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Some uniquely strange black metal from the 90s - 79%

Byrgan, June 17th, 2009

Martyrium plays a harsher form of black metal devoid of the typical melody of the usual suspects of the 90s. Though this still has some hooks with faster and medium paced sections. Yet, the music is something that ultimately might take some time to get used to due to their odd song writing habits. 'L.V.X. occulta' is juiced up with effects, either having the guitars retain a hazy amount of reverb, or the drums and vocals containing enough to drop an elephant in its tracks. Though the instruments are separated and loud enough to be able to decipher them. The music has this constantly moving nervousness to it. Like where some black metal bands might go for repetition and can occasionally only give you a hand full of riffs per song. Yet, Martyrium have attributes that could be likened to nail-bitting anxiousness and red-eyed restlessness from their ensnaring, stalking-it-from-every-angle tour of the black.

I would like to give fair warning right off the bat to any formally trained drummer, or someone who likes their beats a little more orthodox. The drummer, Neophyte, doesn't seem to have an issue with timing; more with compacted fills and consistent flow. Though no metronome that I know of could keep up with him or would be able to program his particular beats for example. They are just constantly alternating themselves and don't seem to be stuck using the same fills for more than 5 to 10 seconds, occasionally using even less time than that to consider what he just played. Either with awkward double bass during the medium sections, speed changes, abrupt cymbal clasping, or random hi-hat, ride, and even raunchy cow-bell hits. It would be a task to describe and capture all of his little quirks at every turning moment.

The guitarist can switch from using some savage riffs to some attention-grabbers and also some abstract and out of tune style of riffing. I wouldn't go as far as to say he is a technical virtuoso, but is able to apply these just mentioned forms into frequent changes and alternating moments. This even has some fitting acoustic parts and a few simplistic solos. During the last track it plays a simple clean guitar interlude while electric guitars mimic them in the background, and it seems to be one of the few parts that repeats itself for an extended period of time. The vocals add their own wild methods and additions to the recordings. He'll take advantage of the stretching reverb and delay and project his voice with some raspy yells and start ups. Like, 'ouwow,' 'yeow,' 'ugghh' and other heinous, fight-producing outbursts that give these recordings some standout identity. Think along the lines of the sudden vocal eruptions on Immortal's song 'Unholy Forces of Evil' but here being unrelenting through the course of the recordings, and I feel matching the riotous music instead of just being a character on their own terms. He peaks and rises them like a malfunctioning Richter scale causing seismologists and behaviorists to second guess themselves alike. Though they come off as mostly raspy, but with that lingering little trailing of his voice after he stops. It can create these layered vocals, with almost slight little overlapping delays at points.

There are a decent amount of interludes scattered about throughout the evolving time span. Like little pauses and breaks from being pummeled with so many changing factions on the metallic instruments. This includes some keyboards with background atmospherics and some narrative vocals speaking from dusty occult paraphernalia. This might be taking a nod to Acheron's 'Rites of the Black Mass' but coming out with more involving music and less typical of how they are going to be placed. Though at least half of the tracks begin with some different form of ear-manipulating keyboards to start in on and causing it to have this certain ritualistic mood as a result. This uses a neat feature where some riffs from the previous song will ring out and then carry over to the next track, as well as a few effects might carry over into the next song. Like they were possibly longer tracks at one point then split into shorter ones.

Germany's Martyrium seems to have come and gone with smoking obscurity from either being atypical and also possibly being on a smaller label didn't help. I'm not sure how rare this is; I picked the red cover version up in an auction some years back for a moderate price through a recommendation and still find myself listening to it. This release is experimental and unique sounding for being put out just before the mid 90s hit, where some ideas were just getting worked through and might have not reached a standard yet. There are aspects that resonate from black metal here, but don't have this check list with everything dutifully marked either. This has frequent double bass and even a slightly pronounced distorted bass guitar, and catchy moments like you might find in a death metal band instead of finding them through melodic black metal means. This isn't an unblemished album, though in the end Martyrium is great for breaking you away from potentially listening to a straight forward and normal sounding release.