It’s Definitely Different From Metal’s Past
Metal is the kind of genre in which elements and parameters are both strictly defined, yet loosely followed. In the ’80s, popular metal was somewhat a mainstream novelty of large hair, tight spandex and smeared makeup, leaving the heavy dirge of the times to be admired by metal fans deep within the trenches. Fast forward through metal’s many eras and we’ve now reached a time where bright, upbeat sounds and dark, mournful drones can occupy the same playing space. This is true for MNHM (pronounced “mannheim”) and their new album Of Empires Past. Compared to their debut release, Super Empowered, the Dutch quartet have elevated their mathy post-rock sound to encompass the most vibrant of sonic highs and some fairly deep lows as well.
The noisy space doom MNHM that made their own on Super Empowered occupied the usual aural plane as typical math rock, but their use of saxophone brought somewhat of a jazzy, djent feel to it. At times, it’s hard to differentiate when songs end and begin — especially now that their sound features much brighter notes — but repeated plays will give the listener a better sense of the various intricacies. Album starter, “A Show of Might,” begins with a forceful onslaught of drums, in a cacophonous manner, proper to the band’s noisy lineage. MNHM’s jazzy moments up the song’s ante, as with “Equals of Gods,” in which rhythmic elements come into play.
MNHM’s targeted melodicism can be heard through and through, at times entering operatic territory. Tracks like “How Things End” and “Superior Grace” sound like atmospheric, Viking fight songs. “Rule of Law” enters out of nowhere with an overt industrial air to it, but the title track (which is more of an interlude) and the closing track, “Coronation,” bring an ethereally wispy instrumentation that contrasts the album’s harsher sounds.
In the instrumental and experimental realm, MNHM and Of Empires Past fulfill a particular niche not frequently addressed in the metal genre. Melodic noise is one thing, but adding in math, post-rock and doom take it to an entirely new level.