With the music blaring from my speakers as bewildering as the image adorning the front cover, there was never any doubt that “Menthell” would be a challenging listen, to put it mildly. This is an album that will undoubtedly stump many unsuspected listeners, a small degree of perseverance is all that it takes for the songs to start blooming into something quite rewarding.
At the core IBLIS plays Death Metal but they sure as hell take a lot of liberties with the style, with their left-field approach to song-writing allowing the songs to often take drastic side-steps into the avant-garde and bizarre. Pigeonholing this act is a futile exercise, but the most accurate comparison would probably be a mix between ATHEIST and DHG (specifically the “Supervillain Outcast” album). The production job is excellent, allowing all the little nuances to shine – from the sporadic Jazzy bass runs, to the rapid-fire drumming, to the punchy riff work. Most songs on here display very little in the way of conventional song-structures, but the intensity is kept at a premium throughout. The most jarring aspect of “Menthell” would have to be the off-kilter vocal approach, as the strange hissing, spoken-word parts and growls all coming off as deliberately detached from the rest of the proceedings.
Everything tends to mesh together into one weird sonic maelstrom, but the band have wisely opted to retain just the right amount of flow and the occasional groove to give the songs some bite. After an extended instrumental section (replete with downright bizarre ambient interludes) opener “White Claudia” settles into a rather simplistic rock beat that provides a sense of respite from the crackpot first half. Similarly, “12 Sycamores” has jangly ATHEIST-like groove to it that works well with the intensified s[peed quotient, while something like the title track is slower and more linear altogether. Obviously nothing on here can rightfully be called ‘linear’, but most of the songs tend to settle into a more steady pattern/beat after the initial sonic mind-trip has subsided. The strange operatic vocal flourishes also serve to add a sense of the macabre to the mix, hence the above reference to DHG.
It’s not all smooth-sailing, but ultimately “Menthell” is a solid album by a band that obviously doesn’t like to abide by conventional musical inclinations. It’s also nice to see a Polish Death Metal band that actually side-steps that typical Polish sound (e.g. VADER, DECAPITATED etc). Though a demanding listen, “Menthell” is well worth the effort.
Oh – I’d be remiss for failing to mention the exquisitely designed booklet, which is nothing if not a visual treat.
(Online June 9, 2012)