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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.