Manntra must be one of the most polarizing bands arriving from Croatia, who people either seem to love or hate. The band’s beginnings could be traced all the way to 2007, when guitarist/vocalist Marko Matijević Sekul and bassist Zoltan Lečei formed an industrial metal band Omega Lithium. With Omega Lithium they managed to release 2 full-length albums and gain popularity outside Croatia, most notably in Germany. They toured throughout Germany and played on some of the best known German metal festivals. In 2011 Omega Lithium split-up and Manntra emerged out of the ashes. Marko and Zoltan were soon joined by a drummer Andrea Kert and around that time a second guitarist Marko Purišić also joined. They released two albums “Horizont” and “Venera”, which sounded like a continuation of Omega Lithium, albeit a bit more commercial and with some folk elements included in the music. Afterwards, Marko Purišić and Zoltan Lečei left the band and they were replaced by guitarist Boris Kolarić and bassist Danijel Šćuric, who was soon after replaced by Maja Kolarić and third guitarist Filip Majdak joined. At that time the band got noticed by German medieval rockers In Extremo, who helped the band’s breakthrough in Germany. In 2017, the band released their third album “Meridian”, which saw the band’s sound shifting towards more traditional folk metal and In Extremo’s vocalist Michael Rhein was featured on the album’s title track. Afterwards, the band toured throughout Europe (also played on Wacken Open Air) and had another line-up change with Filip Majdak leaving and Marko Purišić returning to the band. Thus, came the fourth entry in the band’s discography called “Oyka!”.
The band started a promotion of this album by applying for Croatia’s choice for the Eurovision song, on which they presented the first single from the album called “In the Shadows”. The song showcased the band’s usual modern sound combined with traditional Croatian folk music and it was a pretty good indicator of what this album will be like. Sound mixture on this album could easily bring Eluveitie to mind. However, the sound on this album shares more similarities with bands of Eluveitie’s former members Cellar Darling and Irij than it does with Eluveitie itself. The folk elements on this album are way stronger than they are on their previous records. Bagpipes and traditional Croatian choirs are used frequently throughout the album and they give the album an overall pleasant folky feel.
Another noteworthy fact is that on this album the lyrics are mostly in English, while on the previous albums the lyrics were completely in Croatian. There is even one song completely sung in German called Murter, which features the band’s more and more frequent collaborator Michael Rhein. For those who don’t understand German, there is also a Croatian version of this song on the album, no English version though. This track also features one of the band’s first attempts at a guitar solo. The other track that features a guitar solo is “Fire in the Sky”, which is quite possibly the best song on the album. The song also features the band’s first attempt at growling. However, due to the fact that Marko has naturally raspy vocals the attempt comes across as barely noticeable.
The band’s biggest weakness might easily be Marko’s vocals. His raspy vocal style is not the one that sits well with everybody, but on this album it doesn’t really harm the songs in any way. It is not the strongest vocal performance captured on a record, but it is ok. The other thing which might be considered a weakness are the lyrics, which vary a lot in quality. For example, we have “Rakhia”, a typically folk metal party song stylistically reminiscent of Alestorm, which works well on the musical level. But on the lyrical level not so much because the lyrics of this song are problematic to say the least. On the other hand, we have a semi-ballad “Everlasting”, which has some of the best lyrics this band has ever written and offers some very good storytelling.
This album shows the band experimenting with many new ideas, of which some work better while other not so well. The band has made some noticeable improvements compared to their previous releases. There are still things the band could improve upon, but overall this is a very solid record. It is a very fun listening experience, which every folk metal fan could easily find enjoyable. So I personally recommend checking out this album if you are a folk metal fan. Even if you are not, check it out anyway because you still might find something for yourself to enjoy.