How often do bands with Nazarene in the name offer decent and influential Black Metal to the masses? That is correct – almost every time. Finland’s IMPALED NAZARENE falls nothing short of this rich tradition with their 10th full-length release, and as you might expect the front-runners bring a great deal of heritage and innovation into the mix.
Other than an obligatory introduction (which involves someone trudging through a frostbitten wonderland amidst battles cries and is almost too painful to endure) “Manifest” divides nicely into two camps. One half of the release drowns in traditional Black Metal while the other borders on old school SODOM.
Fans of CARPATHIAN FOREST and IMMORTAL will find much to praise in “The Antichrist Files” and “Die Insane,” which mix a great deal of low end into the guitar and bass lines and rely heavily on blast beats and speed picking for a cold and chilling effect. “Mushroom Truth” features some pristine and audible Popeye vocals, but its cymbals are abundantly layered.
“You Don’t Rock Hard” represents the other end of the spectrum with a comical vibe and some pretty significant lead tracks. In parts Tomi Ullgren bends his strings under the bottom of the neck to alter the available notes, a technique that I haven’t heard in quite some time. The track includes lots of cursing, and again a straight-forward and relentless string assault.
“Manifest” might feature the F-bomb with greater frequency in its 50-minute span than any other disc in the Black Metal catalog, but all in all, the endless onslaught of speed picking and blast beats wears thin after only a few tracks. As a result only the breakdowns, leads, and shrills stand out. Tracks like “Pathogen” suffer while “Planet Nazarene” and “The Calling” flourish simply because they have a lead.
Two particular tracks show an obvious effort to break free from the frozen tundra mold, but only one succeeds.
“Funeral For Despicable Pigs” offers something different (but not good). The slower tempo lacks the power and depth needed to capture a fluid movement. The organ playing at the song’s conclusion is predictable and not that exemplary. In trying to do something new the band manages to bring Black Metal clichés into a new format, and the result falls far short of favorable.
“Dead Return,” however, is fantastic. The fourths employed in the song’s introduction beckon comparison to a riff that Chuck Schuldiner might have composed in his heyday, and the slower passages contain the right harmonies and presence to provide the depth and kick that a song in this vain needs. Bordering on the direction that AJATTARA should have taken in their most recent releases “Dead Return” will prove an inspirational track for future generations looking for an appropriate pier for bridge-building.
In conclusion, “Manifest” offers a complete package filled with inspiration and charm. We can always delete failures from the hard drive, but some of this release will merit a lengthy shelf-life for its polished execution and its long term commitment to Black Metal’s evolution.
(Online December 6, 2007)