Album Review: Manipulator - Drawing Secret Circles
Reviewed by Matthew Williams
It’s really hard to know where to begin with this review, as my brain is still trying to make sense of what I’ve just listened to. I feel like I’ve been audibly assaulted by a cacophonous barrage of mystifying sounds and words but yet my brain is saying, "I like it, in fact, I like it a lot" and wants me to play it over and over again.
This is the second album from New York City based avant-grindcore/death infused hardcore act Manipulator, and it’s a fairly ambitious piece of music, as the music draws parallels with the city itself, fast, loud and unrelenting. There are 20 tracks, yet it spans a meagre 14 minutes, with opening track 'Annihilated Prestige' taking up a huge amount of space, 1 minute 35 seconds, whilst other shorter blasts include 'Wet Tourniquet' 12 seconds, 'Darkness Derides You' 5.5 seconds and the brutal 'No This Won’t End' 4 seconds, so less is definitely more with these guys.
It's been created by Andrew Notsch, who has used music concepts from some of his past and current music projects, alongside longtime collaborator Tim Bradley from instrumental progressive/post-metal band This Is The Last Time, who supplies the lyrical content with a brutal honesty about the falsehood and lies of mankind. On the song 'Unleaded' the line of “Still pumping gas into a fucking shell” is a particular favourite of mine, but not quite as good as “You have many sides and most of them are ugly” on the terrifyingly brilliant and brutal 'Shit-Sided Die'.
Manipulator aren’t redefining genres with 'Drawing Secret Circles', but with every blistering riff, every blast beat and every scream, they are embracing the chaos around them to calm their soul. There are some poignant moments as well, with the song 'The Mask You’ve Made' typifying that by commenting that the ornate mask whilst being beautiful is "still obscuring the truth beneath it".
If you are looking for something that feels like having your knuckles dragged across broken glass, then this is definitely for you, as it’s catharsis through brutality, release through aggression, with the samples and sound work being manipulated to make for a very intriguing listen.