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Mani Deum – Five Infected Blessings

Mani Deum, loosely translated as “Hands of God”, is a project from Greece (initially Corfu Island) that started back in the latter months of 2005.  Though they’ve now enjoyed over six years of existence, the project has only mustered a couple solid, professional releases, both of which have now been released via Dead Scarlet Records.  To start their career, however, Mani Deum began in the DIY realm by releasing a self-titled CD-R that was quickly followed by two volumes of work that were entitled “Infected Folk & Roll”.  Anyone familiar with the project will already know the term that they’ve coined in “Folk & Roll”, though at least with this release there is little “roll” to go with their bleak style of folk noir.  The two mentioned professional releases began with this EP, “Five Infected Blessings” that was released in 2009 and contains five tracks plus a special bonus track that involves Dimo Dimov (Svarrogh, Miel Noir) as a guest musician.  The other is new as of last year and is the band’s first full-length effort.  Entitled “Music for your Local Church…or your Local Brothel”, the new album features some new guest musicians including Matt Howden (Sieben) and Maxi Nil (Visions of Atlantis, On Thorns I Lay).

Mani Deum, as can be expected, bring a folk noir style of neofolk to the table that infuses a definite air of Mediterranea into their music with a trademark charm and arrogance that one might expect from their Italian comrades like Spiritual Front, but pull it back from those uptempo, excitable tracks and instead opt for a sound that is much more subdued.  The overall sound of the album is not nearly as sleazy as the artwork (and the new album title) might lead one to expect.  No, there are no Bane Wolfkind-like cigarette-choked bluesy, lounging structures here, but rather there is a progressive beauty in their music that is present through the headstrong acoustic verses and the strong cello performance (both on a melodic level and as a rhythmic backbone) by “Francesca”.  In fact, with the exception of the lustful opening track “Thy Will be Done through Her”, the lyrics behind “P.”s vocals give “Five Infected Blessings” a brutally depressive, bleak atmosphere.  Every track is inherently built upon the strength of subtle neofolk textures but is utterly hopeless in theme — from “The Room Falls Silently” and it’s struggle to find a will to continue trudging through life to the existential ramblings of “Everythings and Nothings”, “Five Infected Blessings” hemorrhages emotions that are as desperately reflective as they are reminiscent of a self-destructive soul.

“Five Infected Blessings” is a darkly romantic, and seemingly intended, slightly erotic, journey with music that can sometimes be as lush as the imagery it creates and as austere and grim as the raw emotions that it subconsciously digs through.  Without a doubt, the stand-out track on the record is the frantic but repetitive “The Winterpath” that features Dimo Dimov.  A soldier’s manifesto, “The Winterpath” is an incredible track in which Dimov both proudly and regretfully announces through dueling emotions that “I must walk through it!”  The track, as implied by not being included as the sixth “Infected Blessing”, stands on its own and is a voyage in itself.  The artwork itself is strange in relation to the tracks.  As personal and emotional as they seem from a masculine standpoint, most of the artwork depicts drawings of women (prostitutes?), with the five on the front cover in tormented poses.  The one in the booklet is a re-occurring figure and seem uninflicted like the others.  A spiritual aspect can be seen on the back as well, as in the mutterings of alpha and omega in “everythings and nothings”, there is a symbol that represents the old Hermetic axiom “As Above, so Below”.  This is a duality that can be seen throughout the release just by looking at track names (“Unconditional Condition”, “Everythings and Nothings” — even “My Past is Leaking into my Present”).  All around, this is a solic release for a project making their professional debut.  The full-length is available, so I’d recommend both as it’s sure to live up to expectations.

01) Thy Will be Done through her
02) Unconditional Condition
03) Everythings and Nothings
04) My Past is Leaking into my Present
05) The Room Falls Silently
06) The Winterpath (Bonus Track)

NOTE:  The tracks “Everythings and Nothings” and “My Past is Leaking into my Present” appear to be inaccurately placed in the track listing on the album.  They should be switched.

Rating: 4.5/5

Written by: Sage
Dead Scarlet Records (GRE) / #10 / digi CD
Folk Noir / Dark Folk / Neofolk