Next month, Manii’s third album Innerst i Mørket will drop via Terratur Possessions. It comes five years after the band’s sophomore effort, Sinnets Irrganger and is a transcendent experience. Personally, it’s almost intimidating to try to review, but let’s explore it along with a bit of the band’s history anyway.
Manii’s Innerst i Mørket became one of our most anticipated releases after we heard an excerpt on TERRATUR COMPENDIUM MMXXIII, which dropped on March 24. This effort truly seems like one of the greatest black metal compilations ever made. I have said it before, and I will say it again: I consider Terratur Possessions to be the best black metal label without the slightest doubt. Past and present, Terratur has worked with the likes of Celestial Bloodshed; Selvhat; Dødsengel; Mare; One Tail, One Head; Vemod; Urfaust; Darvaza; etc.
Innerst i Mørket is the product of legendary artists. Manii represents the reunion of the pioneering Manes duo — Sargatanas and Cernunnus. There has been a lot of confusion regarding Manes’ genesis. However, in the box set Ihjelbrent Skatt (2022), Cernunnus told Christian Moen and Paweł Kaczyński that he joined Perifa, which was actually started by others, and then he and Sargatanas broke away to found Manes in 1993. Together, they recorded Manes’ three highly influential demos and classic album, Under Ein Blødraud Maane (1999).
After Under Ein Blødraud Maane, Manes would go on hiatus. Due to creative differences, Sargatanas would not return. Manes reemerged with a whole new lineup around Cernunnus and a radically different style on the groundbreaking Vilosophe (2003). Neo-Manes can be described as a genre-defying, avant-garde fusion of metal, post-rock, jazz, electronica, trip hop, etc. Manii formed in 2011 during a time when Manes had temporarily broken up. Today, both groups run parallel.
Whereas Manii’s previous two albums also featured Bornyhake, this time V. Einride, who handles all instruments in the Whoredom Rife duo, provides drums; as we have noted elsewhere, Whoredom Rife, which is fronted by K.R, is not only one of the current crown jewels of Trondheim, but they are one of the most exciting black metal acts around. V. Einride and Cernunnus also collaborate in Syning, who have released one stellar, must-hear album, Syning (2021), which has definite similarities to Innerst i Mørket.
On Innerst i Mørket, Manii presents us with that indefinable magical quality that always abounds whenever Cernunnus and Sargatanas link forces; this pair’s ingenuity places their work in its own category. When we spoke with Tsjuder’s Nag, he revealed his love for old Manes: “… I think the atmosphere and everything on those three tapes is just awesome.” Even given our high expectations, the atmosphere on Innerst i Mørket still left us speechless. Despite its ’90s aura, this record introduces us to a new type of darkness and mystique. The layered soundscape recreates the intense pain of extreme sickness.
Innerst i Mørket consists of a single epic 38-minute track that feels like a stone-carved world heritage monument. The grandeur of this all-consuming mammoth of a composition can be compared to that of Nidarosdomen — the cathedral that Thorns’ Snorre Ruch drew for the cover of Mayhem’s De Mysteriis Dom. Sathanas (1994). As medieval as Innerst i Mørket sounds on the one hand, this portentous offering also feels a tad futuristic.
Manii’s arcane art is not for the weak; Innerst i Mørket assaults listeners with its lethal authenticity. The music both scorches you with the heat of a crematorium and chills you with its sepulchral coldness. At times, it can be compared to being showered in ash-rain and pelted by shards of stained glass. Remarkably, the whole affair flies by at blitzkrieg speed like a nightmarish yet pleasant succubus visit. Innerst i Mørket is maximally haunting, eerie, and disturbing. It summons violent emotions; tempestuous memories; and, if you have any, buried, inner cocaine demons.
Of course, Innerst i Mørket’s songwriting is pure brilliance. Hellish yet divine, Innerst i Mørket achieves the ideal balance between beauty, horror, and aggression. The inebriating melodies are more effective than fentanyl. There are a ton of surprising changes throughout; listeners constantly discover new treasures within the vaulted architecture of Innerst i Mørket. Manii repeatedly pummels you with new waves of wicked energy. Different sections flow seamlessly into one another. Yes, brutal as this opus certainly proves, it is executed with grace, sophistication, and elegance.
Sargatanas gives an absolutely splendid vocal performance — one of the year’s best besides those of Kvarforth, who mines inspiration from Manes and has provided guest vocals for the team, and Vicotnik, who shared the split album on which Kvarforth appeared. (One of Vicotnik’s first bands was dubbed Manes; hence, in 2009, the two identically named outfits released Pro-Gnosis-Diabolis 1993 / Solve et Coagula Manes.) In agreement with the overall picture, Sargatanas’ delivery is not only inhuman and authoritative but also extremely artful. We hear some warped, agonized vocalizations that are simply unforgettable. The inclusion of a touch of softly spoken lines adds to the veil of enigma.
The musicianship is likewise top-notch. V. Einride’s drums are phenomenal. They contribute to the enormous sound. Yes, V. Einride is one of the best at what he does. Cernunnus presents us with awe-inspiring guitar and bass work. As always, he also uses keys brilliantly. The ethereal synths add to the album’s delicate tinge of mind-bending psychedelia. They truly pop and create orbs of light in the midst of the ghastly blackness. In part, Innerst i Mørket has a weightless, spectral charm with sounds that occasionally soar. Yet, the sturdy organs crush you with their gravity and sense of impending doom.
Innerst i Mørket was perfectly recorded, mixed, and mastered. The production lends a genuine feeling of intimacy and preserves the rawness of the music. Meanwhile, as stated, the glimmering accents are accorded their proper place. In our age of over-compressed sonic headaches, the dynamics of this album come as a breath of fresh air.
It would be an abominable act of cowardice not to acknowledge that Innerst i Mørket is a glorious masterpiece. Of course, it is terribly important that people pick up this record because Manii is worlds better than the majority of listeners realize that any new black metal can be. Although truly knowledgeable black metallers will already know about Manii, Innerst i Mørket is not an album that will easily fall into the hands of most music afficionados — they would have to be willing to sort through heaps of inferior releases to find this gold ingot. Luckily, we have spared you the unpleasant task. Indeed, Manii represents one of the most convincing reasons to take some time away from your ’90s BM records.
We must emphasize that the year began with a bang thanks to Cernunnus’ participation in the apocalyptic Länge Leve Döden — the 10/10 debut record by the supergroup Høstsol. Länge Leve Döden serves as a great complement to Innerst i Mørket. In 2022, Manes recorded the follow-up to another one of our favorites — Slow Motion Death Sequence (2018). Thus, we hope to hear that soon. For now, however, we are beyond pleased with the genius of Innerst i Mørket. This is not only one of the definite highlights of 2023, but it is also a work of unsurpassed quality — one of the best black metal releases you will find.
Manii’s Innerst i Mørket comes out on September 15 via Terratur Possessions. Pre-order your copy here.
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