Reviewed: June 2021
Released: 2020, Independent
I like bands that have extra drive and ambition in their creative endeavours. Any Metal bands can write, record and release and album but it takes a little more effort and creativity to go beyond. Manticora is one of those bands.
In 2018 and 2020 Manticora released a pair of concept albums; TO KILL TO LIVE TO KILL and TO LIVE TO KILL TO LIVE. When these albums first came out I was a bit perplexed by the slightly confusing titles and in all honesty did not fully comprehend the story. I enjoyed the albums immensely but did not fully embrace the concept… until I read the book.
Founding member and vocalist Lars F. Larsen wrote a book called TO KILL TO LIVE TO KILL and it is fictional tale that ties into the double concept albums and fleshes out the story. That is what I was referring to earlier when I said I like bands that put more effort into it. This month I’m going to review all three in an examination of this ambitious and exciting phase of the bands career. Please feel free to read all three reviews in this feature.
TO KILL TO LIVE TO KILL is an independent publication available directly from the band via the bands website. What intrigued me is that very, very few Metal artists write books. The world of Metal-Fiction is very small so to have a member of band write a book and tie it all in with the soundtrack and/or sonic representation found on the albums, is very interesting. The book is a straight-up, no-frills production; no introduction, no table of contents, no pictures, just the story. There is a hard cover version available as well and the cover art is as same as the first album in the pair. To call this a ‘murder mystery’ would be a disservice as this 334 page tale is more of a historical psycho-sexual horror thriller. The quote on the back that says, “This is the story that blends the extreme violence of ‘Saw’ and ‘American Psycho’ but makes both seem like a walk in the park.” should appeal to fans of horror fiction.
I’ll be the first to admit, the book is a bit confusing at times. There are layers upon layers of flashback and stories within stories. However, it all concludes very satisfactorily. Without revealing too much, TO KILL TO LIVE TO KILL is the tale of cursed sword that passes through the ages and the hands of many individuals who owned the sword and their lives and how they all become inter-connected. This is much, much more than a fantasy story so please don’t let my term ‘cursed sword’ scare you, the book is set in modern day Copenhagen (the bands home town) and the historical elements are revealed through conversations and flashbacks. Aside from the story of the sword we follow the lives of two killers in the modern age, one a psychopath who lives to kill and the other a hitman who kills to live.
Through an oral tradition style the reader jumps around as new and interesting characters are revealed who have had some connection to the sword as it passes through time and how it impacts their lives, usually for the worse. The globe-trotting book takes us to Denmark, Sweden, Spain, China, Japan and Italy, farms, brothels, ships and seedy bars the settings are always described in vivid detail. Soldiers, farmers, prostitutes, jealous siblings and angry wives, drunken sailors and businessmen all play a part in the tragic dark story. As a North American it also seemed a bit exotic the terminology used and the phrases chosen by Larsen. It made it that much more engaging.
The violence is horrific and graphic. I’m a fan of horror but this is some top-level stuff! Explicit sex and gore are laced through the story always present but never the only focal point. If you don’t enjoy reading about torture (or at least can’t tolerate it) this story might not be for you. I would not be telling the truth if I did stop and think what kind of mind could conceive of such things, but that is the hallmark of good horror; it makes you squirm and squeamish. If it doesn’t it is probably not very good horror. I’m not going to forget this story for a long time!
The story is unique and adds so much to the albums. The songs on the album make so much more sense now. The book fleshes out the lyrics and everything makes perfect sense. The book helps make this the complete package and if you are a fan of the albums, I highly recommend you get the book as well. I spend most of my time reading non-fiction about Heavy Metal but this was a refreshing change and one of the most interesting and stores book/CD cross-over I have ever read.