Mandrake - Innocence Weakness
Doomy Gothic Metal
12 songs (50:12)
Release year: 2010
Reviewed by Goat

Following up the rather good Mary Celeste from 2007 was always going to be hard for gloomy Germans Mandrake, and here it seems that it may just have been a tad much for them, Innocence Weakness coming in a distinct second behind the earlier, superior album. Not only are the songs not as immediately arresting but they verge on outright dullness at times, something pretty bad for a band in such a cutthroat genre as this. I feel inclined to defend them, though, as they still do their sour-faced thing pretty well, in fact here the band are gloomier than ever. Even an examination of the cover art suggests this, moving away from Mary Celeste’s sepia-tinted fair-faced maiden towards a rather creepy child (or, it must be said, an even creepier midget) looking at you with a ghostly, blank face against a fairly plain grey background. It swaps the historical romance of missing boats and fair-faced maidens for the truth – it was rubbish back in the old days, when you only had to turn a tap on to catch cholera and common pastimes for children included being forced up narrow chimneys. So, Innocence Weakness’ dull slide down towards an apathetic death actually makes sense when looked at from that perspective – that was what it was like back then! None of your watery tarts really hung around back then making sad eyes at Gothic Metal types, did they? No, back then any moistened bints had better things to do, such as dying a slow, painful early death from TB! This is pretty well reflected from the music contained here, something between old The Gathering and My Dying Bride, Birgit Lau’s pretty airy female vocals fighting for dominance with a big, thick, Doomy style of riffing led by male snarls, backing keyboards woven into the mix without ever becoming oppressive.

Credit where credit’s due, this formula is actually rather good, the beauty/beast approach working well and knowing when to shut up, making way for the guitars when necessary. The songs themselves are never less than listenable, first track proper A Secret To Reveal nice and catchy but suffering from slightly daft lyrics, yet it’s the following Save Us From Ourselves which is actually the album highlight, all the instruments coming together wonderfully as the growl-dominated drive spits forth grumpy bile, frequent riff changes and a wonderfully atmospheric shift in the middle of the track touching on the sort of theatrical flourish that Nightwish might do with a bit less Pop in the mix. Otherwise, the album is a pretty mixed bag. A Serenade To The Sea is pretty much Gothic Metal by numbers for the first half, bouncy rhythms supporting Birgit’s voice before a Jesu-esque bit of meandering starts up, gathering speed and turning almost Post-Black in a wacky way, before fading out and leaving you wanting more. The following Among The Demons doesn’t provide anything so vibrant, though, and instrumental interlude Innocence is nice, but never really goes anywhere – quite a contrast with Autumn Infinity, driven by catchy riffage and bouncing about almost... cheerfully! Fortunately the outlook is soon bleak again, Coma shuddering woefully throughout its nearly six-minute running time, albeit not as lacking in energy as its name would suggest. Indignation and Existence are good, but not great, and by the time you’ve reached superfluous ballad Silhouette it’s easy to wish that the band had made a shorter album. Were this shaved by ten minutes I’d have scored it better, but as it is... although Innocence Weakness isn’t awful, it isn’t brilliant either, and I can see fans being genuinely disappointed at the band’s stagnation. Always a shame to see a talented band with a good formula relying too much on genre standards when it should be experimenting more, yet that’s exactly Mandrake’s problem right now. Let’s hope someone gets a vaccine in them soon, else they’ll really be courting death...

Killing Songs :
Save Us From Ourselves, Autumn Infinity
Goat quoted 69 / 100
Other albums by Mandrake that we have reviewed:
Mandrake - Mary Celeste reviewed by Goat and quoted 84 / 100
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