Manticora – To Live To Kill To Live – Album Review

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Artist: Manticora

Album Title: To Live To Kill To Live

Label: ViciSolum Recordings

Date of Release: 28 August 2020

‘To Live To Kill To Live’ is the anticipated follow-up to ‘To Kill To Live To Kill’ which sees the light of day almost exactly two years after its partner album was released. The eagle-eyed amongst you, or those with good memories will know that I was not a fan of the Danes’ last record, so why am I returning to the scene of the crime for another go when there are so many other records that I am hard-pressed to feature?

Well, the thing is, I hate writing reviews that are less than positive. But more than that, I have been reading some positive comments from those that I generally listen to and trust; they suggest that this is a great album. So who am I to argue? The only problem is that many of these people said pretty much the same things about the previous record. Nevertheless, despite some procrastination on my part, meaning that I am bringing this review to you a little after its release, I ultimately felt compelled to check out ‘To Live To Kill To Live’. I wanted to see if it represented a step up in my estimations, or made me re-evaluate my thoughts on its predecessor. If I’m honest, I hoped it would.

Overall, I have to say that my hopes have been realised. I still have plenty of small misgivings which mean that this isn’t the barnstormer that I was perhaps unrealistically hoping for. For example, the album is once again too long. It isn’t the near 70-minutes of its predecessor, but it does nudge the hour mark. This wouldn’t be an issue if it was a consistent beast, but here are one or two tracks that could have been significantly shortened or removed altogether. Case in point, the opening track, ‘Katana – The Moths And The Dragonflies’ weighs in at over fourteen minutes and after a strong beginning and end, I begin to lose interest somewhere in the middle as it tries to be overly cinematic and theatrical. I fully understand the desire of the band to continue to tell the concept story within the album, but there’s a lot of spoken word sections that I’m not fond of, leaving me longing for a return to the frenetic and impressive climes of the opening four minutes, where now full-time drummer Lawrence Dinamarca in particular catches my ear with some great stick work. It isn’t until the last couple of minutes that the song returns to something that better grabs and keeps my attention.

But, despite this, and despite Manticora not really messing with their approach, when the sum of all the parts are considered, ‘To Live To Kill To Live’ is a much better album than ‘To Kill To Live To Kill’ in my opinion.

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To begin with, unless my ears are playing tricks on me, the production is much better than before. There’s more power and crunch to the material, which means that the bounding rhythm section and those all-important riffs from Kristian Larsen and Stefan Johansson contain the punch and muscularity that’s necessary to avoid this kind of progressive power metal from sinking into the abyss. There’s a better separation too, as I can hear each of the instruments doing their thing; naturally there needs to be plenty of treble to accentuate the frenetic lead guitar solos, but the bass of Kasper Gram, also now a fully-fledged band member, comes through rather well at the bottom end. This is how I expect a Jacob Hansen production to sound.

I’m also much more impressed with Lars F. Larsen’s vocals this time around. His impressive range feels more natural and unforced on ‘To Live To Kill To Live’, easily belting out some incredibly high notes alongside a lower register. Credit where it’s due, he puts in a really great shift here.

After a few concerted spins, a fair few of the songs stick in the memory and stand out, deserving of some praise. ‘The Farmer’s Tale, Pt.3 – Eaten By The Beasts’ has a gloriously rousing chorus that erupts from nowhere, out of an insistent double-pedal-driven assault. Speaking of choruses, this album is littered with some really great ones, such as that of ‘Through The Eyes Of The Killer – Filing Teeth’, a song that is dark, sinister and much slower and deliberate in tempo. It is bathed in atmosphere but delivers a chorus that’s highly melodic and addictive, begging repeated listens which I award it happily.

It may ‘only’ be a two-minute instrumental, but the Oriental melodies of ‘To Nanjing’ really strike a chord, whilst ‘Tasered – Ice Cage’ is something of a conundrum for me because it isn’t my favourite song due to more overt theatrics and spoken-word parts but it does contain one of the best choruses on the album, made all the stronger by the fact that I’m not expecting it when it arrives.

If we’re talking favourite songs, I think it has to be the more ballad-like ‘Goodbye Tina’ if I’m honest. The melodies are easily the strongest for my tastes and I love the quieter passages that allow a bright and vibrant guitar to breeze atop a wonderfully rumbling bass whilst Lars delivers arguably his most accomplished performance, blending emotion with just a hint of aggression. I also really like the clever drumming as the song develops as it offers something a little out of the ordinary.

That said, the beefy riffing and melody of ‘Tasered – Removal’ comes a close second, whilst closer ‘Katana – Beheaded’ is a fittingly robust ending to the story and this album, complete with plenty of flamboyant wailing guitars, aggressive thrash-infused riffs and pummeling rhythms, not to mention one final, arresting chorus that verges on the majestic.

I’ve got to say that I’m delighted. I had hoped that ‘To Live To Kill To Live’ would be an album that I liked and to be faced with that reality genuinely makes me happy. It has prompted me to go back to the predecessor whenever I get a moment to see if I was too harsh on that one. However, for the time being, I’m more than satisfied to listen to this new record and enjoy the meaty progressive power metal that it delivers. This is a no-brainer to existing fans but I can now, finally, recommend Manticora to a wider audience that may have never heard their music before. And…maybe I was a little wrong about the last record? Watch this space…

The Score of Much Metal: 83%

Check out my reviews from 2020 right here:

Pain Of Salvation – Panther
Vanishing Point – Dead Elysium
Unleash The Archers – Abyss
Veonity – Sorrows
Nyktophobia – What Lasts Forever
Ages – Uncrown
Awake By Design – Awake By Design
Black Crown Initiate – Violent Portraits Of Doomed Escape
Gaerea – Limbo
Buried Realm – Embodiment Of The Divine
Navian – Reset
Selenseas – The Outer Limits
Quantum – The Next Breath Of Air
Ensiferum – Thalassic
Long Distance Calling – How Do We Want To Live?
Airbag – A Day At The Beach
Re-Armed – Ignis Aeternum
Atavist – III: Absolution
Frost* – Others EP
Darker Half – If You Only Knew
Atavistia – The Winter Way
Astralborne – Eternity’s End
Centinex – Death In Pieces
Haken – Virus
Pile Of Priests – Pile Of Priests
Sorcerer – Lamenting Of The Innocent
Lesoir – Mosaic
Temnein – Tales: Of Humanity And Greed
Caligula’s Horse – Rise Radiant
…And Oceans – Cosmic World Mother
Vader – Solitude In Madness
Shrapnel – Palace For The Insane
Sinisthra – The Broad And Beaten Way
Paradise Lost – Obsidian
Naglfar – Cerecloth
Forgotten Tomb – Nihilistic Estrangement
Winterfylleth – The Reckoning Dawn
Firewind – Firewind
An Autumn For Crippled Children – All Fell Silent, Everything Went Quiet
Havok – V
Helfró – Helfró
Victoria K – Essentia
Cryptex – Once Upon A Time
Thy Despair – The Song Of Desolation
Cirith Ungol – Forever Black
Igorrr – Spirituality and Distortion
Nightwish – Human. II: Nature.
Katatonia – City Burials
Wolfheart – Wolves Of Karelia
Asenblut – Die Wilde Jagd
Nicumo – Inertia
The Black Dahlia Murder – Verminous
Omega Infinity – Solar Spectre
Symbolik – Emergence
Pure Reason Revolution – Eupnea
Irist – Order Of The Mind
Testament – Titans Of Creation
Ilium – Carcinogeist
Dawn Of Ouroboros – The Art Of Morphology
Torchia – The Coven
Novena – Eleventh Hour
Ashes Of Life – Seasons Within
Dynazty – The Dark Delight
Sutrah – Aletheia EP
Welicoruss – Siberian Heathen Horde
Myth Of I – Myth Of I
My Dying Bride – The Ghost Of Orion
Infirmum – Walls Of Sorrow
Inno – The Rain Under
Kvaen – The Funeral Pyre
Mindtech – Omnipresence
Dark Fortress – Spectres From The Old World
The Oneira – Injection
Night Crowned – Impius Viam
Dead Serenity – Beginnings EP
The Night Flight Orchestra – Aeromantic
Deadrisen – Deadrisen
Blaze Of Perdition – The Harrowing Of Hearts
Godsticks – Inescapable
Isle Of The Cross – Excelsis
Demons & Wizards – III
Vredehammer – Viperous
H.E.A.T – H.E.A.T II
Psychotic Waltz – The God-Shaped Void
Into The Open – Destination Eternity
Lunarsea – Earthling/Terrestre
Pure Wrath – The Forlorn Soldier EP
Sylosis – Cycle of Suffering
Sepultura – Quadra
Dyscordia – Delete / Rewrite
Godthrymm – Reflections
On Thorns I Lay – Threnos
God Dethroned – Illuminati
Fragment Soul – A Soul Inhabiting Two Bodies
Mariana Semkina – Sleepwalking
Mini Album Reviews: Moloken, The Driftwood Sign & Midnight
Serenity – The Last Knight
Ihsahn – Telemark EP
Temperance – Viridian
Blasphemer – The Sixth Hour
Deathwhite – Grave Image
Marko Hietala – Pyre Of The Black Heart
SWMM – Trail Of The Fallen
Into Pandemonium – Darkest Rise EP
Bonded – Rest In Violence
Serious Black – Suite 226
Darktribe – Voici L’Homme
Brothers Of Metal – Emblas Saga
A Life Divided – Echoes
Thoughts Factory – Elements

You can also check out my other reviews from previous years right here:

2019 reviews
2018 reviews
2017 reviews
2016 reviews
2015 reviews

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