Manticora - The black circus pt. 2/Disclosure 4/5

Reviewed: 7-27-07


1. Entrance
2. Beauty will fade
3. Gypsies' dance pt. 2
4. Intuneric V
5. Haita di lupi
6. When the soulreapers cry
7. Intuneric VI
8. All that remain
9. Intuneric VII
10. Of madness in its purity

The 2nd and final part in 'The black circus' story concludes in a manner that won't disappoint fans of the first, delivering the goods of intense, fast, complex, Danish metal that mixes the feeling of U.S. speed metal with the rougher side of European power metal.

Manticora first got my attention with news that their 3rd CD, 'Hyperion', was in fact based on the magnificent novel by Dan Simmons of that name, and although that may have been the catch for picking it up, it delivered not only the magnificent threnody of that story, but did so with their engaging, intricate mix of speed, aggression, melody and passion. Having since picked up the entire catalog, the more straightforward predecessors to 'Hyperion' still shine, as does the more somber '8 deadly sins' that preceded this 'The black circus' duology.

The story around 'The black circus' CDs was roughly based on an H.P. Lovecraft tale, and while the first CD's story focused more on the eerie uncertainty, this takes off into the full blown exploration of the horrors behind the facade of a traveling circus at the turn of the last century. The hypnotic veils of gypsy dancing are pierced to see the ravenous creatures behind the circus, and the Cthullian forces served by the denizens of the circus themselves.

The song structure of the CD is a bit unusual, essentially having 5 full-length songs, and 5 very brief interludes, only one of which has any lyrics at all. The music is enthralling, closest in tone to its immediate successor but still with the hallmarks of Manticora. Vocalist Lars F. Larsen brings his unique voice to bear, a mixture of gruff, limited range, with strength, precision, and passion, and that is a constantly compelling note to the story. The instruments pound out absolute hordes of driving, aggressive speed, but they are constantly changing up tempo and mood within the songs themselves, and the CD as a whole. Mix classic Testament and Metallica with a heavy dose of Blind Guardian, a touch of Grave Digger, and more progressive elements that might seem at home with Dream Theater ("Haita di lupi", for instance), Brainstorm, etc. and you get the aural panoply on this CD. Jacob Hansen, for instance, the vocalist for the more progressive oriented metal of Anubis Gate, makes an appearance, as do a couple of the members from Wuthering Heights. If you pine for some of the flat-out power and speed of U.S. speed metal, but melded into a more complex structure, here you go.

The biggest complaint I have with the CD is the production, which, given the type of music involved, could definitely benefit from a cleaner, clearer, and crisper production that we are lucky enough to hear these days. On my modest set-up, the mid-range tone is excessive, and the white noise from the ride cymbals was too prominent for my taste. It's certainly bearable, but probably not up to what everything else on the CD is. The other prevision is that, both musically and conceptually, it doesn't make sense to buy this CD unless you've already got 'The black circus pt. 1', since you'd probably want both together; if you want either, that one is the logical place to start.




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