One song albums are seldom attempted during a bands career; they require a level of patience and perseverance of the listener that most people these days do not have, and, furthermore, it is extremely rare for a band to attempt to try it out on a debut album. Spanish band Obsidian Kingdom had the ambition to follow a non-traditional path, and if their internal goals were to create a diverse palette of genres to keep this listener on edge, then they succeeded.
Mantiis was originally self-released in 2012 on a limited 500 print run. Considering the bands moderate output of 2 EP’s in 7 years, the album surprisingly sold out quickly. Solid touring and supporting bands, such as Cult of Luna and Solstafir, helped harness a sound underground reputation leading to Season of Mist signing the band and re-releasing Mantiis in October 2014.
Mantiis is not your traditional one song album since it’s structured in the format of a rock opera and arranged as one song, but it is split into 14 movements (or chapters). It draws parallels in terms of structure and songwriting to Porcupine Tree’s ‘The incident’ and, at times, sounds a lot like them as well.
Written as a concept album, it’s the story of a violent act and the repercussions felt in the aftermath, seemingly a rape, pregnancy and attempted suicide, with enough abstract to draw your own conclusions as to what is going on. It is profound and brave writing.
Typically a one song album would exist of long atmospheric introductions, crescendo’s, climaxes and long winded outros. The shifts in dynamics on Mantiis happen much more urgently and, at times, violently. This is an aspect that offers its challenges, as there are a lot of ideas that have very little space to breathe. Before you are aware of what is happening, there is yet another shift in direction and even fluctuating genres within minutes of each other.
These movements vary so much from track to track that it is very difficult to picture how the band were sitting in a rehearsal space writing and demoing this as one song. For the more casual metal listener, this is not for you; the structure is very linear and there are no notable choruses or repeated guitar hooks.
It’s not that this isn’t accessible, but there is so much diversity in sound and composition that it is impossible to listen to this by skipping tracks. Take for instance the instrumental gentle but static sounding preface ‘Not Yet Five’ and the acoustic rock touch of ‘Oncoming Dark’ at this point it would lead one to believe this is a melancholic record, but within minutes an onslaught of fury shifts the scales and you know your not in for an easy ride. ‘Cinnamon Balls’ provides one of the harsher shades on the album and seems to be the point in the album where the assault on the main character occurs.
A ripping trumpet solo makes an appearance before a black metal passage on ‘Last of the Light,’ providing an album highlight. Immediately afterwards ’Genteel to Mention’ begins with sombre piano and a spanish vocals, which can get a little confusing upon first listens. Keyboards provide a backdrop to a number of tracks adding an atmospheric undertone with vocals diverse throughout, never settling on one style.
Overall Mantiis is a concept album like no other in 2014 (or technically 2012), and it is meticulously crafted, performed admirably, and just downright gutsy. Its not perfect by any means, but if its variation and drama in songwriting that makes you tick, then look into Obsidian Kingdom and eagerly anticipate album number two.
1 – Not Yet Five
2 – Oncoming Dark
3 – Through The Glass
4 – Cinnamon Balls
5 – The Nurse
6 – Answers Revealing
7 – Last of the Light
8 – Genteel to Mention
9 – Awake Until Dawn
10 – Haunts of the Underworld
11 – Endless Wall
12 – Fingers in Anguish
13 – Ball-Room
14 – And Then it Was