"Vilosophe" is the 2nd full-length studio album by Norwegian experimental rock/metal act Manes. The album was released through code666 Records in May 2003. Manes started their career in 1993 as a black metal act and all releases ( three demos and one full-length album) prior to "Vilosophe" are deeply rooted in that genre. The band were in those days a two-piece consisting of vocalist Sargatanas and Tor-Helge Skei (a.k.a. Cernunus) playing everything else. Sargatanas left the band after the debut album "Under ein Blodraud Maane (1999)" though and took the extreme black metal vocal style with him. Tor-Helge Skei opted to continue with the band and he recruited new musicians for the recording of "Vilosophe".
The style of music on "Vilosophe" is completely different from the music on "Under ein Blodraud Maane". As mentioned the extreme black metal vocals are completely gone from the music with the departure of Sargatanas as well as most of the extreme metal riffing. New industrial and electronic (at times almost trip-hop like) elements as well as clean vocals have been added to the sound instead. I can see this alienating old fans of the band but the new experimental electronic rock/metal style probably won them new ones instead. The dark atmosphere is intact in the music which is a thing I find is of great importance. In fact this is a very dark and melancholic album, it´s just not dark and "evil" sounding like the band´s black metal output. The tracks are rather simple but featuring multible sonic layers. Acts like Ulver, OSI, Nine Inch Nails, Fates Warning (the "Disconnected (2000)" album) and a bit Queensrÿche (the darkest moments from the "Promised Land (1994)" album) are valid as references. There are very few extreme metal riffs on the album. I actually only count one that could be considered extreme by some and that´s the opening riff of the brilliant "Death of the Genuine (The Redemption Ritual)". Note the extremely dark and eerie sample in the beginning of that song too. That´s how you start a song if you want it to have an impact on the listener.
The musicianship is excellent and especially the vocals are really strong, emotional and melancholic. I find the simple and repetitive melody lines very beautiful and they keep growing on me with every listen.
The production is quite frankly fantastic. Lots of audible layers and a powerful punch. Rock/metal music with lots of electronic elements doesn´t always sound good to my ears but it works very well here.
"Vilosophe" was a complete surprise to me upon inital listen. I wasn´t expecting it to sound like it did even though I had read reviews that tried to explain the sound. This is one of those albums you have to listen to yourself to fully absorb. It´s not that it´s a complicated album by any means but it is pretty original sounding. The music on this album wins because of the melancholic and bleak atmosphere it creates and not because of complex riffing and intriguing song structures. But sometimes atmosphere is enough and in this case it´s more than enough. I really find "Vilosophe" to be an excellent release and a 4 star (80%) rating is fully deserved.