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Manticora - The Black Circus Part 1 - Letters CD (album) cover



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4 stars Probably a 4 star epic thrash/power metal album and their best to date (pre-Safe). The lyrics are actually quite good, despite a couple of funny lines. The music is very enjoyable European style thrash riffing, powerhouse drumming with Malmsteen-esque lead guitar, Maiden-esque harmony solos, with Blind Guardian-esque vocals and epic-ness. There's a King Diamond-esque imagination to the songs and keyboards and apart from the interludes and the not-so-good 'Freakshow' this is a worthy piece of imaginative prog/thrash.

Making all those references is a little unfair (or a compliment), Manticora have their own sound . Worth a listen if you like this kind of stuff and certainly one of the better and more original sounding bands in the genre.

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Posted Tuesday, October 12, 2010 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars "The Black Circus, Part 1: Letters" is the 5th full-length studio album by Danish power metal act Manticora. The album was released in August 2006 by Massacre Records. As the title suggests itīs the first part of a two album concept. The second part titled "The Black Circus, Part 2: Disclosure" was released in 2007.

on "The Black Circus, Part 1: Letters" Manticora play a quite intriguing and effectful blend of Euro power metal, traditional heavy metal, progressive metal and thrash metal. They are definitely one of the more harder edged European power metal acts out there. Lead vocalist Lars Larsen has a hoarse type voice that sets Manticora apart from most other power metal acts and probably is an aquired taste for some. The addition of female vocals in "Wisdom" are a nice feature that brings varation. There are other more unmistakable power metal features in the music though, like fast played double bass pedal sections, grand choirs and anthemic choruses. Some of those parts remind me slightly of an act like Blind Guardian and how they sounded in the early- to mid nineties. The music is predominantly guitar driven and there are quite a few harmonies being played on the album that reminds me of Iron Maiden. The last influence Iīm gonna mention is King Diamond. Itīs not only because of the dark horror/ freakshow themed concept lyrics, which have a definite King Diamond quality about them (just listen to the accented narration in some of the tracks), but also because of the semi-thrashy, melodic and powerful music style that Manticora practises.

The reason for the "Letters" in the title of "The Black Circus, Part 1: Letters", is that the lyrics for each of the tracks on the album is a letter written by the narrator to a friend. Telling the tale of his encounter with a black gypsy circus where foul yet exciting things take place. The album features 12 tracks (the Japanese version includes the bonus track "Soul Devourer"). Only 7 out of those 12 tracks are "regular" length tracks though. The remaining tracks are shorter atmosphere enhancing intros and interludes with narration that helps the storyline come along. Intros and interludes donīt always work on concept albums like this, but here they do exactly what they are intended to do. They create atmosphere and suspense before the more "regular" tracks take over and they do it well. Speaking of the "regular" tracks they are all high quality power metal tracks with an emphasis on power. They are quite sophisticated though and therefore a progressive power metal tag isnīt all wrong.

The sound production by Tommy Hansen (who also helped arrange and compose the keyboard parts) is also of high class. A very professional and powerful sounding production.

"The Black Circus, Part 1: Letters" is just through and through a high quality power metal album that should appeal to fans of the more hard hitting yet still melodic adventurous/progressive part of the genre. I think itīs a very impressive release featuring brilliant musicianship, clever songwriting and one hell of a powerful production and a 4 - 4.5 star rating isnīt too much.

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Posted Tuesday, October 18, 2011 | Review Permalink

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