Two years after their acclaimed release “To Kill To Live To Kill,” Danish prog/thrash/power metallers MANTICORA come back with “To Live To Kill To Live,” the second part of their latest conceptual saga, based on the book written by vocalist Lars Larsen, entitled “To Kill To Live To Kill.” A bit confusing, isn’t it? The album brings one major change to their line-up, with Kasper Gram joining the band again after Sebastian Andersen’s departure. They have now also incorporated drummer Lawrence Dinamarca as a permanent member of the gang after recording the previous album and joining them on tour. It is worth mentioning that “To Kill To Live To Kill/To Live To Kill To Live” will be published as triple vinyl via ViciSolum Productions, becoming the first release by the band in this format.
The album opens with “Katana – The Moths and The Dragonflies/Katana – Mud,” a true feast for your senses that lasts for almost 15 minutes, including pretty much every genre of metal known to men. In this bold move, characteristic to the band’s ambitious nature, they take you on a rollercoaster ride, changing gears between furious modern thrash metal and epic power metal, with plenty of progressive elements à la DREAM THEATER in the mix. The vocals are mostly clean with great choral arrangements, but they also include harsh screams and narrations to set the right mood. It’s a very cinematic track and a work of art of its own right. Kudos to MANTICORA for starting the album with a song like this, as it shows a lot of confidence in their abilities and how much they respect their fans.
Next comes “To Nanjing,” a short and soft interlude heavily inspired by Japanese music, helping us to take a breath before continuing our journey. “The Farmer’s Tale, Pt. 3 – Eaten By The Beasts” is a darker track, released as a single with a gloomy video clip, showcasing some heavy riffing, amazing guitar solos, and great work by the rhythm section. It’s no coincidence that drummer Lawrence Dinamarca is also known as the Swedish Gene Hoglan because of his exquisite precision and outstanding energy. “Slaughter In The Desert Room” is my favorite song on the album, featuring female vocals by June Dark from the band CLANDESTINE, blending perfectly with Lars’s operatic voice. The riffs are melodic but also full of groove and the drumming is again unstoppable, including blasts beats and mind-blowing breakdown sections.
“Through The Eyes Of The Killer – Filing Teeth” has a doomy feeling, with a slower tempo and heavier riffs, building a terrifying atmosphere complemented by harsh vocals and funeral-like melodies and beats. On the other hand, “Katana – Death Of The Meaning Of Life” is a bombastic and sometimes brutal display of speed and technique, without losing the sense of melody and careful crafting of each song. “Tasered/Ice Cage” is another favorite of mine, a power metal banquet with irresistible riffing, high energy, and a very operatic approach by Lars Larsen, who pours his guts out in a superb, histrionic vocal performance. “Goodbye Tina” brings some new elements to the table, with a more sentimental feeling but successfully avoids falling into cheesiness. It works perfectly as a sort of progressive ballad, reminiscent of classic QUEENSRYCHE.
“Tasered/Removal” is another outstanding display of intensity and musicianship, incorporating plenty of harsh vocals, fast riffing, and crushing beats, making it a perfect track for headbanging in a live situation. To add some drama, we have “Stalin Strikes,” a fully instrumental, macabre interlude that will surely send shivers down your spine, while “Ten Thousand Cold Nights” is a short narration in Japanese that most of us won’t understand (although the band is huge in Japan). The final track of this two-part conceptual opus is the brilliant “Katana – Beheaded,” a complex and highly dynamic 7-minute song featuring epic choruses and great instrumental sections, including mind-bending guitar solos, powerful basslines, and fierce drumming. A glorious icing for this bloody cake, which is meant to be sliced with a Japanese sword.
With “To Live To Kill To Live” MANTICORA deliver a truly flawless modern masterpiece without any major weak points, adding a lot of new dynamics and interesting elements when compared to the first installment of this duology, becoming perhaps their most eclectic album to date. The record flows perfectly from start to finish, with great production and outstanding performances by everyone involved, showing how inspired the current line-up is after so many years of absence before this new era of the band. I would dare to say at this point that “To Live To Kill To Live” will be surely featured in my album of the year list and I will be definitely looking forward to seeing them on tour again after their awesome show in Wacken 2019. Hopefully “the new normal” includes some MANTICORA on the road.
Written by David Araneda
- Katana – The Moths and The Dragonflies/Katana – Mud
- To Nanjing
- The Farmer’s Tale, Pt. 3 – Eaten By The Beasts
- Slaughter In The Desert Room
- Through The Eyes Of The Killer – Filing Teeth
- Katana – Death Of The Meaning Of Life
- Tasered/Ice Cage
- Goodbye Tina
- Stalin Strikes (instrumental)
- Ten Thousand Cold Nights
- Katana – Beheaded
Lars F. Larsen – Vocals
Kristian Larsen – Guitars
Stefan Johansson – Guitars
Kasper Gram – Bass
Lawrence Dinamarca – Drums