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Fury Among the Solace: An Interview with MANTRIC

Reading the fine lines between the Norwegian trio's latest effort.

Despite the many shortcomings of the current year, it has brought us a great deal of quality records and this past release week was a flooded one. From ULCERATE to KATATONIA and BLACK CURSE, there was plenty to love from wherever you stand on the metal spectrum. Among those was MANTRIC's False Negative, a record that stands as one well-rounded composition of industrially-charged progressive rock.

Hailing from the black metal capital of Norway, MANTRIC is a trio that never ceases to grow with each consecutive full-length. Though the band's debut came in the form of Descent (2010), the collaborative efforts of the group began in the 90's with their previous bands LENGSEL and EXTOL, each distinct in their form. With black and death metal chops under their belts, there's no question as to why the musicianship behind MANTRIC is vastly arrayed, adding to their take on progressive rock. The recent arrival of False Negative marks the culmination of these decades of friendship and growth with a sound accessible to all. Ominous synth lines, a mixture of clean an aggressive vocals, sharp riffs and heavy-hitting hooks all encompass the record, making it one to add to your listening list.

We talk to Ole Halvard Sveen, vocalist, guitarist and drummer of MANTRIC, to learn more about the band's richly layered False Negative:


False Negative has finally arrived and audiences worldwide have now spent a weekend with the record, dissecting and connecting with it all. With this being the third full-length in Mantric’s lifespan and having released more with Extol and Lengsel, does the excitement of release day still stand as strong as it did when this all began for you? Halvard Sveen: Yes, absolutely! For my part, I’d almost say even more. Maybe it has something to do with it taking five years between each release with Mantric - I don’t know. But what’s for certain is that I’m more satisfied with “False Negative” than with any record we’ve put out so far in our career, and that sure makes me more excited.

Something that immediately captures the eye is the dichotomy present in the Tom Chambers cover photograph. A sight as peaceful as sheep grazing is met by a pile of hay lighting up into flames, as if to warn listeners of the aggression that follows the soaring melodies. How did this collaboration with Tom come about? Halvard Sveen: It simply began with Tor Magne (guitar) sitting at his computer searching the web for a cool motive for our cover art. And stumbled across this picture, that we all loved, and got in contact with Mr. Chambers, who was nice enough to let us use it without emptying all our savings accounts.

Like the cover photograph, there’s a balance throughout False Negative. A collision of clean and aggressive vocals meet synth and alternating tempos. Seeing as these elements blend seamlessly, how does this balance come about in a natural manner? Halvard Sveen: Well...we really wanted to achieve what you describe, so it’s cool to hear you say it. We’ve always used both aggressive and melodic vocals, but this time we wanted even more of the latter. And sometimes these vocal variations feels a little “on and off”, if you know what I mean - that they don’t really blend together in a natural way. So we’ve been more aware of it and more targeted this time, I suppose. And about the alternating tempos and atmospheres throughout the album, we always want our albums to be diverse and varied. But here as well, we’ve been working hard on sewing things together with the production and arranging, trying to make the songs make sense together as an album, with all its diversity.

Incorporating external elements such as synth into the heavier rock/metal subgenres is often hit or miss. Some bands can streamline it into the formula while others force it in, creating an inorganic collision of sounds that don’t fare well. You manage to do the former, making one feel the Nine Inch Nails influence, especially on tracks like Every Day is Independence Day and Norwegian Dastard. How did you approach this from a musical perspective?

Halvard Sveen: I think this mainly has to do with the production and the work that especially Tor Magne put into the recording process. The songwriting were mainly done like we have done it for many years now - me and Tor Magne sending demos and ideas back and forth, all three of us discussing it together, making adjustments and sending new versions etc, before we get together, jamming on the songs and getting ready for the drumrecording at first. But Tor Magne has really spent a lot of time working on the final product after the drums and guitars were recorded - making synthlines, experimenting with sounds, effects, vocals and drumloops. And then John Robert and I dropped by every now and then to discuss the ideas and filling in. So all in all, the final product is a lot more refined and solid this time around, in my opinion - I guess it’s as simple as that.

Mantric - Sin (2015)

False Negative truly is an honest reflection of the growth you’ve made not only as musicians, but as a band as well. From the studio work of Lars Bjerke to the musical performances of each member, it stands as your best effort to date. To what do you attribute this continuing growth? Halvard Sveen: I guess I partly answered this on the previous question, but I also think we’ve (hopefully) matured over the years. This is our third album with Mantric, and I think we had a much clearer vision this time around - we knew where we wanted to go, and also where we didn’t want to go. And I think we’ve found out how we best should work together in the process - we’re not living as close to each other anymore, got full-time jobs and nine kids altogether, so rehearsing twice a week is not an option. I guess we needed some time finding out new ways to be in a band as life changes, and getting better at it by each album, hehe... With a new home in Tooth and Nail Records and Solid State, Mantric joins a team of fantastic bands, including Norma Jean and The Devil Wears Prada to name a few. As musicians who have seen the best and the worst of the industry, what can you attest to the value of surrounding yourself among the right people moving forward? Halvard Sveen: still kind of annoys me, but we’re absolutely dependent on other people working for us, to help us get our music out to as many listeners as possible. It really doesn’t help if we’ve made the album of the year if none of the people making Spotify playlists, music webzines etc ever get to hear it, or don’t want to give us any attention. We’ve always done what we can ourselves - trying to contact relevant press, labels etc, since we’ve never once had a management, but it’s really a lot of work, and without the right contacts - very little result come out of it. So we were really happy about signing T&N and SS - knowing they had the apparatus needed to get the word out to potential listeners. It’s really nice getting in touch with people who believe in what we’re doing other than ourselves, haha..

And the thing is - we’ve always truly sucked at the business side of making music. I don’t know if it’s our background, growing up in a small Norwegian village, or what it is - we’re just lousy salesmen. Not comfortable with big words, trying to convince people that we’re a great band or hanging out at afterparties trying to get connections. So if anyone are willing to do that for us, we’re very thankful.


False Negative is available now via Solid State Records and you can stream it HERE.

Cover art by Tom Chambers


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