ManDown – ‘We Want Blood’

By Ian Kenworthy

When their original bands tapped out, two fighters stepped back into the ring – battered and bruised, but baying for a return to form. ManDown is the name of this tag-team, a power-duo who still have music to make and, with debut EP ‘We Want Blood’, they’re proving there is plenty of fight left in them.

Hailing from Farnborough, drummer Lawrence Arnold and guitarist/vocalist Iain Turner have long been friends, but ManDown is their newest joint project. As former members of bands like Ipanema and Welcome the Howling Tones, they have a wealth of experience behind them, yet as a two piece they’re making music that has little in common with either group; instead, they’re aiming squarely at post-hardcore in a form that’s as stripped back and powerful as only a duo can be. It’s a hefty and raw sound, yet whether Turner’s guitar is throwing out massive riffs or striking chords, it is hugely satisfying.

The squeal of feedback that opens the EP quickly establishes the band’s aesthetic and, for comparison, their riff-heavy assault sits in the middle ground between streamlined two-piece bands like Rival Bones and the noisy aggression of ’68. With just four tracks, the EP rips past in twelve minutes, but with so many quality riffs battering you from left and right, it makes for a wild and thrilling listen.

You don’t have to look far to be impressed. All told the EP is a varied ride, and it’s genuinely surprising just how much is packed into each song. Highlights include the huge contorted second half of ‘Tick Tock’ and the driving power of the title track. ‘We Want Blood’ is relatively direct and sticks to a simple verse-chorus structure, using a meaty riff to do the song’s heavy-lifting, while the drums pound a weighty rhythm. This allows Taylor to yell the chorus’s straightforward message, forcing you to pay attention. In contrast ‘Kiss’ features a more expansive sound and you can hear the duo stretching their muscles – after drawing you in with softer singing and guitar arpeggios, it opens out into a fractured love song. Despite not skimping on their trademark riffs, it paints using much broader strokes and shows just what they are capable of.

The EP cover features a blood-stained snare drum, serving two purposes; firstly, it’s eye-catchingly bad-ass, and secondly, it gives you some idea just how powerful Arnold’s drumming is. It’s a delight to hear him thrashing the life from his snares on ‘Try or Die’ or pounding the toms on ‘We Want Blood’ but he’s just as comfortable creating space when needed and plays with surprising nuance.

The EP was produced by Chris Coulter, who helmed records by the likes of Idles and Arcane Roots, and also features contributions from post-hardcore legend Jamie Lenman.  Between them, they’ve captured the band’s rawness while keeping the sound on the right side of accessible. Think back to the debut EPs of bands like Reuben or Hundred Reasons and you can draw clear parallels. Most notably, the live drum sound, the power of the guitars, and especially the way the vocals are presented, creates a refreshingly honest sound.

Turner is not a great vocalist by any means but his rough, strongly-spoken style serves the music well. At his most effective, he spits mouthfuls of words on ‘Tick Tock’ or hammers home the powerful statement of ‘We Want Blood’, but he always holds your attention by twisting and varying his delivery.

Lyrics are often a case of personal connection and a vocalist can usually get away without being a poet if they can really sell the words. At times, this proves difficult for Turner – there’s a short section of ‘Tick Tock’ that feels like he is spit-balling and much of ‘Kiss’ is quite heavy-handed. Given a topic he was really passionate about or a few clever turns of phrase, he could have made a stronger impression.

ManDown are punching above their weight with ‘We Want Blood’. and while it is not quite a knock-out blow, they have come out swinging hard. If this is how good their statement of intent sounds, you’d better be excited about what they try next.

IAN KENWORTHY

Three more album reviews for you

Jet Fuel Chemistry - 'Sign Of The Times'

Misery Signals - 'Ultraviolet'

In Hearts Wake - 'Kaliyuga'