Review Summary: Despite some obstructive longer tracks, Manifesto is a big success for a veteran death metal band that has been struggling to find a comfortable sound.
French death metal veterans Loudblast have navigated a whole range of metal subgenres in their time, from thrash to progressive death metal to groove metal and melodeath. Their revival in the 2000s saw them find a comfortable niche of mildly progressive and heavier-than-average melodeath with Frozen Moments Between Life and Death
, but since then they have gradually reintroduced more of a traditional death metal quality to their music. Manifesto
more or less completes the transition back to their old-school death metal sound and its a periodically great album with some of their best cuts, but labours a bit under the weight of too much material and some drawn out cuts.
Manifesto's production is about as modern and polished as it gets for death metal, so much so that it's a bit of a wonder that it ISN'T produced by Jens Bogren. Despite a slightly plasticky drum sound, there is enough grit in the guitar and bass to leave it suitably heavy at the right times, and combined with Loudblast's penchant for guitar harmonies it's a dense enough mix that the tidy production doesn't sap away from the songs' intensity. As per most of their material, Loudblast generally isn't launching into vast degree of technicality or speed, with the drum performance mostly sticking to genre staple double kicks and skank beats, and the guitars aren't looking to give Martyr
a run for their money, but the highly present and mobile bass is a big stand out. The riffing is somewhat removed from their previous Death
-lite sound they had on Disincarnate
, with a style more akin to Tucker-era Morbid Angel
with ominous harmonies, along with some minor black metal elements. The vocals retain their slight hardcore-shouty edge from their previous few albums, but not in a way that is particularly distracting; it would have been good to have more variety on display, with some more highs rather than the continuous mid-low bark.
Manifesto gets off to a good start with its opening two tracks, Todestrieb
and Relentless Horror
. The former shows off the breadth of the styles of the album, with some straightforward death metal and varying tempos that launch into a dizzying and disorientating spacy guitar harmony section. Relentless Horror
is the best track here, a fun, thrashy and meaty death metal romp that barely exceeds two minutes in length and wastes no time in getting to catchy riffs. Elsewhere, all of the shorter tracks are big successes, with dynamic tempos, creative guitar harmonies and adventurous riffing that navigates from old-school death metal to progressive metal and occasionally to some mild black metal. The Promethean Fire
provides a big shift with its emphasis on a big, anthemic groove, and is a suitably catchy and varied track that the groove doesn't wear out its welcome. The Gateways
-esque Preaching Spiritual Infirmity
is a pleasingly intense and layered track, achieving a lot with its short 3 minute length, with diversions into black metal chords along with some pounding grooves and satisfying Morbid Angel
worship. The veritably unhinged Festering Pyre
is a kinetic and frantic track, perhaps slightly let down by the abrupt shift to the string section in the middle of the track, but largely a fun and creative track with some good use of some dissonant harmony parts. Into the Greatest of Unknowns
is a pleasantly solid mid-pace groover, much like The Promethean Fire
, but to being a more atmospheric track with some choir effects and an almost nauseating (in a good, death metally way) spiralling riff.
People with eyes and a way of looking at the tracklist will probably have noticed that all the tracks mentioned above are the ones below 5 minutes in length. The longer tracks are sadly where this album loses the plot a bit. Essentially, most of the shorter tracks match the longer ones for variation and dynamics, and therefore the longer tracks really just feel like sluggish counterparts to the other tracks. Erasing Reality
has moments of great grandeur, but the riffs a little predictable and unexceptional in comparison to the more atmospheric and frantic ones here. Additionally, these longer tracks tend to strain one of the recurring features of the album, mid-tempo inverted power chord riffs with harmonies or leads accompanying them. Elsewhere they don't overstay their welcome, but tracks like Solace in Hell
overuse them to the point of them being rendered too monotonous. The closer, Infamy be to You
, gets away with more of these issues scot-free due to its greater emphasis on a doomy, grand atmosphere that it maintains more carefully than the other tracks. These issues tend to bleed into the shorter tracks in the context of a whole album - an overeliance on certain riff patterns on some more repetitive tracks sours those patterns in better songs. Nevertheless, the longer tracks are well-spaced out and are outnumbered by the more enjoyable cuts of the album.
With a razor tight production job, a vastly more varied tracklist than most old-school death metal bands and some creative harmonies and atmospheric elements, Manifesto is a strong step forward from the somewhat characterless Burial Ground
and achieves the same end goal with significantly more charisma. Whilst the longer cuts can probably be skipped without too much love lost, the tracklist is still fairly consistent and as a whole the album is a surprisingly relistenable experience. With a significant amount of variation within each track and a broad range of styles on display, Loudblast have provided one of the more respectable offerings out of the veteran death metal stock.