Music is art, and how that art is created is from the perspective and a reflection of within the artists that create the music, and that palette is colourful one when looking at this Warsaw-Wrocław ethno-punk/doom/noise band band Manta Birostris.
The band plays an avant-garde style of punk that might not be to everyone’s taste. The punk is raw, and infused with a progressive nature. In some parts it reminds me a little of bands like Swans, not so much by the sound but by the avant-garde nature or execution of the songs. Maybe in saying that, punk is the wrong paint brush to use in painting the picture of this album specifically.
The 5th release from Manta Birostris is entitled Ikona which is a 4 track Ep which released by a small independent label Love Your Enemies from Indianapolis, USA.
“Manta Birostris was created spontaneously in March 2012 as an experimental noise duo. It’s founder, guitarist and vocalist Adam Sokół was equally fascinated by the relationship-centred, spiritual and non-materialistic culture of the Middle East and the European tradition of distorted, guitar-based heavy music.
Somewhere at the junction of these two worlds, Manta combines hardcore punk, noise rock and metal with world music, mainly Middle Eastern one. The band’s lyrics refer to the ethnic melting pot of cultures and religions of the Middle East and Caucasus. Ideas, religions, concepts, worldviews become intertwined, yet that mix never loses it’s punk attitude and grit.
On the 2017 album „Cursed Eye of the Prophet” Manta Birostris has developed lyrical and musical theme based on the apocalyptic, Old Testament motives. The band remains a form of diaspora rooted in a DIY aesthetics while it’s rare live shows are known for a free form performances.”
Manta Birostris has collaborated with many musicians from the punk, metal and ethno scenes, including Maciek Miechowicz (Kobong, Neuma), Darek Eckert and Grzegorz Włodek (Inkwizycja), Piotr Wlekliński (Mary & the Highwalkers), Syrian percussionalist Adib Chamoun and even Lebanese Orthodox choir.
On the upcoming EP all the drum parts were recorded by the Scottish drummer Ian „The Pud” Purdie, an ex-member of The Exploited (during „The Massacre” era).
The EP Starts off with the heavy doomed riffed “Nephelim” that has quite a bit of Middle Eastern influence and is strongly experimental. It comes across more of an intro and perhaps not really a song but a introductionary prelude to the album. Lyrics are based on Old Testament – apocrific book of Henoch ( Nefilim ), Daniel ( mene takel fares uparsin) and Genesis ( song of Sarai ). “Three of us been inspired so much by John Zorn and Ian Purdie style of drumming forced us to record something more avant-garde than usual” – Adam Sokół.
So what one is introduced to is a more doom influenced sound, as for example like the band Scorn, which is an obvious influence of the band and which sets the mood of the entire album. It still retains some of its punk heritage but the punk side of the album is merely a foundational stone of the overall wall of sound the band achieves in its current irritation.
Second track “Icon” on the album continues with the heavy doomed influence, in a way reminding me of bands like Crowbar and Down. Introducing some Saxophone in the mix gives the song a lot of creditability and originality, and lends itself again to the highly progressive and avant-garde feel of the album, mixing a little noise punk towards the end for good measure.
“Mene Takel Fares Uparsin”, the third track from the EP again introduces the avant-garde stylings of the band with a heavy doom influenced spine and along with the use of the Saxophone gives a jazzy and progressive feel to the song. The riffs are moody but heavy and the vocals add to the drama playing out throughout the song. Again the song is very original and the band offers something a little different to the doom scene and thus offers a fresh new approach to the genre, and their execution allows for creditability. Who would have thought that Jazz and doom metal could be married together with great effect.
“Song of Sarai ( Mother of the Nations )” the last track of the album has a very heavy middle eastern feel and style to it with Ania Świątczak on vocals. Its Arabic Middle Eastern sound reminded me a little of Yossi Sassi solo works a bit, previously of Orphaned Land.
Ikona is very different kind of album than the usual albums many of us might listen too or engage with. It draws from a wide variety of influences, strongly seated in Middle Eastern flavour. The arrangements are such that they bring about a very avant-garde, progressive and at times experimental jazzy feel to them, covered under a banner of doom and punk orientated influences. The experimental nature of the album does mean it’s a harder listen compared to the usual mainstream influenced bands, and certainly it took time to marinate, possibly due to the language barrier as well, but that is generally the nature of experimental releases. However it does offer a textured landscape of innovation for those whom are seeking something a little different to sink their teeth into and enjoy.
For Fans of: Scorn, Swans, Down, Trouble, Orphaned Land and Yossi Sassi.
Written by Donovan de Necker
3) “Mene Takel Fares Uparsin”
4) “Song of Sarai ( Mother of the Nations
Current Manta Birostris line-up:
Bartes Duszkiewicz (Sicphorm, John Revolta) – guitar, vocals
Darek Łukawski (ex – Ingrafted Branch) – saxophone
Ian „The Pud” Purdie – drums
Adam Sokół – guitar, vocals, lyrics
Ania Świątczak – vocals, lyrics
Marzena Horyza – flute
Jacek Doboszewski – percussion
Marcin Klimczak – bass guitar
Bartek Horyza – accordion
2012 – Bóg urojony (EP)
2014 – Tasamouh (LP)
2015 – Syndrom jerozolimski (EP)
2017 – Cursed Eye of the Prophet / Przeklęte oko proroka (LP)
2020 – Ikona (EP)
Release Date: Sept. 1st. 2020
Record Label: Love Your Enemies
Recorded between February and June 2020 at Mustache Ministry Studio.
Engineered by Marcin Klimczak and Marcin Balcerzyk.
Produced by Bartes Duszkiewicz.
Music written by Bartes Duszkiewicz & Manta Birostris.
Lyrics by Adam Sokół (except for „Pieśń Saraj” – Ania Świątczak)
The cover artwork design by Jonathan Rapp (CD) and Aneta Moth (MC).