The Chronicles Of Manimal And Samara – Trust No Leaders
Release Date: 01/07/22
Running Time: 36:44
Review by Dark Juan
It is a rare and precious thing to find me writing things while it is still the morning. Dark Juan is not an early riser, you see. I prefer the inky blackness of night, where I can be at peace and there’s no annoying fuckers trying to get me to do shit I don’t want to do, whether I am being paid for it or not. It is fair to say that I am generally nocturnal. Instead, I have done my duty to Mrs Dark Juan and taken her to her appointment, been to the supermarket (it’s always amused me when you have a really SERIOUS trve black metal band babbling about burning churches and Satan and how they are from the dark, threatening forests or the mountains. No, you aren’t. I just saw you coming out of the Asda in Swanage. You bought marshmallows, you massive corpse painted cockwomble, and you got into a Vauxhall Corsa that has seen better days and there wasn’t a broadsword of a burning church to be seen. You drove past three of the fuckers on the way back to your two-up, two-down terraced house) and returned to Dark Juan Terrace, where Mrs Dark Juan is currently fashioning a fabric sculpture of a horse skull. Because that is how we roll…
“Which was colder, the blade or my bare hands?”
A superb lyric, from the most important British-based band of the last ten years, The Chronicles Of Manimal And Samara. Today, surrounded by only two Smellhounds, I am listening to their latest opus, entitled “Trust No Leaders”. Oh, how that title resonates with Dark Juan, who frequently comforts himself with thoughts of rounding up the worldwide political class and machine-gunning the whole fucking self-serving lot of them, as it is they who are the architects of the world’s problems, and for some reason the great unwashed of the world are too cowed and timid to do anything about it, content to live their miserable little lives glued to the idiot’s lantern night after night (in the Western world and developed nations anyway, the lesser developed nations’ populaces being more concerned with scratching some kind of subsistence and survival rather than grand political schemes and z-list banal “entertainment”) spending what little spare money they have (from imaginary fiat currencies) voting for “celebrities” who are only famous for knowing someone famous, or in the case of the females, getting their tits out or being so fucking objectionable that they have managed to force themselves into the public eye on lowest-common-denominator television shows. Only in Britain, however, could we have a television show where we all vacuously watch other people watching television.
You will, if you frequently read what I write (I hesitate to call them reviews or articles, as there is zero artifice behind them) recall that TCOMAS released my record of the year for 2021 with “Full Spectrum” and they have to do just as well this time because they are a band of lofty aims and aspirations, and I am full of the same for them, as they resonate with Dark Juan on a level that transcends mere music.
“Trust No Leaders” opens up with “Human Sacrifice” and immediately grabs you by the short and curlies with an urgent and energetic thrash metal riff, and Daphne Ang actually singing with slightly distended harmonies, instead of her usual clean recital of poetry. Andrea Papi appears to have decided that you are simply a target for him to eliminate and appears to be vocally focused on tearing the listener a new arsehole, being vituperative and venomous in his vocal delivery on this rather unusual opener – unusual for TCOMAS, that is, as there appears to be an immediacy and hunger about the duo that was missing from “Full Spectrum” this time. Daphne and Andrea sound fucking ANGRY.
“The Prophet” is the second tune on the record and I have previously reviewed this in isolation. Now I can see where it fits into the body of work “Trust No Leaders” is, being the story of an AI being birthed and the horror of everything. The rage that TCOMAS appear to be feeling rampages out of the lyrics, as they are challenging authority and challenge the listener in a wholly different way, and the musical performance as a whole screams spittle-flecked defiance to everything.
The whole album is this way – A cruelly focused, pinpoint accurate assault on the senses. Even the usually measured and mellifluous Daphne Ang sounds tightly wound and furious – like a person who is a bare inch from exploding into murderous rage yet maintains a staring, steely calm and is speaking softly simply because if they don’t, you’re going to be on your back having your throat torn out by her teeth. As for Andrea Papi, he has never sounded so predatory. His visceral bark has developed from a short, sharp shock into a roar of fury and pain. His performance on the guitar is also massively focused and recorded with passion and rage. The sheer power is staggering – while this is not the heaviest record you’ll ever hear, the absolute punk-like, against us fury TCOMAS employ on this album is jaw-dropping.
This is not to say that The Chronicles Of Manimal And Samara are totally humourless though. “The Chef’s Song” is a masterstroke of obsidian black humour poking through the homicidal tendencies of the rest of the album, yet even this is based around a fast moving thrash metal heart.
As I said when I reviewed “Full Spectrum”, TCOMAS’ great strength is their absolute disregard for boundaries and musical genre. Where “Trust No Leaders” differs from “Full Spectrum” is that TCOMAS have focused more on metal as the basis for the sound of the album. Even this is amorphous, though. Thrash metal butts heads with NWOBHM riffs and post metal and shoegaze, which then morphs into Tool and Meshuggah style complexities and the band use Vedic chants, Persian classical poetry, Native American and South American folk music and Indo-Persian classical music to add depth and challenge to the music. The lyrics and vocal performances are similarly cerebral and complex, encompassing as they do, Jungian philosophy, theology and contemporary poetry and theatre. Another improvement in the sound of TCOMAS is the fact that Daphne performs her spoken word poetry in less isolation. She seemed like a single light in the dark on “Full Spectrum” where here she seems a more integral part of the songs – using echo and chorus on her voice lends a new richness and interest to her performance, although there are moments of stark beauty when Daphne stands alone over the simplest music. “Count The Dead” amply demonstrates this dynamic, especially towards the end of the song. Again, I reviewed this song in isolation, and my appreciation of it has only increased as I have now heard it as part of a fuller work. “Smell Of Your Rot”, turns the attention of the listener round again – classical strings give way to fast and furious riffs as Daphne’s vocal rises from a singular, plaintive voice to a chorus of restrained fury, and “Hypermetamorphosis” is some of the finest technical metal I have heard, full of syncopation and counterbeats and screaming power, and dissonance and odd time signatures, as it musically symbolises the sensory and cognitive experience that a neurodiverse person lives with daily. It’s all absolutely fucking magnificent.
This is once again a record with no faults. The music is perfectly produced and remains easy to listen to even when there is a lot going on, every instrument being perfectly discernible at all times. The vocals are to the fore of the mix, but that is absolutely where the perfection in diction and clear enunciation of Daphne Ang needs to be. Andrea’s guttural vocals sit a little bit further back in the mix otherwise they would be overpowering, and I simply don’t have the words to describe the timely messages and spectacular intelligence of the lyrics, except to say that the concept of the album is based on what it means to be human and what it means on this modern Earth, where people are in danger of destroying it through inaction. It also references the inner person and how it is important that you remember and nourish your inner self. The music, as always with TCOMAS, is superbly arranged and performed and well produced. The structure of the songs appears to have become more complex, yet this is only subtly evident as TCOMAS opt to wield a jeweller’s hammer rather than a sledgehammer to increase the complexity of the music.
I don’t know how they have done it, but The Chronicles Of Manimal And Samara have released yet another album of the year contender. It is a totally different experience to listen to “Trust No Leaders” than it was to listen to “Full Spectrum”, yet the untrammelled brilliance and intelligence of this band remain absolutely unchecked, even if this time they have dialled back the experimentation and increased the heavy metal quotient. Fucking marvellous though! Absolutely sodding brilliant. What with this and Master Boot Record’s last album both being absolute bangers, and it still only being May as I write this, the rest of the years’ releases are going to have to be pretty fucking special to top this.
The Patented Dark Juan Blood Splat Rating System (Sistem penilaian percikan darah Dark Juan yang dipatenkan or Il sistema brevettato di valutazione degli schizzi di sangue di Dark Juan depending on whether you speak Malay or Italian) is once again beguiled, blown away and battered by the intelligence, artistry and power of The Chronicles Of Manimal And Samara and is once more going to make an absolute mockery of the Ever-Metal.com scoring system and award TCOMAS a googolplex/10. A googolplex is the world’s biggest known number, being a one with a googol zeroes. That’s how big a fan I am.
01. Human Sacrifice
02. The Prophet
03. Pound of Flesh
05. The Chefs Song
06. The Pied Piper
07. Nothing but Dust
08. Count the Dead
09. Smell of Your Rot
11. Scum of the Land
Daphne Ang – Vocals, lyrics, piano, keyboards
Andrea Papi – Vocals, guitars, bass, programming
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