Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Manierisme- The Past and Sorrow (2010)

For black metal, the one man band has been both a blessing and a curse. On one hand, it has allowed some brilliant moments of individual composition and performance (i.e. Burzum and Graveland). However, it has also produced one too many half-baked albums on which one or more of the instruments are sub-par (see the majority of DSBM albums). The Japanese one man band Manierisme is such a case of frustrating inadequacy. While the debut full-length, "The Past and Sorrow" contains some very excellent riffs and melodies, they are wasted because of Jekyll’s (the man behind Manierisme) inability to adequately perform vocals, drums or properly mix the album.

Jekell has an excellent taste for riffs. Obviously he is very influenced by the first two Mütiilation albums. While many bands have copied Mütiilation’s raw, vicious spirit, few bands have caught on to their excellent melody style. Much of Mütiilation’s success was due to their extremely catchy, borderline pop melodies that are twisted into the absolute antithesis of that genre. Manierisme runs with this, taking poppy melodies and twisting them in all sorts of screwed up ways that are almost dizzying to hear. While Mütiilation aimed for the darkest possible sound, Manierisme’s riffs sound much more lunatical. These riffs lay the foundation for a very good album.

However, Jackall shows himself to be incompetent in all other areas of the recording. The vocals are extremely obnoxious. Less of scream and more of a nasal gulp directly into the microphone, the vocals sound like something from some kids' cartoon. However, the vocals are pretty far back in the mix, so they can mostly be ignored. The drums, on the other hand are impossible to ignore. They are just awful. Often, it literally sounds like someone is dropping a drum kit down a flight of stairs. The rest of the time it sounds like he’s just hitting things without any rhyme or reason. He also fails to keep a steady rhythm, which disjoints the songs. The icing on the cake is that the drums are really high in the mix, especially the cymbals which wash everything out every time they are hit.

In the end, a bunch of stellar riffs go to waste. It’s impossible to ignore all the album’s flaws and focus on the riffs. Songs like “The Insect in the Head” and “The Photograph Which Faded” could be something special with solid percussion, vocals and production. If these pieces were added, Manierisme could be a stand out band. However, as a one man band, Manierisme has a long way to go. Unfortunately, too many black metal bands pass off their flaws as being part of their “screwed up” aesthetic. That’s a sorry excuse to not put in the time and effort to perfect their craft. "Raw" should not imply "half assed". Hopefully, Jackall will recognize this flaw and find musicians who can help him bring his vision to fruition (or spend hours working on his drumming if he is determined to do it by himself). If not, Manierisme will remain a case of what might have been.

Overall: 3.5/10

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