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MNHM - Of Empires Past

So let's get my to-review-record-stack a bit smaller with a challenging album I brought with me from this year's Roadburn Festival!

I bought it right after the Cul de Sac show of the Dutch band which is spelled "Raymond Luxury Yacht" MNHM, but pronounced "Throatwobbler Mangrove" "Mannheim"- and has nothing to do with the german city of the same name. (Yup, Xavier Naidoo haters can rejoice now.)

MNHM - Of Empires Past (LP) (2017)

If I had to describe "Of Empires Past" with one picture, I'd go with a "Lego Movie" comparison and ask you to think of Cloud Cuckoo Land (the heavenly kitsch realm ruled by Princess Unikitty) as the most trancendent and escapist culmination of  epic instrumental post rock. This album is basically the brutal troops of Lord Business crushing it and burning it down.

That means MNHM take the ingredients of post rock but turn it into something exhausting and unsettling by mangling it with mathcore, sludgeheavy doom and a john zornish advantgarde mindset.

Given that half of the band consists of drummer René Aquarius and saxophonist Otto Kokke aka. the New Wave Of Dutch Heavy Jazz duet Dead Neanderthals it is a little surprising that there are only few hints of jazz to be found on this record. Up to the second last track "Enforce / Embrace" you probably wouldn't even realize that there is a saxophone participating at all, because the relentless wall of thick effect-ladden noise which covers almost the whole record is even harder to recognize as the wind instrument than when the Neanderthals are operating in drone mode like on their recent "Craters" album.

Albeit I felt a stronger free jazz vibe in MNHM's live performance, which admittedly also made a more diverse impression than the recording. "Of Empires Past" is a hard listen, yet rewarding if you make it through it. Especially the first half is a a constant excercise in teasing and denial. The carrot of majestic post rock bliss is dangling right before your donkey nose all the time, but you just keep running through bleak and polluted landscapes never reaching it.

The album's second half then gives you at least some passages of release and resolution. It even ends on a somehow high note with a bombastic "Coronation". However I doubt that it is the soundtrack to a good king or queen regaining the rule over Cloud Cuckoo Land.

No, the truth is we all must bend our backs under the rule of Lord Business and even worse emperors. MNHM know this and "Of Empires Past" mercilessly screams it into our faces.

A unique, daring album not be enjoyed, but to be gladly suffered.

Highlights: Enforce / Embrace, Rule Of Law, Ascension

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