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Martriden is a melodic black metal band from Montana. "Encounter The Monolith" is their second album, following up the promising "The Unsettling Dark." This new album improves upon everything on that debut record and expands upon it with near razor precision at song-writing.
As already stated, "Encounter The Monolith" expands upon the sound of the debut. These changes have moved the band into more progressive and technical territory, combined with their melodic style. While the previous record contained 10 songs, this record only contains 6 tracks, with many surpassing 5 minutes in length.
Opener, The Three Metamorphoses, starts things off with a bang. Starting fast and powerful and sounding like it was modeled after Emperor and Opeth. This track is most definitely an extreme metal song that moves through melodic black metal riffs as well as melancholic clean guitar parts that create an ebb and flow vibe to the song. Though this track exceeds 8 minutes, it doesn't feel that long, the band showcases some good song-writing abilities by focusing the overall sound on melodic and catchy riffs and fast drumming patterns while the vocals remain in the black metal vain. The guitars mainly stay within the black metal realm throughout most of the song, but moves into a bit of death metal during it's later moments. The final lines in the song are are the most melodic on the track, and acts as a small moment to breathe before the next track.
Heywood R. Floyd is a monster of a track, being rooted within more of a technical death metal sound more than black metal. This track exhibits more of a groove over melody, changing the pace. The bass is especially prominent in this track, displaying a similar style to Jeroen Paul Thesseling from Obscura. As the track progresses, it gradually becomes more and more of a progressive track, the use of keyboards to enhance the overall vibe of the track, giving it an epic feel. Guitar solos are littered throughout this track and bring that Opethian approach to this song. The drums are also especially creative throughout, using a lot of fills and different patterns to make the song less repetitive, while also adding to that progressive atmosphere.
Discovery is a track that brings more of a traditional sounding black metal approach to the table. The overall vibe from this song bring to mind the new Dark Fortress record, having a very catchy and accessible riff while still remains very technical and melodic. The melody on this track is undeniable and will instantly latch into your head. Nothing new is really demonstrated on this track that differs too much from the first 2 songs, but is still a good listen.
The fourth track, Human Error, follows a similar style to the previous, being less exploitative while demonstrating a different style. This track has a style that has much more in common with technical death metal more than the black metal style of the last track. This track does feature some cool atmospheric keyboards in the background. Being the shortest track on the album, it demonstrates that Martriden can write shorter, almost traditional songs while still showing a unique take on something old
The title-track is the follows next. This track is much more of an epic and atmospheric type of death metal song. Being a little slower than previous tracks allows the track a little more breathing room for the atmosphere to enhance the overall feel of the song. Clean vocals are first demonstrated on this song. Some more progressive phases come in and out of the song, making this track a particular highlight on this record. This track stands out among the rest due to it's overall slower and melancholic atmosphere, something that the band has not attempted on a song yet.
The final track is the 10 minute epic, Death and Transfiguration. This track shows a definitive reference to Opeth's sound as well as elements of Katatonia and Agalloch are experimented with on this track. The atmosphere blends well with the dark sound of the guitars and the more poly-rhythmic drumming patterns. The keyboards even seem to explore a bit of the 70's mellotron that Opeth has used so much in their sound. The use of more clean guitars come in about half way through the track, bringing in the Katatonia and Agalloch touches to the sound. Being very solemn and doomy without moving into doom territory, they are able to express a lot in this beautiful section before moving back into more epic metal sections. Although exploring a lot within this song, it is an instrumental track, showcasing the talent of these musicians.
Overall, this record has really impressed me a lot. Coming from a band that put out a solid debut record, that although was good, didn't really show anything new, and coming back only two years later with something fresh and unique sounding. While this record isn't entirely a new style, it is the best I've heard a band move forward within one record to another and develop their sound so fully. This record is one that people should hear, this band will appeal to fans of any of the band's mentioned above.
Highlights: Every track is a highlight
Originally written for :
And here we are with Martriden's 2010 release, Encounter The Monolith. I'm digging the abstract cover art. Album art with no logo is something I'm starting to become quite fond of since I've seen some great covers ruined by a sloppily thrown on logo. The "monoliths" also really stand out thanks to the limited use of colors. Anyway onto the music. A debut these days as strong as Martriden's previous is pretty rare in melodic death metal, and with most bands following the trend of perfecting their debut sound by the second album, it's a tough goal to live up to.
The first thing a listener looking at the tracklist might notice is the longer song lengths. Instead of 3-4 minute tracks, the tracks are between 6-9 minutes for the most part. This is an odd choice for any melodic death/black metal band, and I can't say it works out as well as I'd hoped. The first few tracks are pretty traditional Martriden, but everything feels much longer and drawn out, and with some questionable material added. It does flow better than their previous release, but I wouldn't say that the riffs really work together to create a great song. The length of some tracks on Encounter The Monolith makes some riffs feel almost tedious with the amount of repetitions. The vocals also seem to be lower in the mix, but the guitarwork is certainly more tight. There's also a noticeable amount of clarity to the instruments, yet they all sound much more aggressive. The band themselves described it as "their most brutal work," and I'd agree. It's certainly much thicker than The Unsettling Dark, which in my opinion is a good thing.
From a musical standpoint they still employ the same tactics as their previous album: plenty of harmonics, melodic riffs, a pounding double bass, and raspy or shrieked vocals. Tracks like "Discovery" and "The Three Metamorphoses" are pretty solid all around. There's a few more instrumental segments throughout the album to break up the "intensity," and no moronically titled tracks like "Intro" or "Prelude." A lot of the slower segments (IE: halfway through "Heywood R. Floyd") do feel drawn out as mentioned earlier. Some of the slower segments really end up feeling bland like those found in the closing track "Death And Transfiguration," which sounds like it was ripped straight from modern Opeth. However, they all most certainly fit aesthetically with the rest of the album. The repetitiveness of these parts is the only glaring issue on the whole of Encounter The Monolith.
I haven't given this album as much time to grow on me as I did with The Unsettling Dark which I perceived to be a fairly calculated album. Encounter The Monolith is much more experimental (although it never treads into progressive/avant-garde territory). So far I'm liking this release a bit more for that reason. Encounter The Monolith is essentially Martriden's way of saying that they're willing to find their niche sound despite not having succeeded with their debut. The more experimentation this band brings, the more hope I have for them finding a unique sound to set them apart from the droves of other, similar melodic death/black metal. Hopefully they continue down the path they seem to be treading.
I was immediately transfixed to the cover image of Martriden's sophomore effort, Encounter the Monolith, for the comic book meets Arthur C. Clarke aesthetic it inspired within me. But having little to no recollection of their debut The Unsettling Dark, I was not sure what to expect of the contents. Montana is not a place I tend to associate with a strong metal scene, though its low population seems perfect for the isolation required of more extreme acts that fall into the black metal, black/folk or ambient spheres. Lo and behold, Martriden offer living proof that the bluffs and woodlands do in fact shelter such monstrous imaginations, for this album is like a juggernaut from out of nowhere, that lifts you by the neck into the cosmos and then dashes your brains out against the nearest planets, asteroids and moons, at the same time hammering your brain with the hidden lore of the universe.
Style wise, they merge massive death metal rhythms with sneering black rasp vocals, all the while fashioning a symphony against the black landscape which smells with glorious atmosphere. We're talking birth and end of the galaxy all at once here, for their tones imply both space opera and science. Encounter the Monolith indeed...a journey of crushing weights offset with astounding segues of lightness, jerking the emotions of your insignificant human life down to the trilobites from which your distant racial memory has bloomed. The production of this album is simply unreal, superior to most recordings from far more cash-endowed, famous bands. It sounds like it was recorded on a bigger budget than something like Fear Factory or Mnemic, and yet features some of the similar, mechanical rambling in the giant, chugging rhythms. That is not to say there is any nu-metal or cheapened groove here, it's all presented like a body of rock rolling through space, sure to bring doom to any terrestrial body it meets.
The musicianship, while competent, is never showy or flatulent. Each bass and guitar line, each drum fill, all complement the darkness of the track between them, as do the synths, which glare into the firmament to provide a theatrical score to the titan-like movements of this cosmic bodies. There are six tracks and 45 minutes of music, so expect more than your share of drawn out material. To Martriden's credit, though, they make every moment so involving that the time will simply pass on by, sweat gathering on your brow as you feel like you've just witnessed first contact with your Creator. All of this praise having passed my digits, I do feel that the band does often lack in the truly memorable songwriting department. There are many solid, constituent riffs, and certainly the sum of these = full immersion to the experience, but few that I'd point out as 'you HAVE to hear this'. My favorites would probably be "The Three Metamorphoses" and the title track, but there is nothing here that lacks effort or full conviction to the ideals of the band's higher mysteries.
I keep wanting to circle the sun with all manner of interstellar metaphors, but coming back in to earth for a landing, I feel compelled to offer the bottom line: Martriden is a great fucking band, and we have very few acts here in America that can create such a gripping hybrid of black and death metal in such hi fidelity sound. Raw, primal kvlt black metal this is not, but an outburst of modernized vision from which the musical genre is but the larval stage. If Galactus started a metal band inspired by the novels of Clarke or other sci-fi isolation luminaries, it would probably sound like this one...just imagine that.
Highlights: Colossal shapes crashing and careening through a vacuum.