Within six years of their inception Germany’s Mantar were scoring Top 10 albums in their native country, with 2018’s The Modern Art Of Setting Ablaze hitting #7 on the chart. Moreover, filling 1000+ cap German venues, embarking on several tours all over Europe alongside playing all the major European festivals, touring the US – and playing the California and Maryland Deathfests – alongside Japan, Mexico, and South Africa, the duo have been steadily building momentum, and this carries them into their latest full-length, Pain Is Forever and This is The End. While they have pushed the limits on all of their releases, going into the new record they had a clearer idea of what they wanted than ever before. “I just knew I wanted to write stronger ‘songs’ in relation to ‘songwriting’ and rely less on being an ‘extreme’ metal act that only convinces through a certain sound or general ‘heaviness’,” explains vocalist/guitarist Hanno. “Don’t get me wrong, we still like to be heavy but the truth is neither [drummer/vocalist] Erinc nor I are much of ‘extreme metal’ musicians or fans. I mean of course there are several metal bands that I adore but for us the song always comes first. So I invested even more time on trying to write better songs, interesting structures and catchy tunes.” The results speak for themselves, with this being the most diverse and interesting Mantar album, taking things to the proverbial next level.
Some of the influence on Hanno’s songwriting this time came from the artists they covered on 2020’s collection Grungetown Hooligans II, which featured their versions of songs from the likes of L7, Mudhoney, Sonic Youth and The Jesus Lizard, formative bands from their respective youths. “With GTHII we tried to pay respect to the music we grew up with and the musical background we are coming from. A lot of people said that these rock song structures suit us very well and I kinda have to agree. Bottom line is we really do like simple and catchy song structures. I appreciate songs that speak for themselves and bands that do not have to hide behind ‘genre standards’ or ‘sound or scene must-have’s’.” The songs on the record definitely feature more melody and Hanno sings occasionally “instead of only screaming like a maniac”, following his instincts as to what would sound best and was entertaining for him to listen to. The record also features a variety of guitar tones, while in past each album would feature a single tone across all of the tracks. “For this new record I tried to tweak the guitar sound more according to each individual song and its mood. We tried to steer away from ‘metal sound’ standards and more in a direction where you can hear different nuances in sound. I don’t mean to be disrespectful but we never were a part of any scene, therefore we don’t ‘owe’ a certain sound to anyone.”
With Hanno prolifically writing riffs at his home in Gainesville, Florida – and throwing away whole albums worth of material – and Erinc working in Germany, the record came together over several months, and it was wall to wall hard work. “Nothing came together easy for this album. Everything sucked and I hated most of the process. I wrote it and we recorded it during a very bad time, and even though Covid had not much of an impact on us of course the general fucked up mood in the world and the industry had an impact on the record. I am not gonna lie, everything was very tedious, up to a point where I literally questioned everything and we were damn close to quitting the band,” he states unequivocally. “I thought I just lost ‘it’, there was no fun anymore and with every song I came up with there was a period at some point where I thought it sucked. Then again I had moments where I thought it’s the best we have ever done. It was bipolar almost in a way. It was rough and it took a serious toll on me and Erinc that I am still recovering from. Then again I come from the school of ‘No Pain No Gain’, which obviously is bullshit and self-destructive but unfortunately that is who I am.”
Having gone through all of this, the title Pain Is Forever and This Is the End was “so way over the top and almost like a cynical joke that I thought it would do us good to go with it in order not to take ourselves and our struggle too seriously.” Lyrically, the songs delve deep, pondering some uncomfortable questions and issues. “Basically, I think most of the songs on the record are about the fear of one’s own finiteness. People desperately cling to anything that promises you, or at least makes you believe that you matter in some way. That you are the master of the situation, that everything behaves as your own logic allows. We live in an interesting time where people have an unspeakable longing to find easy explanations to complex questions. A time full of grotesque appreciation of stupidity. People want to be part of something. Something that takes away their fear of being alone. Something that takes away the rather uncomfortable concern of being responsible for yourself. Almost like a new desperate ‘New Age movement’” he states drily. “All this should never be uncomfortable though and rather be done in a relaxed manner from home. Best on social media, where there is no dangerous, truthful opponent. People think they ‘know’ that a new era is about to dawn. But at the same time, this should happen as quickly and easily as possible. This prevents the discussion of one’s own role as a whole. And instead of humanity reaching a new level of spirituality, exactly the opposite is happening and everything is evolving backwards. It turned out to be a very, very dark record. That much is certain.”
With words and music in place the drums were recorded in their beloved old hometown Bremen, Germany and guitars were tracked as usual in Hanno’s house in Florida. After recording their instruments on different continents, Hanno and Erinc entered the studio together in Germany to record vocals and backing vocals, respectively, and decided to take a different, more daring route in terms of production: “With the previous albums I was so focused on making the band sound exactly as we would sound live. That is cool and still important but this time I wanted to make an album that is overall entertaining and not just a 45-minute ‘live set’. We’ve proved countless times that we have no problems at all convincing in a live setting, so I had to gather some courage to ‘produce’ a little more, mostly in order to entertain myself as the songwriter and producer.”
Having racked up a lot of time on the road prior to the Covid lockdown, sharing stages with the likes of Kadavar and Skeletonwitch, they are looking forward to getting back on tour. Asked what makes them relevant in 2022, Hanno answers plainly: “Being a band that is unafraid to not hide behind the safe haven of a functioning ‘scene’ and genre traditions.” Furthermore, he adds “There were times where I literally wanted to destroy all my music and myself with it while making this record, and I destroyed a lot of equipment making it. Maybe it was all worth something. We are still here, and that really does mean something after that ride.”