Manimal - The Darkest Room
AFM Records
Melodic Heavy Metal
9 songs (38'54")
Release year: 2009
AFM Records
Reviewed by Alex
Surprise of the month

It is doubtful many in the world could hardly hold their breath waiting for Manimal to release their full-length debut The Darkest Room. After all, how many more melodic metal bands can Sweden churn (or any kind of metal for that matter)? Yet, the Manimal dudes have been at it for at least seven long years, working patiently on a series of demos polishing their craft. The reward is there, for all to see, even if I accidentally stumbled over The Darkest Room by flipping through a pile of unchecked power metal albums of 2009.

Manimal does not kill with speed or guitar based acrobatics. Instead, just about every song unfolds with measured, chord-driven, rhythmic structures. The thoughtful solos appear when needed and vocal melodies glide over the riffs, The Darkest Room having a rocking feel, without being slammed with excessive heaviness (just the right amount of it does fine).

While some of these songs are a bit too cheery for my taste, despite their lyrics, like the chorus in the opener Shadows, the album contains a hint of darkness in spots, most prominently on the aptly named title track. With a sprinkle of keyboards, it is the tracks like this and anthemic closer The Life We Lived which put Manimal in the same gallery with other melodic Swedish acts like Tad Morose and Bloodbound. Faster, double bass Hammerfallian numbers being few (Dreamers and Fools), Manimal continues to proceed deliberately and unhurriedly, all of their hooks and riffs left unprotected for further examination. Taking little sidesteps away from the main route, to spice up the formula, Ordinary Man is less linear, with more progressive notes, and Human Nature has some sort of mid-Eastern arrangement.

While vocals in extreme metal never serve as the point of attraction for me, in melodic metal they have to be at least up to par not to ruin the experience. In that light Sam Nyman is an interesting study. He has an excellent ability to harmonize, adding quite a bit of mellifluous flow to the distinct chords otherwise. Also, unafraid to climb the high ladder, he hits some amazingly high notes. While they are always clean, I could not help to feel that these reaches do not come effortlessly for Samuel. If high register is mostly comfortable territory for him, then he can certainly use more power in the mid-to-low delivery. While pushing himself in I Am and Ordinary Man, the best balance between power and altitude comes in the excellent Spinegrinder (we should forgive the misguided processed vocals at the outset of the song). It is this song, down to the soft interlude in the middle, which made me wonder how Manimal would be covering the legendary A Touch of Evil by Judas Priest. At this point I will leave myself sitting on the fence before proclaiming Nyman as Halford’s heir, but the obvious workmanlike effort is there.

It is nice to see the hard work paying off for some, Manimal doing nothing to discredit themselves or AFM Records with The Darkest Room. Call me "surprised", even if I am a year late with my assessment.

Killing Songs :
The Darkest Room, Spinegrinder, The Life We Lived
Alex quoted 77 / 100
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