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Manetheren – The End (Album Premiere)

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The apocalypse has been an integral part of black metal’s ethos stretching all the way back to the nascent days of the genre, but there have been very few bands that have approached the subject in quite the same way as Manetheren does on The End. The Minneapolis-based outfit, who take their name from an ancient nation in Robert Jordan’s epic The Wheel of Time series, eschews the traditional Satanic bombast in favor of something far more nuanced and introspective, and in the process they reinvigorate an otherwise familiar trope while also creating one of the most essential albums of the style.

A full-fledged concept album, The End tells the story of one man’s almost Nietzschean journey towards godhood as the world comes to an end. Each of the six tracks signifies a different event along the way, starting with Biblical plagues and pestilence and ending with the protagonist ruling over the dystopian wastes left behind. The sheer gorgeousness of the music, however, more than offsets the relative bleakness of the lyrics. Darkly atmospheric and characterized by layer upon layer of guitars, Manetheren’s approach to black metal brings to mind more overtly melodic bands like Woods of Desolation, but they also occasionally veer into the same sort of depressive rock territory as Amesoeurs – particularly on tracks like “And Then Came the Pestilence” and “The End,” both of which have sections that seem to draw influence from The Cure.

According to the album notes, it took primary member Azlum several years to write and record The End, and that deliberateness comes through in the arrangements of each song. The tracks range from just over eight minutes to just shy of fifteen and cover a lot of territory stylistically, but the album’s remarkable compositional unity makes it feel like one longer piece split into six distinct movements. The keyboard wash from the fadeout of “When All is Still, There is Nothing,” for example, blends so seamlessly into the tremolo-picked guitar line that opens “Darkness Enshrouds” that the two sections feel like variations on a common motif. An ambient part in closer “The End” sounds like a callback to a similar part in the album’s opening track “The Sun That Bled,” and they occur at roughly the same point in each. In this way the album rewards repeated listens, with the common themes becoming more evident as the music becomes more familiar.

The End will be released both digitally and on compact disc on February 24 by Avantgarde Music. In the meantime, enjoy the exclusive full album stream below.

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