An Unexplosive Return First and foremost, I'm glad Manes are back. It's strange, this is about the fourth or fifth band that I've got into recently just before a reunion, so it doesn't really feel as if they've been gone for long. But it's been seven years since Manes dropped How the World Came to an End and for those who were fans at that time, it must feel like an age.
I got into Manes through their 2003 album Vilosophe, which I consider to be one of the most unique and interesting electronic rock records ever, and it is absurd that in the absence of Manes, no other artists have truly developed this style, using rock guitars and melodies with glitchy drums and strangely sampled atmospheres. Tracks like "Death of the Genuine", with the violent drum and bass-style drum samples and epic vocal lines, just have not been paralleled in the eleven years since, at least not in music that I've heard. I'll admit, How The World Came To And End wasn't fully to my liking as much as Vilosophe, as it dropped the focus on the rock and metal elements that made the fusion so interesting, focusing more on trip hop ambience and electronica.
So now, come 2014, and Manes are back. Allegedly, they existed as a re-incarnated black metal band last year for a bit, with Manii, but I really wasn't a huge fan of the sole release, Kollaps, in its depressive/suicidal black metal style, it lacked the ambience and texture of the early Manes black metal releases, and honestly, it was a while before I came to the realization that these two projects were related. We're to expect new material from Manes soon, but for now we have this, a release of miscellaneous recordings from the past two albums, alternate takes, and even a live version, as well as When Dreams Become Nightmares, a release from side project of Manes guitarist Cernunus, Lethe. Teeth, Toes and Other Trinkets is meant to be a 'warm-up' of sorts, to remind us that the bands still exists, and to get rid of some material that may not be relevant to the newer original material.
Although I've often found b-side collections to be quite good, I can't exactly say this one has much promise. From a brief look, it appears we have four unreleased tracks, plus some alternate versions of tracks from Vilosophe and How The World Came to an End, even one with a different title ("One More Room" is actually "White Devil Black Shroud", although I can't actually pick what's different here), and a rather lacklustre and averagely recorded version of "Ende" from Vilosophe, despite that being one of their better tracks.
Of the four new (to my knowledge) tracks, I can say that I quite enjoy "Ease Yourself Back Into Consciousness" with its floating vocal melody reminiscent of material from Vilosophe, particularly "White Devil Black Shroud", but the rest of the tracks don't really bring anything new or interesting, they're just simple electronic/trip hop tracks with the standard Manes vocal over the top.
I think it's a good thing that the label, Debemur Morti, decided to release this at the same time as When Dreams Become Nightmares, so that when Manes fans disappointed in this release come back rather annoyed, they can immediately say "but no, look over there, a Manes album that doesn't suck", and everyone's happy. Sure, as I will point out in my review of that, it has its fair share of shortcomings, at least it has substance.
I can't really give Teeth, Toes and Other Trinkets a really bad rating though, because although it's pretty lacklustre, it was never meant to be anything big. I think that the four tracks here that are new could have been edited to make a nice little EP, but none of the alternate versions here add to anything, especially shoving that live version of "Ende" as the second track, which I'm sure will alienate many people. This isn't a bad release, but it's completely unnecessary, even for big Manes fans. If you're looking for more electronic and trip hop influenced experimental rock, then When Dreams Become Nightmares is right over there, there's nothing to see here.
Originally written for my Facebook page/blog - www.facebook.com/neoprogisbestprog