Last November saw the release of one of the coolest and most unusual releases of the year, Mantiis by Spanish progressive black/post metal band, Obsidian Kingdom. Now this is the kind of stuff that really gets my musical juices flowing. First, they’re totally unknown (so I get to be one of the first reviewers to let the world know about ‘em), they are WAY outside the mainstream (trippy psychedelic, dark hued post-metal concept albums ain’t on the Grammy’s radar) and they’re “unsigned” (like I’ve said many times before, I don’t need the imprimatur of a corporate logo to tell me if something’s good or not). Also, in addition to being great musicians, they have something to SAY to the world and they’re deadly serious about it. This is music to seriously listen to and it’s not song based but requires you to hear the album in its totality and see how all of the pieces fit together.
Mantiis is, as they put it, “an agony in 14 bites” and to me it feels like a symphony with all of the twists and turns you’d expect from that kind of a musical structure. And it’s bleak – dark and eerie but also very beautiful and compelling. Mantiis is also not too difficult to absorb and can appeal to a wide range of adventurous listeners. The band has five members (all with strange and mysterious sounding names like Rider G Omega, Prozoid Zeta JSI and Zer0 Æmeour Íggdrasil) and has a huge range of influences from philosophy and literature as well as music of all kinds (Tool, Opeth, Nine Inch Nails, Cult of Luna, Nurse With Wound, Wagner, etc.) and the album doesn’t seem to have an overarching lyrical theme but is mainly a journey across many sonic landscapes. We have the ominous, gothic opening piece Not Yet Five. The gently acoustic melancholy of Oncoming Dark that closes heavily and menacingly. Lots of pieces with black metal vocals over swirling progressive song structures. The somber The Nurse with its dirge-like electric piano and snare drum brush strokes leading into the gorgeous Answers Revealing which dissolves into the nightmarish (vampirish?) Last Of The Light, a wonderfully dark piece that even brings in a relaxed trumpet to brighten the mood and lift the gloom somewhat. The album has constant mood changes from piece to piece (most are in the 2-3 minute range) and many of the songs have an intense menacing energy that are offset against sparse, slow pieces like Fingers In Anguish. The marching beat rhythm of Ball Room leads into the closing piece And Then It Was, which starts with an intense and dramatic black metal epic sound but just dissolves about halfway through into a droning and somewhat eerie two minute fade-out. This is quite a ride I tell ya!
Obsidian Kingdom has also told the world that “in the age of internet, global communication and file sharing, the band has decided to offer its entire discography for free download. Aware of the huge turn of events caused by the collapse of the music industry, Obsidian Kingdom has clearly placed its bet.” Now THAT is a statement that I can fully get behind and is where I truly see music creation/absorption going in the future – where it HAS to go. Let’s see if this band can get the attention they deserve and as more and more people begin to discover them (along with many of the other stellar, adventurous bands putting out so much amazing music these days), and the music becomes an integral part of their lives, so much so that they’ll WANT to participate in the process and support their favorite artists directly. We’ll all then become patrons and evangelists for the artists that truly live inside us. Now THAT would be a true symbiosis of artist and listener, so much so that it’ll make us all forget the supposedly halcyon days where we would plunk down $10-$15 for a cd (with very little going to all but the biggest bands anyway or so I’ve been told) and feel that’s all we need ever do.
So, with that said, you can listen to all of Mantiis via the Spotify playlist below and you can also download it via the band’s BandCamp site for free or maybe for just a few bucks to help keep ‘em going for a long time to come.
If you want to stay in touch with our Spotify Friday series and other news in the world of progressive metal, please subscribe to our email list and don’t forget to “Like” us on Facebook (via the sidebar link) or follow us on Twitter (@Progmetalzone).