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Tristan Mulders
4 stars Manes - Vilosophe

Manes might have been a black metal band once upon a time, but most of the extremes linked to that genre will not show up on this band effort. However, the music you'll find here is still heavily rooted in the metal genre. But that's where "Vilosophe" differs from most established prog metal outfits.

These musicians experiment with their sound and this you will notice right from the start: after an eerie audio fragment we are treated to about four and a half minutes of industrial metal, whereas the next song is a 10-minute suite which uses a lot of samples and atmospheric keyboards as well as drum computers and yes... the heavy guitars are present here as well...

Now, I sort of gave up on reviewing an album song by song quite some time ago, but I feel that I should mention the beauty that's titled White Devil Black Shroud. This song is one of the most depressing, yet beautiful, songs I've ever heard. It's so simple in essence with the repetitive and pretty plain guitar melody, but that in combination with the intense, emotional vocals and the drum computer... sheer beauty... I can't help but notice how well the vocalist fits the music. His voice occasionally reminds me of Stuart Nicholson of the British prog outfit Galahad, but better!

In the end "Vilosophe" is a pretty dark and ambient trip that comes to and end with one of the most disturbing closing tracks I've ever noticed on an album. The 5-minutes long Confluence (The Vilosophe Crux) is an eerie piece of work. It's mainly a German voice-over talking about problems in his relationship with his wife. Gradually the guy's losing his mind... Quite a disturbing way of ending this excellent album... I can't say I hate this ending though... It makes me remember to occasionally pop it in my CD-player.

Funniest thing is that in essence this is a pretty aggressive album, yet because of the use of a lot of electronic elements this album does not 'feel' like a (heavy) metal album. Heavy guitar riffs reminiscent of the better metal recordings are in good balance with Nine Inch Nails-like atmospherics and ethereal drumming that could have come from a Prodigy album! Overall, more than excellent mix of ambient, metal and electronic music.

Now, if that doesn't make you remotely interested, I don't know what will...

Report this review (#117640)
Posted Sunday, April 8, 2007 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars "Vilosophe" is the 2nd full-length studio album by Norwegian experimental rock/metal act Manes. The album was released through code666 Records in May 2003. Manes started their career in 1993 as a black metal act and all releases ( three demos and one full-length album) prior to "Vilosophe" are deeply rooted in that genre. The band were in those days a two-piece consisting of vocalist Sargatanas and Tor-Helge Skei (a.k.a. Cernunus) playing everything else. Sargatanas left the band after the debut album "Under ein Blodraud Maane (1999)" though and took the extreme black metal vocal style with him. Tor-Helge Skei opted to continue with the band and he recruited new musicians for the recording of "Vilosophe".

The style of music on "Vilosophe" is completely different from the music on "Under ein Blodraud Maane". As mentioned the extreme black metal vocals are completely gone from the music with the departure of Sargatanas as well as most of the extreme metal riffing. New industrial and electronic (at times almost trip-hop like) elements as well as clean vocals have been added to the sound instead. I can see this alienating old fans of the band but the new experimental electronic rock/metal style probably won them new ones instead. The dark atmosphere is intact in the music which is a thing I find is of great importance. In fact this is a very dark and melancholic album, itīs just not dark and "evil" sounding like the bandīs black metal output. The tracks are rather simple but featuring multible sonic layers. Acts like Ulver, OSI, Nine Inch Nails, Fates Warning (the "Disconnected (2000)" album) and a bit Queensrĸche (the darkest moments from the "Promised Land (1994)" album) are valid as references. There are very few extreme metal riffs on the album. I actually only count one that could be considered extreme by some and thatīs the opening riff of the brilliant "Death of the Genuine (The Redemption Ritual)". Note the extremely dark and eerie sample in the beginning of that song too. Thatīs how you start a song if you want it to have an impact on the listener.

The musicianship is excellent and especially the vocals are really strong, emotional and melancholic. I find the simple and repetitive melody lines very beautiful and they keep growing on me with every listen.

The production is quite frankly fantastic. Lots of audible layers and a powerful punch. Rock/metal music with lots of electronic elements doesnīt always sound good to my ears but it works very well here.

"Vilosophe" was a complete surprise to me upon inital listen. I wasnīt expecting it to sound like it did even though I had read reviews that tried to explain the sound. This is one of those albums you have to listen to yourself to fully absorb. Itīs not that itīs a complicated album by any means but it is pretty original sounding. The music on this album wins because of the melancholic and bleak atmosphere it creates and not because of complex riffing and intriguing song structures. But sometimes atmosphere is enough and in this case itīs more than enough. I really find "Vilosophe" to be an excellent release and a 4 star (80%) rating is fully deserved.

Report this review (#217336)
Posted Friday, May 22, 2009 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars This is one of those Metal-related albums I really enjoy!

If you know my tastes, then you know I am not really keen on metal in any of its forms, however I do enjoy some albums that I could count with one hand's fingers. To your surprise, one of those albums lies in this review. Some (at least 3) years ago I am not really sure if it was Assaf or Bryan who introduced me to this band, and I accepted because the name of the band caught my attention, nothing more. So later I listened to the album and since the first time I could say I enjoyed it. Since then, I play the album from time to time and have a good time while listening.

Manes is a band from Norway who started playing doom (as I have read), but in their second album their sound changed drastically, and they gave us "Vilosophe". It was released in 2003 and it is the one I am going to review. The album features eight songs and a total time of 47 minutes. The first song is entitled "Nodamnbrakes" and starts with a female voice speaking, some seconds later the music start at the same time as the singer's voice, anyway that female voice keep sounding lower, as background. Then the song turns heavier and the feeling is more intense, there is a nice but nervous keyboard sound. The structure is basically the same during the whole song, but it is nice to listen to that sudden change from soft to heavy.

"Diving with Your Hands Bound" is a long ten-minute track. A weird, experimental but really interesting composition which can be divided in two parts. The first one is soft, the music begins slowly and it progresses little by little. It makes some nice mood changes, then there is the voice along with drums, and an excellent use of synth, creating a calm atmosphere. Despite it may sound repetitive, it is good to appreciate the new figures and elements that are appearing while the seconds pass. This structure continues until minute three and a half, when it makes a short stop and then a new one is being built up. The guitars are more metal oriented, heavier but without being annoying. Since here, the song is actually very repetitive, but I would say addictive. They managed to connect the music with the listener properly, even with a listener like me, who don't like metal. However, a metal expert may argue this is really a metal album, I do not about it. And the second part of this track begins at minute eight and a half, when it seems to be fading out, but actually there is a beep keeping the song alive, and after some seconds an electronic composition starts. There are some guitar figures on it, but the song ends with that electronic sound.

"White Devil Black Shroud" is one of my favorite tracks. It is a soft guitar based composition whose atmosphere shares calm and even beauty. The drums accompanying those guitars make a great job, but also you have to notice the bass lines, which are also very interesting. This song is short but full of emotion and colors. When I play the album, I always use to repeat this track.

"Terminus a Quo/Terminus ad quem" starts with nice guitar notes that are repeating themselves for several rounds. After a minute the song makes another sudden change and becomes heavier and emotional. The drums and guitars are excellent, the vocals in moments sound far, leaving the instruments taking the lead role, but that's good, I like that sound actually. And worth mentioning, again, the use of synth, the atmosphere shares always the right feeling. The song finishes with some fading guitar and piano notes.

"Death of the Genuine" is a darker song, and you will notice it since the first seconds due to the voice and synth sound. Later it turns heavier and metalish, thanks to the guitars. The song progresses little by little, and seconds after the first guitar apparition, some kind of electronic drums enter. Again, their use of programming and electronic elements adds a special, yet interesting flavor.

"Ende" Is another of my favorite tracks, and I could say it is one of their most representative songs. It begins soft but little by little it is progressing. The drum work is excellent in the whole song and the guitars and synthesizer sounds help a lot. A very surprising thing here, is that they added a sax or trumpet sound, don't really know if it was done with the synth or the instrument itself appears as an extra and special guest. Though the song may be repetitive, I really dig it and enjoy it, especially the last part where the vocalist sings with all his heart.

"The Hardest of Comedowns" is another great song that combines the metal side of Manes, with their electronic experimentation. All the almost six minutes of this song have the same structure and the same mood. Until the final minute the music is fading out and the sound of a rain appears. When this happens, you are suddenly on the last track which is named "Confluence". Particularly I would not include this track because it is only spoken word, maybe If I understood the lyrics I could enjoy it more, but it is the voice with the rain, nothing more.

An excellent recommendation and a true surprise, what a great and original album this is. My final grade will be four stars.

Enjoy it!

Report this review (#294431)
Posted Friday, August 13, 2010 | Review Permalink

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