Manes - Vilosophe
Code666 Records
Experimental Rock, Electronica
8 songs (47:05)
Release year: 2003
Manes, Code666 Records
Reviewed by Goat
Archive review

It would be hard to imagine two adjacent albums from the same band that are more different than Under ein Blodraud Maane and Vilosophe. From Norwegian black metal to the strange, electronica-infused experimental rock of Vilosophe, Manes underwent a massive change. And this isn't some false ungrim “black” metal like Deafheaven – the band turned their back completely on black metal. Yet this is less avant-garde than the controversial How the World Came to an End, songs feeling more cohesive and varied, built around the moods they are describing and even having some metal elements at times. It's a strange album, with songs that vary from three to ten minutes in length, sonically somewhere between mid-period Ulver and Massive Attack with a touch of Solefald's approach to songwriting. And although that may sound like a complete mess (and those who are turned off by this sort of thing really should have stopped reading by now!) Manes managed to create something oddly affecting here, chiefly thanks to the atmosphere which is less frozen mountains and wintry woods, and more 3am urban parties on drugs...

That's the best way to describe it, particularly in the wilder, more anxious moments which hit that complete 'on a bad trip and everyone is scaring me' vibe perfectly. Although having moments similar to the likes of The Gathering and modern Anathema, Manes here are far less interested in the beauty of life, instead focusing on how chaotic and frightening it is. The album notes include the very black metal-ly phrase “Manes endorses the choose the noose campaign for human reduction” and the album itself ends with the sound of a gunshot – life-affirming, this ain't. And it can be a depressing listen, although there are subtle shades of light; opener Nodamnbrakes (One Zero/Endpoint) may begin with a female voice describing the workings of a cult, but it is gradually is drowned out by a backing beat and male vocals, growing into a breakbeat-backed industrial piece with churning guitars, a melody slowly emerging from the chaos...

It's the following Diving With Your Hands Bound (Nearly Flying) that is absolutely amazing, however, opening ambience building up slowly as first vocals then guitars are added to the electronics, the first discernible riffs of the album forming as the character of the title takes that desperate leap. The lyrics seem to be a hopeless declaration of love, the repeated refrain of 'you and I forever' growing more and more suicidal as the song progresses, keeping you hooked for the full ten minutes. If ever a song summed up a hopeless drug-fuelled high from an outside perspective, this is it; the way the track ends with the electronics and guitar fusing into a fuzzy drone as the irony of that 'nearly' in the title becomes brutally apparent. Resurrecting the beat, the song takes a step away from the protagonist, moving into the much subtler White Devil Black Shroud, a laid-back trip-hop vibe taking over with a chorus that is almost pop. It's all in service of something much deeper and darker, however, and Terminus A Quo heads downwards with a light backing beat leading to a much heavier one, the despairing vocals rising higher but still very much being dwarfed.

Things get extremely dark on Death of the Genuine, which opens with a creepy speech from child murderer Brandon Wilson's trial and continues with breakbeats and speed metal riffs, a repeated vocal refrain of 'I can take away your pain' delivered in a particularly eerie, yearning way. Ende's triumphant air feels even darker coming directly after, despite the oddly uplifting chorus, and the chugging metal of The Hardest of Comedowns feels very much like a return to reality after the preceding bad trip... Whatever the ultimate meaning of Vilosophe, the fact it has such an unnervingly depressing one may be a clue to the band's mindset when writing it. Traditionally, making an album like this would be a shot for mainstream approval, but even Gnarls Barkley had to temper their depressing songs about mental illness with pop hooks, and in comparison Manes might as well be funeral doom in terms of accessibility. It may have annoyed fans on release, but looking back Vilosophe is a worthy album that has retained its power and mystery over a decade later. Hopefully Manes' forthcoming new album will show their skills have not faded with time, but in the meantime Vilosophe is a must-listen for those who don't mind their genre boundaries crumbled away...

Killing Songs :
Diving With Your Hands Bound (Nearly Flying), Terminus A Quo, Death of the Genuine, Ende
Goat quoted 85 / 100
Other albums by Manes that we have reviewed:
Manes - Teeth, Toes and Other Trinkets reviewed by Goat and quoted no quote
Manes - Under Ein Blodraud Maane reviewed by Goat and quoted 80 / 100
Manes - How The World Came To An End reviewed by Ross and quoted 10 / 100
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