MANORA – Brave The Storm (Album Review)

Manora is a symphonic metal band from the Netherlands formed by guitarist Ivo Visser and keyboard player Arthur Stok. Completing the band’s line-up is drummer Tijn Scholtze, bass player Tomas Kisielewicz, and vocalist Mirte van der Ham. In 2017, the band released the five-song E.P. ‘Dreamshapes’, with their first full-length album ‘Brave The Storm’ emerging in 2021.

Featuring twelve songs, Manora‘s debut album soars through sixty breathtaking minutes – the band combining elements of power metal within their symphonic metal roots, resulting in a catchy and highly energetic roller coaster ride. The album glides into life with ‘System Shutdown’, a dramatic, short tension-filled intro, becoming a heavy-hitting and melodious power come symphonic metal belter. Delivered at a traditional metal pace, ‘System Shutdown’ is highly infectious with a soaring vocal performance from lead singer Mirte van der Ham. A delightful crescendo builds an epic atmosphere, as ‘The Traveler’ comes to life in a blaze of keyboards, thundering forth at speed. Very much a power metal gallop, ‘The Traveler’ maintains the soaring vocals of the album’s opener, yet the pace and power will provide many headbanging opportunities for the world’s headbangers.

The stunning vocals of van der Ham are matched by her looks and the album’s hooks – I get a feeling that on the back of such a sparkling opening double, the rest of the album is surely gonna be just as good…if not better! Maintaining the higher pace and tempo, ‘Break Your Fall’ is an absolute belter, galloping forth with a purpose and intent not heard so far. The power oozing from ‘Break Your Fall’ is overwhelming, the cinematic-sounding symphonic aura is incredible, and van der Ham’s vocals are just gorgeous. Last year I had the pleasure of reviewing ‘Lunaris’ by Moonlight Haze, and this year the stunning debut by Catalyst Crime – both of which had superb vocal performances by their female lead singers. And on both occasions, I was totally blown away – as I am with this release! Amazing.

Methinks I’m gonna run out of superlatives to describe the rest of the album way before I get to the end of my review – where’s my Thesaurus! Ah, got it… Right, where was I… Oh yes, the incredibleness of Manora, and their album ‘Brave The Storm’ – powering on with the majestic ‘Wired To Obey’. The energy and oomph are sky-high, the melodious intent off the charts, my love affair with Manora getting stronger with each song that passes, and my obsession with the stunning vocals of van der Ham reaching almost infatuation levels! And we’ve only had four songs – just a third of the way through! How am I gonna last? ‘Cause I’m a die-hard metaller with forty years listening experience behind me that’s how, and also the fact that I’m a professional. Infectious levels reach new heights as ‘Pull The Strings’ empathically thuds and thumps its way into view – the band performing at the highest level to produce the stunning music booming out my speakers.

I have already named three albums for Album Of The Year this year – methinks I’m about to name a fourth, making it a four-way tie! Just goes to show how much fucking great metal and rock there is around at the moment – who said metal is a failing genre? Get the fuck outta here! Metal and rock will live on forever. And so will this album – marvelously etching its mark into history. With a heavier feel than anything that’s gone before, ‘Endgame’ is a heavy hitter, yet with as much of the melodic edge that ‘Brave The Storm’ has strode upon all albums – the band effortlessly walking the line of melodious intent. A line that streaks through every single song on offer. Fabulous. With an emphatic upturn in energy and oomph, ‘Another Destiny’ strides on at pace, displaying an NWOBHM sounding guitar riff as it leaves the blocks. The traditional “foot on the monitor” feel of old-school heavy metal is tucked nicely within the band’s symphonic metal roots.

The edge of your seat cinematic sound of the album has been unrelenting since it began, now takes a back seat for ‘The Heavens’ – a mellow and serene atmosphere descending on the album. And a beautifully angelic vocal performance to boot. The sublime vocals fit the meld of ballad and hymn perfectly, ‘The Heavens’ a chance to get lost in the spellbinding performance of the band, and go all dreamy and starry-eyed at the intoxicating vocals of van der Ham… Bringing me back down to earth is the savage thundering of ‘Symphony Of Lies’ – a truly epic, cinematic-sounding torrent of symphonic metal. Heavier than most of the songs on offer, ‘Symphony Of Lies’ is a head-nodding, foot-tapping, aural delight. And the aural delights are far from over…

… there are still three songs left to go! ‘Dreamshapes’ continues the heavier feel started by the previous song, pounding the boards with intensity at its most intense. The emphatic nature of the band’s sound remains as high as ever too, ‘Dreamshapes’ is a charismatic and intriguing slice of theatre. The epic atmosphere has been an outstanding feature of ‘Brave The Storm’, with it now taking a back seat to the glorious sound of traditional heavy metal for ‘The Sacrifice’ – with its barnstorming foot on the monitor feel standing very proud. Manora has blended its symphonic metal roots with the styles of traditional and power metal to a fantastic effect. Now, as the old saying goes “everything comes to an end”, and so does this album – but always remember what the replay button was invented for! ‘A Beautiful Tragedy’ brings the curtain down on a breathtaking album, with its majestic swagger and cinematic feel, ‘A Beautiful Tragedy’ is like a big operatic finish, a truly show-stopping finale.

Overall, a superb and quite frankly stunning album of emphatic symphonic metal – a very strong contender for Album Of The Year.

Manora: Facebook

Release Year: 2021
Label: self-released
Category: Album
Country: Netherlands

Reviewed by Iron Mathew for Frenzy Fire, Metal Gods TV, and Metal-Roos.