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by Mark Hensch

Want to transcend petty existence and float free into nirvana, unfettered of all constraints and limitations? Such unhindered bliss has appealed to many over time, and music has often served as a medium to achieve the freeing of the mind. In my opinion, the fairly youthful genre known as "drone" or "drone metal" is one of the best sonic gateways for letting one's mind wander aimlessly. Drone is a ritual of painful mind-bending; genre legends like Khanate or Sunn-O))) destroy the listener with repetitive, ambient, and above all else, insanely low-tuned instruments that drone endlessly and without noticeable variations. Being a drone inductee myself, I often look for new bands and one evening stumbled upon the band Manhir, created by Nick Johnson from the United Kingdom. This one man crafted a sprawling and almost abnormally entertaining drone album in Feelings from the Stone.

Described as "heavy music spawned from heavy emotions," the drone on hand here is some of the most emotional drone I've ever heard, a welcome change as some drone seems so detached and free-form to the point of inspiring indifference.

The first track, "Illuminised Death Piece," has a harsh and discordant wall of sound intro that sounds like the soft murmurs of a slumbering giant. Still and utterly void, choking silence follow, broken only by textured, clean notes that are birthed only to quickly fade into oblivion. A rumbling subvoice of glacial drone riffage slowly infiltrates said notes, and eventual the heavy discordance overwhelms them wholly, erasing them like the ebb and flow of species throughout the molasses crawl of time. As entire breeds flicker into existence and then dissolve into oblivion before one's eyes, the song ends in a wash of hammering drone.

"Trenches" is my favorite track on hand here. After the prehistoric crawl of "Illuminised Death Piece," the sampling of gunfire staccato and aerial dogfighting sounds oddly fitting and modernistic. Ominous drone riffage is next twisted into the Sphagetti Western mythos of atmosphere, setting a tone of confrontation and conflict. A punishing down-tuned doozy is the outcome, and unlike most drone, the song manages to keep a frightening buzz all while maintaining nightmarish clarity amidst the gargantuan, plodding chaos. This horrifying seismic monster slowly devours itself in prickly fuzz, wailing feedback, and an unnerving siren cacophony of unearthly hum.

"Knowledge is Misery" sounds like an elephantine distortion jamboree in the deepest quagmire. The rumbles have a death-rattle quality, washing over the listener and soaking into their bones as they trudge unflinchingly forward. A high pitched wail of random drone blasts is so exquisite it's nearly painful to hear. Titanic tremors of sound gradually decimate everything in sight, in the same brutal way (yet blatantly restrained, slowed manner) as age or extreme erosion.

"Wandering" closes things with spacial and epic drone that sounds like a lower slab of recent ISIS meandering. This is some of the most organic and natural sounding drone I've ever heard. It conjures images of long, nearly impossible tasks...try walking every square inch of Earth on foot or weathering all of Mount Everest into a fine layer of dust. By the song's last twitters of Leviathan rigor mortis, one would have thought all tasks accomplished, each being as grandiose and unrelentingly HUGE as the one's preceding. A simply fantastic drone album.

Whether or not one likes or even has heard of drone, Manhir is as fine a place to start as any. Don't believe me? Manhir offers free songs through various internet avenues, and anyone can try a song or two for themselves. Large, glacial, immense, and freakishly serene, Feelings from the Stone sounds like drone slowly coming to grips with its own sense of trauma. Manhir makes things so great as the droning riffage on hand here slowly pounds you into pulp all the while slowly mellowing out at the same time. Patience is a virtue, and this solid drone offering has it in should please anyone willing to invest actual energy into the experience of listening to HEAVY music.

To find out more about Manhir, check for a short bio and downloads. "Trenches" and "Illuminised Death Piece" are on hand, as well as a freebie track "Freesound." Enjoy!

CD Info and Links

Manhir - Feelings from the Stone

Rating:for casual observers or the morbidly curious

for drone fanatics

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