Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Single Review: THE FRAOCH COLLECTIVE "Manitou" (Independent) by Dave Wolff

Location: Long Island, New York
Country: USA
Genre: Alternative rock
Label: Independent
Release date: November 7, 2019
Released on Neat Records in 1984, “Manitou” was an unusual single even for Venom. This was the year they were expanding on the shock value of “Welcome To Hell” and the Renaissance-era occult themes of “Black Metal.” “At War With Satan” was a full-blown epic inspired by Rush, the Book of Revelations and Milton’s “Paradise Lost.” “Manitou” saw them experiment with Native American folklore, specifically that of the Algonquian peoples. While simplistic, it brought you to sweeping deserts untouched by European expansion years before second-wave black metal. For its time it was a bold move for Venom and thrash metal in general.
Fast forward to 2019 and “Manitou” has been covered by the likes of Samael, Rotting Serpent, Ceremonial Castings and Antiquus Scriptum. While those covers show a different interpretation of the original, from what I’ve heard The Fraoch Collective’s interpretation is the most divergent. The cover was recorded for a possible Venom tribute, which may or may not be released. To make a long story short, the organizers declined to remain in contact with them so they decided to release it anyway, uploading it independently to their Facebook community page. Venom fans interested in checking it out can go there and give it a listen.
Covering Venom was an unexpected move for The Fraoch Collective after the proto-punk noir of their album “Oh, The Things We’ve Done,” but their version of “Manitou” is tightened and generally cleaner compared to the original. There is a dramatic contrast between the drum, guitar and vocals, so much of a contrast that it’s less a cover and more a reimagining. While the drums depict the Algonquian spirit much like the original did, the guitars and vocals sound like they were processed through a fuzzbox during the recording process. This effect gives the song an industrial metal feel, a step apart from The Fraoch Collective’s previous work.
Heather Dawson’s approach to the vocals radically reinterprets the song’s Algonquian mythos. Her tone and inflection suggest a manifestation of the Witch of Endor consulted by the shaman to invoke Manitou’s birth in human form. This dynamic makes the cover dangerously enchanting next to Venom’s straightforward, chaotic version. Her vocal technique in the chorus is concurrently transfixing and disquieting. You can visualize those ancient spirits roaming the sweeping deserts I gave reference to earlier. After hearing this I’d be interested in seeing what they do with “Warhead” or “In League With Satan.” -Dave Wolff

Heather Dawson: Vocals
Gregg Gavitt: Guitar
Marc Del Cielo: Bass, drums, backing vocals

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