Metal Psalter: ‘Metalmorphosis’ review

Praying Mantis once more emerges from the old British scene of the early 80’s and covers five of their classic tracks, showing that redoing classic songs isn’t always a negative cash-grab that reeks of either boredom or lack of ideas. Metalmorphosis takes five of the band’s classic tracks and gives them a modern day edge, all the while retaining the original magic that makes albums like Time Tells No Lies so amazing.

You have to wonder aloud if Bon Jovi listened to some Praying Mantis back when, particularly on “Lovers to the Grave”; it seems to me that intro piece sounds very familiar, but I digress. It seems many a band took to “borrowing” from these seemingly unknown early English metal bands and never afforded due credit, and Metallica is just as guilty all over Kill ‘Em All, but that’s neither here nor there. In fact, Mantis did enjoy some success over its career. The band was huge in Japan for many years, and still is still revered there to this day. How sad for the rest of the world that this great band never caught on more. After being dropped from Jet Records early on and having to cancel a U.S. tour with Black Sabbath you have to wonder what might have been had they hit the U.S. in proper fashion.

Well, here we have some fine NWOBHM-era music that enjoys occasional touches of current musical devices that showcase the band’s original, yet all-too-copied sound that equally great bands like Tygers of Pan Tang were able to employ to a high degree. My first taste of this band was around 1983 when I heard a dubbed cassette copy of Time Tells No Lies and immediately liked the straight-away sound of early Iron Maiden, albeit less punky and aggressive. What you get with Metalmorphosis is classic early metal that can suit the hard rock fan, the girly-girl glam rock queen, and the speedy/thrash metal fan that likes the occasional wrench in his or her quick-flowing machine. One listen to a track like “Panic in the Streets” and you can certainly hear the influences that a hundred-and-one modern bands utilize today. Here we are in 2011 and Mantis still sounds as fresh and vital as it did some 30-years ago. Vocalist Mike Freeland manages to completely make these tunes his own; his easy style and total New Wave sound make him a clear-cut choice to front this band and do these songs. I particularly like his version of “Children of the Earth”, which really sealed the deal for me on the EP before the rest of the tracks even kicked in, but, just in case, I listened to it all (three times) and here I am happily writing up a review of a band that never got anything even close to what they should have in terms of recognition or success outside of Japan.

To end this is a small, self-serving fashion and in my own Eddie Trunk moment, why is Praying Mantis omitted from Encyclopaedia Metallum? They were a very integral part of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, there is no question about this, and to exclude this terrific band from the otherwise stellar and appreciated directory is both sacrilege and a disservice to the NWOBHM era. That said, support this band, check out their website and be ready to be musically assaulted by one of the heroes of the most amazing scene to ever hit heavy metal.