Mighty Music
rating icon 9 / 10

Track listing:

01. Winter Solstice
02. Necropolitans
03. Demonday
04. Angel Of The Spring
05. Golem Sapiens
06. Mycelium
07. Beast Of The Fall
08. Equinox
09. Mementopolis
10. Día De Los Muertos

When it comes to 21st century progressive power metal, MANTICORA have already made a vast and lasting contribution. The Danish quartet have been a prolific and consistent presence since the late '90s, and despite remaining a largely underground concern, they have the reputation and charisma of a much bigger band. "Mycelium" is their tenth studio album in 25 years, and the follow-up to 2020's acclaimed "To Live to Kill to Live". Dedicated fans will already know what's coming, but for those with even a passing interest in prog metal and its associated sub-strains, MANTICORA are simply the scene's ultimate badasses and eminently worthy of your time, particularly as they seem to be gaining strength with each release.

This is the kind of brutishly heavy prog metal that fans of SYMPHONY X, NEVERMORE and WITHERFALL will instantly embrace. MANTICORA seem to have it all: a singer that can scale the octaves and raise the roof, virtuoso collective chops that frequently take your breath away, and an open-minded approach to composition that enables everything from the most pompous melodic metal to the most vicious extremity co-exist perfectly happily within a single song. Bereft of the twinkly eyed, upbeat aesthetic that makes a lot of power metal miss the mark for fans of heavier shit, "Mycelium" is like a series of controlled explosions.

An opening trilogy of "Winter Solstice", "Necropolitans" and "Demonday" establishes the mood, with grand, stirring choruses that emerge from complex storms of riffs and darkness, and an overall sound that hits thrillingly hard and with admirable sharpness and clarity. "Angel Of The Spring" flips the script to a more overtly melodic mid-paced drift, with shades of early FATES WARNING floating up from the sturdiest of downbeat ballads. At the other end of the stylistic spectrum, "Golem Sapiens" is a monstrous mini symphony, with hellish choirs and symphonic intricacy woven into a startling maze of interlocked riffing and vocalist Lars F. Larsen's pristine histrionics.

MANTICORA reach a new apex of murderous precision on "Mementopolis": a six-minute epic that drags the Danes ever further into the scowling dark of extreme metal. With pitiless blasting death metal aggression and a pitch-black but melodramatic atmosphere, it is a wonderful piece of heavy metal songwriting. The closing "Día De Los Muertos" is very nearly as good: another lengthier cut, it conveys the momentousness that the best prog metal aspires to while also hammering away with unconcealed zeal, subverting power metal's hell-for-leather cantering for palpably nefarious ends. Again, this record is defined by its explosiveness. Long overdue some major recognition, MANTICORA are casually upping the ante for classic, melodic prog metal. "Mycelium" is a heavyweight triumph.

Author: Dom Lawson
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