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Cunning Mantrap: Hazmat (2016)

German band CUNNING MANTRAP was formed in 2011, and consists of three musicians with a passion for the rock of the 70’s just as much as the 1990’s. Their first foray as recording artists came with an initial EP which was released back in 2014. “Hazmat” is their full length debut album, and was released in the fall of 2016 through German label Fastball Music.

While one can hear that this is a band that navigate through a fairly expansive landscape as far as music is concerned, the greater parts of their material comes with something of a distinct 90’s flavor in general and grunge in particular. With an emphasis on the side of the genre with ties closer to 70’s hard rock than 90’s metal admittedly, but it is the sound of the 90’s that defines this band as far as I’m concerned.

The guitar work is the main and key ingredient throughout, guitarist McDunstan a musician with the skill set and capability to produce compelling riffs just as much as inviting guitar solo runs, intriguing gentler and acoustic motifs as well as gliding effects and occasional vintage funk-tinged vibes. More often than with an undertone of classic blues, emphasized by the bass guitar. Dark toned guitar riffs is a specialty of this band throughout, often of the kind that has a distinct reference back to the likes of Black Sabbath, and it is when the songs revolves around this key ingredient I find them to be most appealing as well. The lead vocals fits this sound best of all, the at times slightly raspy delivery  a subtle but effective contrast for the mainly more smooth guitar tone used, and generally speaking these songs do not demand as much of the lead vocalist either. The band can be fairly effective also when in more of a general hard rock and stoner rock mode, but it is when the sound is undeniably and unmistakably purebred grunge that they really manage to deliver the goods.

Some forays into slightly more adventurous and vintage oriented landscapes are present as well, but at least as far as I’m concerned they do not make that much of an impact beyond providing variation. A rather nice, firm acoustic cut with something of a folky vibe to it just about the sole positive exception in that department. One slight problem is that quite a few of them puts a higher demand on the vocalist to carry the song, so to speak, and at least at this stage he just isn’t that effective when this is demanded of him.

Those who tend to favor grunge bands with the kind of sound and mood to their excursions that reference back to the hard rock of the 1970’s to a greater extent than the alternative metal of the 1990’s appears to be a well suited audience for this German threesome. A well made debut album with a main focus on this style, from a band that at least at this stage is at their best when navigating in these specific waters as well.

My rating: 7/10

Track list:
Red; Company; Play the Prophet; Uncanny Volley; A Light That Should Have Shined; Detox; Weary; The Past; The Future II; Orange; Straight Outta Hand; The Curse of the Leaden Tongue

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