London-based quartet The Manic Shine have a diverse and eclectic background: brothers Orren and Tamir Karp were born at the foot of Israel’s Golan Heights, but moved to the Scottish borders at the age of three and four respectively; lead vocalist Ozzie Rodgers did things the other way round, being born in London but raised in Dubai by his Syrian mother and English dad; bassist James Hutchinson is the only UK-born and bred member of this multi-cultural, multi-ethnic combo.
It’s this background that also serves to give the band’s debut album an equally diverse and eclectic sound, lying somewhere between the funk-rock smoothness of the Dan Reed Network and the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ mellower moments, the more commercial offerings of Rush and the ethnic sensibilities of System Of A Down, all steeped in a musically solid progressive rock framework, referencing everyone from Muse and Porcupine Tree to Incubus and Riverside along the way.
It’s a melting pot of sounds which sounds like it could be extremely confusing and result in a hotchpotch of styles: in fact, completely the opposite is true, as the different ingredients are infused and stirred together in a recipe that makes for an extremely interesting and enriching listen.
Opener ‘Tin Crown Kings’ opens proceedings in a very Muse-meets-RHCP mien, with its winding melody curling around a razor-sharp riff and Rodgers by turns lilting and snarling in his unique vocal approach: the track displays the a number of the number of stylistic blendings in its brief three-and-a-half minutes, with a combination of power, passion and superb musicianship twisting and turning its structure in and around itself with the smoothness of an Alpine highway.
‘(S)WORDS’ is punchier and more acidic, but again demonstrates how these four musicians can effortlessly switch moods and temperaments easier than Jeremy Clarkson can slag off a family saloon. ‘Avarice’ is funkier with a slight industrial edge to its main riff, while Rodgers’ vocals take on an almost ethereal feel, which not for the first (or last) time reminds of Francis Dunnery; ‘Scattershot’ has a very ambient, almost trance-like feel to it, while ‘Use Your Horizon’ is the most straightforward rock song, with its relatively simple riff and structure.
‘Leatherface’ re-introduces the complexity of the earlier songs, blending a metallic-edged guitar riff with a ballsy slap ‘n’ tickle bass and drum pattern, with echoes of SOAD and RATM in the underlying rhythm. Like ‘Scattershot’, ‘Libra’ is very laidback and dreamy, Rodgers’ vocal drifting lazily over Hutchinson’s genteel bass line and Orren Karp’s understated main riff. The lead single, ‘Weightless’ builds slowly, underpinned with Tamir Karp’s hypnotic drum pattern, before crashing into your ear drums with the ferocity of an Atlantic storm, washing over and around you and drawing you into its epicentre to leave you feeling exactly like the title as you drift off in its warm embrace.
‘Fiendish Means’ is very Rush-like in its use of light and shade, with a rolling bass riff interjected by some dark, stabbing guitar melodies, while ‘Siren’ rounds the album off in an almost lethargic, wind-down manner, with its gentle riff, swelling harmonies and another fine performance from Rodgers.
In summation, this is an excellent album from four superbly talented musicians who let their passion for what they do shine through their ability to do it and, in the process, have produced a work which is by turns challenging and entrancing.
Tin Crown Kings / (S)WORDS / Avarice / Scattershot / Use Your Horizon / Leatherface / Libra / Weightless / Fiendish Means / Siren
Recommended listening: ‘Weightless’
‘Let Go Or Be Dragged’ is released on Animal Farm on January 27.