Released: 2010, Nightmare Records
I’m surprised this is the first review of a Manticora album on Metal-Rules.com in a long, long time. Evil G reviewed the bands debut EP way back in early 1999 (then spelled Manticore) and the band has been really productive since then. As one of Denmark’s longest running and best-known Power Metal bands we should be giving them more support! SAFE is album #7 for the band and eighth release overall. It came out in late 2010 but I’m only getting to it now for some reason. Founded in 1996 or so the band has churned out album after album of top-notch Progressive Power Metal with a heavy speed influence.
SAFE is not a concept album for a change as the band has several in their catalogue. After the two-part concept albums THE BLACK CIRCUS PARTS I & II, (in 2006 and 2007) Manticora has stripped it down, streamlined it and cranked up the heavy factor a notch. This is likely the bands fastest and heaviest album. They have always been about the speed but this one is something else. Every song just tears along with a really strong pace galloping along to blazing speed, and knowing when to pull the brakes just enough to let us catch our breath.
Everything about SAFE is immaculate, the guitar tone is heavy as hell, soaring vocals, absolutely thunderous drums and driving hell bent for leather. The voice of Lars Larsen is a major draw, his pipes full of raw power always singing his heart out trying to keep up with the turbo-charged songs. The back-up/gang-vocals are another deft touch bring even more vocal fireworks to the proceedings. Even though it is the last track, the center-piece of the album is the 14 minute long title track. Lars claims it’s his favourite cut a mix of Dream Theater, Metallica, Mercyful Fate and Nevermore and I have to admit, that is a pretty damn good description! The songs has many moods and paces but all of them dark, heavy, ominous and exciting, all at once.
The Danish as a Metal producing nation, are so proficient at this genre! Manticora (along with their countrymen, Pyramaze, Anubis Gate, Wuthering Heights, Mercenary and Iron Fire) are a killer heavy band and SAFE may just be their masterpiece.