Early Mantas recordings reveal rough, bruising future for Schuldiner, Death

The movie industry loves a prequel. Take an already successful franchise, imagine how it may have really started, put it on a movie screen, print cups for Taco Bell or something, and it’s money. That’s all that matters, right? People are suckers for this stuff, so let’s print the tickets.

Well, if the prequel is good enough for movies and even television, then why can’t that transfer over to metal? OK, yeah, I know we get early band demos from groups who go onto achieve great heights in order to fill out a reissue, but that doesn’t really count, does it? Those are more like clips that ended up on a studio floor. But how many times do we get to hear how a legendary band came to be before they even thought about carving out the path that brought them to stardom. Thanks to Relapse and their incredible job fleshing out the back catalog of death metal pioneers Death, we’re now getting to learn how Chuck Schuldiner’s legacy came to be by way of the band that preceded his life’s most noteworthy work.

Before Death ever became an entity, there was Mantas. That group wad comprised of Schuldiner on guitar and vocals, Kam Lee on drums, and Rick Rozz on guitars, and the latter two also would play in Death at one point. The group’s short run under this moniker consisted of a few demo recordings that basically helped pave the way for Death, and kind of like your neighbor’s band that puts together rough versions of their songs, understandably not a whole lot of attention was put into production. But unlike your neighbor’s band, you can hear the makings of genius in these songs, and easily can understand how they went from this to a fully realized thing once Death’s debut “Scream Bloody Gore” was released a few years later. Granted, only Schuldiner would play on that record, but what these three guys accomplished in Mantas’ short time together certainly helped shape that.

You’re basically getting a collection that features the same songs over and over again, but this was a young group with not a lot of material, so what can you really expect? What’s here is quite interesting, and it’s neat to hear  how a track such as “Legion of Doom” twists and turns subtly over its three takes found here (one being a rehearsal version). Same goes for each version of “Evil Dead” and “Death By Metal,” that happens to be our title track. Yeah, you have to be listening closely to really detect these nuances, but chances are if you’re putting down cash for this, you’re one whose likely to dissect. It’s also interesting that these guys were kicking out aggressive thrash more than actual death metal, a move that would come a little later. The rehearsal stuff’s cool, and the band sounds really raw and hungry, and if you grab the deluxe version, you even get a nice set of live cuts from a September 1984 performance in Orlando. It’s quite interesting to hear, and as noted, while there certainly was room for growth with Mantas, you can hear that they were on the right track. History obviously proved that true.

This Mantas collection probably is for Death hardcores only, and someone unfamiliar with Schuldiner’s work — if those people exist — probably won’t get a lot out of this. It might not even be an album you listen to a whole lot if you are a Death follower, but that’s OK. It’s more of a collector’s item, a must for those whose Death collection isn’t complete without every ounce of music related to the band, and those folks should eat this up.

For more on the band, go here: http://www.facebook.com/MantasOfficial

To get the album, go here: http://www.relapse.com/search_result.php?search_by=all&q=mantas&x=0&y=0

For more on the label, go here: http://www.relapse.com/