In its original incarnation, Manes was one of the primordial Norwegian black metal bands, a two-man group consisting of instrumentalist Cernunnus and vocalist Sargatanas who released their first three demos in 1993-1995, followed by their 1999 debut album Under Ein Blodraud Maane. As the years passed, Sargatanas parted company with the band and Manes transformed into a very different musical entity, as manifested on 2003’s Vilosophe, 2007’s How the World Came To An End, and last year’s Be All End All.
Yet while Manes followed its own course into avant garde and electronica territory, Sargatanas and Cernunnus reunited to form the band Manni, which released their debut album Kolaps in 2013. Manni have been at work on a second full-length that’s projected for release in a few months, but in the meantime Debemur Morti Productions has just released (yesterday) a new Manii EP entitled Skuggeheimen — and it is a return to Manes’ black metal roots in more ways than one.
Skuggeheimen consists of two old Manes songs that Sargatanas and Cernunnus re-arranged and re-recorded for this EP: “I Helvetes Haller” (renamed “Helvetes Haller”), which originally appeared on the second Manes demo, and “Dansen Giennom Skuggeheimen”, which originally appeared on the third Manes demo.
I don’t know how these new versions compare to the originals (which I haven’t heard), but taken as they are, both are magnificent. They harken back to the cold spawning ground of Norwegian black metal, but with the clarity of a modern production and nuances in the music that reflect Cernunnus‘ versatility as a mature composer and performer.
The music is heavy as hell and blanketed in an atmosphere of darkness. The band juxtapose rapidly writhing riffs and blazing drum fusillades in “Helvetes Haller” with a funereal march and a mystical ambient interlude that amplifies the aura of frigid abandonment that surrounds the music. Sargatanas‘ shrieking vocals are utterly inflamed, somehow conveying both unhinged rage and wrenching agony. The intensity and savagery of his voice will put the hairs on your neck straight up.
“Dansen Giennom Skuggeheimen” is slow, wounded, and spectral, saturated with a sense of pain and supernatural peril — but the music is also bitterly beautiful. Its bleakness shines like shards of ebony under a full moon. A completely mesmerizing, spine-tingling song — I don’t think it would be hyperbole to call it a master-stroke.
This release, all by itself, is wonderful — atmospheric, ferocious, and memorable — but it is also an intensely enticing teaser for the next Manii album, which I’m now very eager to hear.
Skuggeheimen has been released on 7″ vinyl as well as digitally. A special edition, limited to 100 hand-numbered copies with a screen-printed slipcase and t-shirt, is also available. The physical versions can be ordered here, and the digital version via the Bandcamp link below.
(Thanks to my friend “M” for first alerting me to this release, though Debemur Morti also soon thereafter spread the news to us.)