurable torment can confuse the senses, like being rag-dolled in a sea of velvet or trapped within a pot grow house on fire. But, perhaps that’s the point. See. Mantar is about the subtly unexpected, the sleights of sound. For one, that was no typo: This leviathan is operated by only two dudes. Impressive, though that’s not the whole story. This isn’t a 1+1=3 thing. Mantar would be massive for a nonet, an orchestra, a small town. They’ve simply figured out how to maximize their output. In return, it ably powers their explorations around the parallel dimension of pain. They’re a supersonic flogging ship. They rack up the frequent flayer lightyears.
Doubtful? Here, grab some yarn, push-pins, and commandeer the office bulletin board. Plot these points: “Spit,” a dusty road knifing through Kyuss; “Astral Kannibal,” a greasy, fried dive in the heart of best-case Grand Magus; “Swinging the Eclipse,” a Fenriz-hosted trad and true art exhibit; and “The Huntsmen,” Buzzo getting his hair did by Tom G. Warrior. Outta string, Rust? Yeah, as was previously stated, these fellas cover ground, existing in more quantum planes than a Starbucks quark. Yet, you don’t feel any motion sickness. Why? The ride is smooth. Surprised? Nah. Consider the machine specifically built for this type of travel: Mantar knows how to get all of these engine gears to interlock. They fit with flushness. All of ’em. These guys grasp how to grind the rough bits down to make it all function. Your sharpeners: Erinc’s and Hanno’s charred vocals, the former’s insistent slap n’ thump, and the latter’s lemon-juice-as-contact-solution juds, juns, and wums. Combined? It’s a hell of a killer app. No matter the input, your output is 1. Ow. 2. This…RIPS. YES. YESSSSSS. [Ian Chainey]
Of course, we had to know more. Our man Dean Brown got in touch with Mantar. He asked five questions, they gave him five answers.
From your past experiences, what have been the major advantages and disadvantages of being in a band comprised of two musicians?
I don´t see any disadvantages. It´s just so damn easy being a two-piece band. You have two people with the same musical idea, not any more people around who may weaken the overall energy… It´s just pretty intense. And due to our equipment setup we are easily able to raise some hell and put some volume up like a 5 piece band. We know our gear. That might be the only disadvantage though… we play with as much equipment as a band with 5 members, and that´s a lot to carry.
But in general, I think beeing just a two piece is a big advantage. We have to make sure that the riffs or the melodies we use are pretty intense as we can only focus on one thing at a time. But that´s a benefit, because this is exactly what people remember a certain song for: A certain melody, a certain riffing, or just a special drum beat. We are able to focus on one really strong ingredient at a time and skip unneccessary gimmicks. We usually don´t do any overdubs and no guitar solos. That´s why the recording process is pretty easy and basic.
The record is basically what the band stands for: Raw display of power. What you hear is what you get. No tricks, no image. Pure rage. We have to play super heavy to keep up with 4 or 5 piece bands. And that´s what we do. We did the record pretty quick, self-produced and for less money than a usual band spends on drinking on a regular weekend.
If you have a strong vision, you don´t need much money or shitloads of people to create a good record.
You guys have been friends for 16 years. Do you believe friendship is the key to the chemistry you possess? How did your friendship influence the songwriting on Death By Burning?
We always jammed from time to time but just made it these days to form a real band. But as we’ve known each other for so long, it was quite easy to come up with good songs. I think the fact that we know each other that good is a big factor. We don´t talk about music. And as far as I remember, we never did. We just get together and let it happen. We share a musical vision and know every detail of our skills. We are always in the same kind of vibe and flow.
Furthermore, we share the fascination for the same musical aesthetic. I don´t know if “friendship” is the key, as there are a lot of examples of great bands where the members don´t like each other at all. Luckily, we do like each other. In the end we have been friends before we started a band.
Your press release requests that your music doesn’t get labeled “sludge,” even though there seems to be a heavy Melvins influence to the riffs and rhythms. Why is “sludge” such a dirty word for you guys?
Uh, we love the Melvins. But personally, I just avoid that label. Don´t get me wrong. We did not reinvent the wheel. Never had that ambition. But I don’t think that the genre “sludge” is something you can rely on anymore as a trademark for something particularly good. It´s pretty worn out these days. A lot of bands use it as a brand because they don´t have their own character or don´t know about their own roots. (Maybe due to the fact they never had any.)
Don´t get me wrong, I love shitloads of stuff that is branded as “sludge.” Great bands out there. But… some kind of inflation is going on nowadays. I don´t have the intention of making music for a certain kind of “scene,” or even worse, a target group. Maybe I am not educated enough with that musical genre, but for me, a lot of bands branded as “sludge” sound all the same.
Don´t want to make anyone down here, I just never had the intent of playing “sludge.” A couple of years ago I didn´t even know what that was. Our only agenda is to get together and play as heavy as possible. I guess some of the reasons the people like our record is that we don’t try to satisfy any certain scene.
Considering Mantar have only played a handful of shows together, yet write songs intent on leveling venues, what do you think it is that makes a song translate with an audience, and cause destruction, in a live setting?
People really have to see the energy you are putting into your songs. Playing a song never should come easy. I think it´s important that they feel the energy. It doesn´t matter if you miss a note here and there, it´s all about passion. As we don´t have any sing along hooklines, we have to impress people by raw power. Pure honest rage. But that´s easy for us, as this is exactly what Mantar´s music is made of.
In the end, we just do our best to slay.
The reception afforded to Death By Burning has been unanimously positive. So much so that all eyes are going to be on you when you step out on stage at Roadburn in April. Judging by your music there seems to a fearlessness to the band, but are nerves starting to creep in now that you’ve caught the attention of a larger audience?
We are always in tension in a live situation. But we are in tension in general whenever we play, even in the rehearsal room. I think that´s something positive. Playing in a heavy band never should be a harmless amusement. As long as I know that we have proper gear and people are interested in the band in a live situation, I have no doubt that it will be good. I don´t care about the amount of people. Erinc and I have to get in the right mood, that´s all what matters. And that we will do our best. What we basically always do. It may sound cheesy, but I really do forget about the people during a show.
I think Roadburn and all the other festivals and shows gonna be fun. At least I hope so.
Mantar’s Death By Burning is out now on Svart Records.