Progressive rock is an artistic balance of inward creativity and outward entertainment. With their latest album, Norwegian rock force Mantric locks in on this balance with innovation and precision, forging forward with limitless new sounds backed by rock-solid talent.
A rebirth of Extol, Mantric has released three studio albums since their start in 2007, and it’s safe to say that False Negative is the final step out of their previous shadow. It’s not so much a rock record as it is a magnum opus with multiple movements. With influences that span from Nine Inch Nails’ industrial rock to Incubus’ nu-metal to even a hint of Foo Fighters’ post-grunge, all the best parts of rock evolution are highlighted in Mantric’s latest release.
The textures and layers in False Negative spill out with the first movement. It starts with crunchy, metallic synth leads in the opening track, “Polyanna,” that crash into the guitars and create an explosion of energy and space. Non-traditional vocal harmonies, melodies, and chord structures play in unusual spots in the scale, giving the entire song a modal, dark feel that interacts uniquely with the feel-good grooves. “Itching Soul” carries the same elements through a new part of the journey, and “Queen Fatigue” takes it up a notch with a tense buzzing intro, an onslaught of riffage, angsty yell-screams, and a prog-rock jam breakdown.
The second movement channels the band’s energy a little differently — not in speed or volume, but intensity. In “Norwegian Dastard,” the staccato piano swing sets the rhythm while the fuzz bass drives the harmonic movement. The whole song trudges through big open chords and the groove evolves naturally from the minimalistic approach, offering the listener plenty of layers. Followed by “Blame the Beggar” and “Dawn,” the record takes a step into some moody and playful elements like vintage synths, driving bass lines, and even a hint of Phrygian leads.
“The Towering Mountain” throws the record into its third movement, offering aggressive riffs and fills and hardcore vocals that lead the record forward into the final wave. The ending build of chugging guitars and aggressive vocals give way to “Every Day is Independence Day,” which quickly departs into full-blown prog-rock. The last two tracks, “Darling Demon” and “Starmonger,” keep you spooked with strange sounds that fly through your ears like insects and dripping water. A beautiful journey of space and fullness, these final musical thoughts leave you knowing the band’s vision was realized.
False Negative is borderline overstimulating but an undeniable work of true musicianship nonetheless. There’s tangible respect for the record’s evolution that pulses through every second of this album, and, when you think it’s as ramped up as it gets, the dynamics hit harder and the experience takes you deeper proving that Mantric is a band that isn’t afraid to sit in an idea and let the music do its work.