Poland continues to be one of the most interesting countries to follow when it comes to black metal, as while it had plenty of bands who followed the second wave influences early on there is now a wide range of artists channeling that same raw intensity as well as ones with more experimental influences. One of the more recent additions is Mānbryne, who feature members of Blaze of Perdition and Odraza in their ranks. Formed back in 2017, the band’s debut Heilsweg: O udręce ciała i tułaczce duszy showcases that a lot of time has been spent fine tuning these sprawling and methodical songs. Although the sound has a lot of similarities to the more polished variants of Polish black metal that have emerged over the last decade, there is still plenty here worth digging into.
Despite principal songwriter Renz not being involved in any other existing bands (from what I could find online), Mānbryne still reminds me heavily of mid-period Blaze of Perdition. Where the latter has incorporated a wider range of genre influences in recent years, here the songwriting heads in a more traditional direction that allows for the darker atmosphere to build methodically while still allowing for some violent outbursts. Each of the five tracks spans between seven and nine minutes, giving the instrumentation plenty of time to build its layers, and while in the wrong hands this could result in a bloated listening experience Mānbryne is able to make the most of it. Similar to Near Death Revelations, the approach here basks in melancholy and despair that leads into bleak and pummeling climaxes, with plenty of twists and turns in between. For the majority of the run-time this is pure black metal in its most polished and methodical form, but the one noticeable exception comes during the faster tempos and melodic leads that drive “Majestat upadku” which bring in a hint of 90s melodic death metal elements. Admittedly the approach is very familiar at times and follows a similar flow to a number of Polish and Swedish black metal acts, but it’s delivered with such precision and attention to detail that I still found myself captivated from beginning to end.
Sonneillon’s voice has become instantly recognizable over the course of Blaze of Perdition’s career, as he has the type of powerful and commanding performance that also feels like it is presenting the listener with a genuine narrative instead of a bunch of random verses. This is also the case on Heilsweg: O udręce ciała i tułaczce duszy, as his voice follows a similar build-up as the instrumentation and moves from creepier, almost whispered passages to room filling screams. On songs like “Ostatni splot” he even hits some spine-chilling shrieks that sound like they are coming from beyond the grave, and these little nuances to the performance make a big difference. Mānbryne mentions on their Bandcamp that this album is in tribute to Max von Sydow and that feels appropriate given that there are some samples from The Seventh Seal (as well as a fitting sample from Ken Russell’s The Devils at the beginning).
Mānbryne doesn’t drastically change what one might expect from Polish black metal, but they demonstrate what continues to make it so captivating. Drenched in complete darkness, these songs twist and turn with equal amounts of melody and abrasive instrumentation and don’t feel overly long despite their run-times. It’s a fantastic start and while I think there is room for the group to further distinguish themselves and explore some additional nuances in the future that make them truly different, this is still an album that many are going to be stuck on for some time to come. Heilsweg: O udręce ciała i tułaczce duszy is available from Terratur Possessions and Malignant Voices.
-Review by Chris Dahlberg
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