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Although not as critically acclaimed or commercially successful as their likeminded countrymen Ulver, Manes have traced a similarly intriguing career path, starting out as token members of Norway's black metal diaspora of the early '90s before branching out into an almost baffling array of divergent musical styles, including but not limited to electronica, drum'n'bass, and jazz. Originally conceived in 1993 by guitarist/keyboardist/programmer Tor-Helge Skei (aka Cernunus) and vocalist Thomas Berglie (known primarily as Sargatanas) in the town of Trondheim, Manes didn't record their first album, Under Ein Blodraud Maane, until 1998, but their reputation had already grown quite formidable by then, thanks to a string of incredible demos (1993's "Maanens Natt," 1994's "Ned I Stillheten," and 1995's "Til Kongens Grav de Dode Vandrer") -- all featuring a desolate, icy cold, synth-laden brand of "trve" black metal comparable to bands like Thorns, Limbonic Art, and Burzum. Unfortunately, Manes' two principals would experience a creative falling out soon after, and by the time a second album, Vilosophe, finally emerged in 2003, surviving founder Skei had surrounded himself with a full complement of musicians -- vocalist Tommy Sebastian Halseth, guitarist Eivind Fjoseide, bassist Torstein Parelius, and drummer Rune Hoemsnes -- the better to reinvent the band's sound into an avant-garde mishmash of metal, prog rock, trip-hop, and electronica. Needless to say, this radical transformation took many fans by surprise, and only a small portion were remotely interested or open-minded enough to stick with Manes thereafter, as they continued to experiment with increasingly bold creative choices on 2006's [View] EP and 2007's How the World Came to an End (which added second vocalist Asgeir Hatlen, and featured actual rapping in English and French!). In sum, there's no guessing where Manes will veer off to next, but chances are it will be shocking and unexpected. ~ Eduardo Rivadavia

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