The Chronicles Of Manimal And Samara – Full Spectrum
Release Date: 26/02/2021
Running Time: 65:55
Review by Dark Juan
Greetings and salutations, friends and confidants of all known sexes and preferences! It is I, Dark Juan, and I have returned safely and without incident from a shopping trip that could only be described as mildly taxing. You all, dear friends, know that I am famously misanthropic and having to wait in queues to get into fucking Pets At Home and have strangers talking to me is somewhat difficult, especially as it is my want to nod and smile politely whilst entertaining the goriest fantasies of dismembering the motherfucker being nice to me in the most gruesome of ways. Yes, a very polite young gentleman engaged me in benign yet banal conversation about 22 grown men in shorts kicking an inflated pig’s bladder around a field and my mouth was on autopilot while my imagination was consumed with the flash of keen blades and the comforting flow of blood around my wrists while his football loving heart is carefully removed from his chest and displayed in front of his staring, pain-filled eyes as the life slowly leaves them, fading gradually to grey silence as the blood pools in his torso where until recently his vigorous heart pumped life around his frame…
Sorry. I don’t like shopping very much. Anyway, I am safely ensconced back in Dark Juan Terrace with alcohol, sleeping hellhounds around me and the latest offering from The Chronicles Of Manimal And Samara rattling what’s left of my brains. TCOMAS are a London based duo from Italy and Singapore. In their own words: “TCOMAS take inspiration from Tool and Kraftwerk, as well as the poetry of Sylvia Plath, Virginia Woolf, and Jim Morrison, TCOMAS continues to fill a gap in music by bringing literature, art, and history together into a space where rock and metal meets electronic. Their musical and lyrical themes are very much rooted in the duo’s interests in classical literature and theatre, as well as in the fields of philosophy, history, and psychology.”
The album is composed of previously released singles and five new tracks and opens with ‘Atoms’ composed of spoken word vocals in the form of an oratory on the nature of man and life and the creation of the universe and its subsequent destruction and veers wildly from some chunky metal riffing, industrial and trance. It is an eclectic melange of sounds indeed. The guitar sounds fucking huge, though, when the band let rip. Second track ‘Psychopath’s Monologue’ begins with the spoken word poetry of Daphne Ang over a slowly building electronic industrial soundscape, beginning with just Daphne’s voice and a slight bass hum and the sounds of a woman achieving ecstasy. This song is based on the events of Dante’s Inferno and apparently the lyrics (deliberately fragmented in nature) are composed of seven sonnet poems written over a ten-year period.
It is ridiculously complicated to even attempt to quantify TCOMAS and their sound as it appears that they are absolutely hell bent on welding as many disparate influences together and unleashing this kind of highly polished chimera on this unsuspecting planet, just for the sheer hell of seeing what the fuck the world makes of it. Take track three, ‘Deus Ex Machina’ as an example – Heavy metal guitars and more spoken word beguile you into thinking you know where this song is going. You’re absolutely fucking wrong though. The lyrics tell the tale of Oedipus Rex and the guitars segue in and out of a segment played by a Persian tar before returning to gut slamming power. The same eclecticism is amply displayed on the fourth song, entitled ‘Mata Hari’. This time, the sound references the 80’s and modern synthwave with lush analogue synths and choppy, heavily produced MIDI guitar sounds over an ethereal vocal dripping with effects, giving the song a new wave/new romantic feel added to a modern, propulsive sensibility. It sounds like Georgio Moroder and Gary Numan in his “The Fury” era got hold of modern equipment and were allowed to go absolutely bonkers in an LSD filled studio. ‘The Descent’ begins with a sound that immediately references the start of a “The Fragile” era Nine Inch Nails track as the metal guitar torturously builds until bongo drums and mechanical buzzes slip beneath the deceptively simple electric guitar lick that repeats until the drums kick you in your fucking arse and the guitar work reminds you that this is a metal band playing here with little stabs of Rammsteinesque keyboards driving the song forwards to the fade…
‘Message For The King’ is an interlude where the band appears to have totally lost their shit and perform a humorous skit complete with bizarre kid’s Bontempi keyboards and sound effects of horses neighing. Clearly, TCOMAS are madder than Mickey “Mad Dog” McMad from Madsville.
Things take a decidedly apocalyptic bent on ‘Love In A Time Of Pestilence’. Deliberately released as a single at the time of the second lockdown, this song takes a Tool-esque intro into a bleak, quasi-industrial metal before taking a hard left turn into black metal vocals and speed before slamming back out of gear into a guitar solo that Dinosaur Jr’s J Mascis would be proud of before returning back to Tool’s noodling and another build to the power of heavy fucking metal over more spoken word detailing past epidemics and the present day pandemic and the public response towards it. Timely doesn’t even begin to cover the lyrics of this song. The interest and the bizarre mixing of disparate influences continues with the soft classical piano overlaid with electronic keyboard intro to ‘TCOMAS S01 E01’ (detailing the story of The Chronicles Of Manimal And Samara using the original script that was originally going to be a script for a manga book series) which suddenly has a techno beat growing over the softly spoken poetry of Daphne Ang. Then we are in the realms of full-on hard techno in the vein of Ultraviolence and there we stay with a wah soaked guitar enhancing it. Next track in is ‘Full Spectrum’, which is where pure metal fans might find this album too challenging for their musical sensibilities as it is a 16-minute instrumental with its base in experimental psychedelic trance and wild, flailing, dissonant guitar cutting in and out of the music at unexpected moments – think The Orb and Tangerine Dream getting mixed with Disturbed and Prong and bits of Ozric Tentacles and you get a sort of an idea of the sound I am experiencing. Although so far this record has denied me a chance to give you all a kind of overriding description of it all, hence the verbose ramblings about individual songs. It is the only way I can impart any form of sense about this album to you. It is so wide ranging, experimental and out to fucking lunch it defies any attempt for this ridiculous, barely literate idiot to, coherently and cogently, make any bastard sense of it…
‘At The World’s End’ is the utterly obsidian black final song. This is far and away the most metal song on the record, being progressive me(n)tal with the odd electronic bleep and bloop. And then TCOMAS throw every effect they have in an extraordinarily capacious arsenal at some spoken words that they have managed to render totally unintelligible and have given it a title, ‘The Great News’.
At that point, the insanity ends. How the fuck do I summarise this Frankenstein’s Monster of a record for you all? It’s progressive to the point of almost parody. It just manages to stay on the right side of parody, however. Metal purists will fucking hate this album so much it will cause them considerable pain and suffering. More adventurous music lovers may find the sheer lack of attention to boundaries, style and genre equally galling, because there are points on this record where the music does not gel as well as it could as the influences and styles being used are simply not compatible, not matter how hard you beat them together. If you are an intrepid listener, however, and someone to whom genre and style are words that mean nothing, then I have a new favourite band for you. The Chronicles Of Manimal And Samara are superb, but they will have an extremely limited audience because of the free ranging nature of their music and the lack of singing – Daphne Ang’s poetry and spoken word offering a narrative style rather than song and Andrea Papi electing to only open his throat sparingly. I could even say that TCOMAS are TOO complex for the casual music fan to understand and this will be to their detriment, if you view success in sales. Others might claim that TCOMAS are a band trying too hard to be different, and edgy, and unique. If you view success as creating a magnum opus of wholly original, impossibly complex music that defies genre and gleefully tramples over any form of traditionalism with a big shit eating grin on its face and a total disregard for the rules, then TCOMAS are for you. In my opinion, TCOMAS have transcended music and have created aural art. They create visual soundscapes that you can wander and get lost in.
Well, I’m blown away, frankly. I have this rule when I am scoring the music I review, which is that the music has to be interesting. TCOMAS has that covered in magnificent style. But is it metal? In all honesty, yes. It’s metal twisted and welded into shapes with impossible geometries utterly unfamiliar to people, but the basics are there. There’s heavy metal guitars and bass playing and the lyrics are thought provoking, suitably apocalyptic and rivet the attention. Which is no mean feat considering I have the attention span of a mentally deficient fish.
The Patented Dark Juan Blood Splat Rating System is massively conflicted. On one hand, TCOMAS have not delivered a true heavy metal record, but on the other they have given us something futuristic and shiny and uncompromising and based in metal. Fuck it, 10/10 for a sublime work of genius that will only have an extremely select and adventurous audience. Expand your minds, metal pilgrims, expand your minds. This album is perfect late night driving music when you’re miles from anywhere. Possibly the most prog thing I have ever heard.
02. Psychopath’s Monologue
03. Deus Ex Machina
04. Mata Hari
05. The Descent
06. Message For The King
07. Love In The Time Of Pestilence
08. TCOMAS S01 E01
09. Full Spectrum
10. At The World’s End
11. The Great News
Daphne Ang (Samara) – Vocals, Lyrics, Piano
Andrea Papi (Manimal) – Guitar, Bass, Keyboards, Vocals
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