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I’ve recently been foregoing a lot of new music—though not all of it, as I’m the weekly release column guy—to try and rekindle that fanatic enthusiasm a 15-year-old might have for that really sweet demo they found on MySpace.

Connecticut-based Noltem’s 2005 demo, Hymn of the Wood was that super amazing demo. It offered calm, folky metal, for which I had been scouring the internet ever since my discovery of Agalloch. Unfortunately, the group faded away alongside many MySpace metal bands.

I maintained contact with Noltem founder Marksveldt, who now goes by his birth name, Max Johnson, over the years. The “So when’s Noltem coming back?” conversation became kind of an inside joke as the project’s inactivity neared the 10-year mark.

When Max Johnson announced Noltem’s return, this time with John Kerr (Seidr, Vit, Marsh Dweller) handling percussion and vocal duties, I knew in the pit of my gut that the long-awaited Mannaz EP would satisfy my decade of anticipation.

Featuring a more aggressive, focused incarnation of the sound Johnson forged with Into the Wood, Mannaz approaches folk metal bombastically but emphasizes thoughtful composition and emotional complexity. Opener “Into the Heights” sets the general tone of the EP, breathing itself into existence with a gently plucked guitar before exploding into metallic grandeur.

Kerr’s vocal performance is refreshing; where others opt for the John Haughm and Ulf Theodor Schwadorf school of trollish, whispered screams, Kerr roars, bellows and even adds choral vocals. Johnson’s guitar and bass work is adept and reserved, favoring power in minimalism and calculated melody—the mournful, harmonized riff in “Windhall” at around the 5:30 mark represents perfection in restraint. “From Hill To Hollow” closes out this trio with a quietly strummed but stirring look into Johnson’s Appalachian home.

With each listen, the Mannaz EP reignites that aforementioned excitement. I am that giddy 15-year-old, browsing Metal-Archives and MySpace once more. It’s a nice change.

Mannaz will be released on CD via Noltem’s Bandcamp page on Tuesday, July 28th. Stream Mannaz in its entirety below.

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