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MANTICORA: If the energy dies, the music dies

MANTICORA: If the energy dies, the music dies
BANDS : Manticora

Manticora have been around, playing their own and very personal power metal since 1996, they have released six studio albums so far and toured Europe with Angra. It was about time they came here on Metalfan, too, because we were eager to know more about their awesome new release, The Black Circus, Part One: The Letters. Vocalist Lars Larsen has promptly and quite exhaustively satisfied our curiosity:



Metalfan: Hello there what is Manticora doing these days?
Lars Larsen: Hi. We are relaxing a bit after a mini European tour we did in September. This week, we’ll begin the preparations for the recordings of the guitars to the next album.

Metalfan: You have just released a new album this month, what reactions did you get, how has it been received?
Lars Larsen: I believe that we have received awesome reactions from 90% of the press and really cool reactions form the fans as well, so we can’t complain at all!

Metalfan: The storyline of your latest album The Black Circus Part One describes some strange and disturbing events happening around a circus travelling through New England, back in the 19th century. This is not your first concept album, how do you explain this inclination toward storytelling?
Lars Larsen: The fact is that it’s more interesting for us to work with concepts and stories instead of just recording the normal 10 songs. We feel that we have much more creativity this way and we can work properly through riffs and melodies that would normally be redundant. It’s another way of working. It’s harder, but also more fulfilling when you get the product in your hands. When you have done a concept album it’s really hard to go back to the normal one, so I guess we’ll continue doing this.

Metalfan: The music is pretty heavy and dark, and the story seems to be at least unsettling, they fit very well together and the result is a powerfull and totally immersive atmosphere. Was the music toned up, adjusted in order to suit this gloomy ambience, or was it the other way around?
Lars Larsen: The music is definitely written for the concept. The story was already begun when we recorded our last album „8 Deadly Sins”, and when we began writing the music for The Black Circus, we already had 6 sets of lyrics ready. We began studying some Romanian folk music in order to capture the real feeling of the circus. We have incorporated some of those Romanian melodies into the music and I think that this research has led to an even more evil atmosphere than we could have hoped for.

Metalfan: You often refer to HP Lovecraft as an inspiration for the story of Black Circus, but was exactly is the connection to his work?
Lars Larsen: The connection is that we all love the works of HP Lovecraft. There’s no direct link to this album as it is totally our own story, written by Mads, Kristian and myself. We just take inspiration in HP’s world. Our story of course takes place in new England, there are monsters (in the part 2) that are not of this world, and the songs are written as letters, where in HP’s novels, it’s diaries.

Metalfan: Are you fans of horror fiction? The story looks elaborate, you seem to know your way around in this area. Where have you got your expertise from?
Lars Larsen: We all read a lot of books and I believe that horror, science fiction and fantasy are the main themes of our choices. The reason that the story is so wide and grand is that we never stop working and re-working things untill we all feel that we simply can’t get anymore out of this, be it lyrics or music. We get into all the corners of the storyline and get everything dusted and ready for exposure, so to speak.

Metalfan: What makes this record better than your previous releases, what aspects of your music have you substantially improved this time?
Lars Larsen: I wouldn’t say that we have substantially improved ourselves. This album is special because of the fact that it is a 2 part concept. It’s not that easy to keep track of everything, when having to write that many songs and keeping track on the interludes as well. The album is less aggressive but more melodic than „Hyperion” and more aggressive and less melodic than „8 Deadly Sins”, so I guess you can say it’s the perfect combination of those 2. Anyway, as said previously, we have gone into the extremes to get the perfect product and feeling, researching Romanian folk music, so that adds another dimension to the creation.

Metalfan: The music on Black Circus part One seems to me like a brilliant mix of all kinds of metal, impressively coherent all the way through. What is your main focus when it comes to songwritting, what is the ideal you want to achieve?
Lars Larsen: To have energy present in all songs and all instruments at all times. It’s the vital part of music, be it in heavy metal or in any other genre of music. If the energy dies, the music dies. We put pressure on each other all the time in the rehearsal room to keep up the energy level. Constant suggestions to each other about what to do on the various instruments. It keeps your senses sharp and you won’t fall into a slumber where you think „I’ve done it like this for 10 years. No one shall tell me how to play my instrument”. When all people accept being corrected and dared all the time, everybody becomes better musicians and we all win on that account. The result is pure energy.



Metalfan: Because of the complexity, your music is not so easily approachable by the casual listener. What is your target, how do you think this complexity will affect your sales?
Lars Larsen: We will of course lose some people on the way. Those that are not really into complexity, but who would have liked the music, if they had some more time to listen to the album, but I’d rather lose those people as fans than giving in to the easy way of  doing things. What we are doing is to make music for ourselves...the music that WE in the band like. If it happens that a lot of other people love that music and want to buy it, it’s absolutely fine, but we will never begin changing our music to make other people happy. It’s a matter of staying true to yourself and not to trends. Then we might as well begin making techno, or something else that we could make a lot of money on.

Metalfan: Some reviewers found some influences, like Blind Guardian, for example, to be too obvious, what do you think about that? What bands would you name as influential to your music?
Lars Larsen: I have never understood the comparison to Blind Guardian, but it’s a matter of journalists having to make a connection to a band or 2, in order to make their viewers understand which genre we are moving in. Our main influences are american thrash metal from the 80’ies (Metallica, Savatage, Testament, Slayer, Overkill), as well as Euro power metal and american power metal from the 90’ies (Helloween, Blind Guardian, Gamma Ray, Nevermore, Iced Earth, Flotsam & Jetsam). Then of course you can mix all these things with Dream Theater, Iron Maiden, Sepultura and other bands that in some way or another influences you through all the times you are listening to their music. We still believe that if there’s no energy in that music, we will not be affected by it.

Metalfan: The vocal performance is also impressive on this album, powerful but still melodic. Some reviews reported Blind Guardian influences even in this department, but some vocal lines remind me alot of Jan Lubitzki (singer of the german band Depressive Age). What are your comments on this?
Lars Larsen: Hahaha. You are not that far from it. There are more and more people that says this and I would say that my vocals are much closer to Jan’s than to Hansi’s. Maybe I’m the hidden connection between those 2, hehe. Jan is very deep in his approach, where I am the baryton and Hansi would be the tenor. The difference is that both Jan and I can do our stuff live (of course there are small areas that I can’t cover, such as a G over the high C in full register, when I’m out of breath), where Hansi simply can’t sing live anymore. He’s constantly a whole octave under the real song and I’d rather not fuck around too much in the studio with all sorts of technique and then having to fight like an animal every night to sing something I am not geared to sing. So yes, I would probably sound a lot more like Hansi, if I didn’t care about our live situations.



Metalfan: The album is also very strong productionwise. How much do you think that working with an experienced producer as Tommy Hansen affected the recording?
Lars Larsen: It means a world to us to have that extra eye on the production. Tommy is so incredibly professional and he notices every little detail that could be bettered and he does tell us about it. We have a good relationship with him and both he and we feel that we can say anything to each other, which makes it easier to critizise a mistake and in the end makes the product so much better because all mistakes have been corrected.

Metalfan: There are four songs named Întuneric, this a Romanian word.(I just hope you didn’t mistake Romanian for Romani, they are two different languages, I know it can be confusing) You also declared to have done a research on old Romanian folk music. What did you find out about our country during this research?
Lars Larsen: We wanted this to be as perfect as possible and instead of calling the interludes „intermezzo”, we wanted to have a Romanian word for it (Yepp, we are aware that Romanian and Romani is 2 different things). So, I asked Nelu from  Maximum Rock magazine about some words and we thought that the word for Darkness was totally cool in our ears and it fit perfectly with the atmosphere in the album...the circus at night time, standing on the meadow between the trees and the hills, while the darkness and the evil creeps up on everything and everyone!! Regarding the Romanian folk music, we definitely found out that most of the instruments are actually out of tune, and that seems to be deliberately!!!! It felt strange to listen to all these violins and other instruments that were not tuned correctly, but the pattern of it all seemed to indicate that it was done on purpose. We of course can’t play on instruments that are out of tune, but we have tried to resemble some of the things as close as possible. We didn’t really find out a lot about Romania as such that we didn’t already know, so it was mostly musical research.

Metalfan: How did you get the gig with Orphaned Land, at Samfest, in Romania? How was the show for you, what do you think about the places, about the audience, the Romanian bands you've shared the stage with?
Lars Larsen: We were invited to the Samfest 3 weeks before the festival, so it was a bit hectic, but we of course accepted. We were booked by Nelu from Maximum Rock. The whole day was one big chaos. We left Copenhagen after having been in line for 2 hours and almost missing the airplane. Arriving in Budapest and getting picked up in a mini van with 38 degrees outside. We thought that we’d have to drive 3 hours, but it turned out to be 7!! We arrived to Satu Mare and we had to go on stage 1 hour later, so we didn’t really have time to calm down and get ready for the show. Soundcheck was non-existant, but we had an incredible sound anyway. We were a bit delayed because some bands couldn’t keep their playing time, but the band that played before us sounded pretty cool...very energetic guys on stage. When we played, the audience were pretty much on to the music from the beginning, so it felt good in spite of the tiredness. After the show, we got extremely drunk as the organizers had some special Romanian liquor that we tried and we had a lot of beers as well. Since we continued in a small cafe in the city untill 4 in the morning, it was not that funny to drive back to the airport in Budapest, but it was still a fun tour overall.


Manticora live la Samfest 2006


Metalfan: Have you tried out the new songs live yet? How do you think they do live?
Lars Larsen: We have just played both “The Black Circus, Gypsies’ Dance pt 1 and Disciples Of The Entities” and they all work very fine live. I think that in the future we might even try out some of the other songs and see if they work, but it is hard to choose between numbers after having released 5 albums.

Metalfan: The Black Circus is, in fact, a double album, you recorded both parts at the same time, but the second part will not be released until next year. Will it still represent the band? What if you won't like it anymore next year and you want to change some things on it?
Lars Larsen: Hehehe. Well, we really need to like the songs, as the concept is pretty clear. I guarantee you that if you like this first part of the album, then you won’t be disappointed about the second one, so to say that we won’t like the second part is utopia for us. We still have time to change what we want on the guitars and keyboards though.

Metalfan: You already have a set of solid releases in your discography, but you are not a very known band in the metal scene yet.(I think it's a shame) What do you think you have done wrong, why are you not famous yet?
Lars Larsen: I have absolutely no idea, but it might come down to the fact that we don’t know the right people in the business, or that our music simply only appeal to a limited amount of heavy metal heads. It’s not for me to answer a question like that, but the fans themselves.

Metalfan: What do you think about the metal scene of today, compared to how it was when you started to play?
Lars Larsen: It is degenerating. The fact is that there are more bands than ever and less fans to share. People are downloading music more and more and so the sales numbers are going down as well. I know that people say Heavy metal is a genre that will always survive, but it’s impossible to predict about a musical genre that has only been here for 35/40 years. I believe that the whole music business has to regroup in order to survive.

Metalfan: Not so many danish bands make it into the European scene nowadays, how is the scene over there, do you have any competition? How's your fan base in Demnark?
Lars Larsen: Our fan base in Denmark is steadily growing so that’s prety cool. Having said that, there are not that many people left in Denmark that listen to metal. The pop MTV culture has taken its toll on the metal fans and that’s too bad. We have many bands though here in Denmark of which, a lot are on the verge of a larger break through within the metal scene.
Metalfan: Is music still an art or has it totally become a business? Can you play your music without thinking about the number of copies you have to sell?
Lars Larsen: You think about numbers when you play, but not when you create music. For us it is a matter of making music for ourselves and if there are a lot of people that like what we do, then it’s cool. If not, we’ll survive some way and make the music anyway. We are perfectly aware that we will never become rich from playing heavy metal music, but as long as things run around and we have the power of creation and a lot of fun as well, then we’ll continue.



Metalfan: Thank you for this interview, I hope you'll come back to Romania soon, headlining your own European tour!
Lars Larsen: Thank you very much. We hope so as well. It would be very cool to be able to present 1½ hours of music every night to a lot of headbangers!

Quick quiz Lars Larsen

Black metal or nu metal?
Nu metal.

King or viking?
I am a viking, so that kind of solves itself, hehe.

Hans Christian Andersen or Søren Kierkegaard?

Megadeth or Metallica?

North Pole or South Pole?
North Pole.

Warrel Dane or Claire Danes?

Money or fame?
Money...fame is not fun.

Connie Nielsen or Brigitte Nielsen?
Both are ugly, but Connie doesn’t seem to be a bitch, so I’d prefer her.

Crystal ball or horoscope?
Crystal Ball because it looks cool.

Best regards,


Autor: Klawz
Vezi galeriile trupelor: Manticora

   September 26, 2006  | 1 Comments  | 8679 Views « BACK

Comment on: MANTICORA: If the energy dies, the music dies

  • Buna ma numesc edvyn din Oradea. Nu stiu ce sa zic! In viata mea nu am auzit de MANTICORA pana can au fost "zilele cetatii oradea" si au fost invitati la concert!Atunci inca nu am stiut cine sunt ei dar m-am gandit sa ma duc si eu sa-i vad!
    Mie imi place muzica rock,ba mai mult sunt ROCKer :) de atunci ma-am indragostit de manticora si au devenit trupa mea favorita de rock!!!!!! MANTICORA 4 EVER!!!

    1. Posted by SZABO EDVYN | 31 Iulie 2007 09:26

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