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Holy Martyr - Still at war - 75%

Radagast, July 3rd, 2007

True metal is often looked on as a needless genre name. Essentially epic traditional/power metal with lyrics themed on battle and glory, it is often viewed as a subdivision to many. One thing is for certain though - you know it when you hear it, and you most definitely hear it when you listen to Holy Martyr.

They play grandiose battle hymns in the style of 'Into glory ride' era Manowar, or perhaps a less orchestral version of Virgin Steele, and they do it with considerable style. The experienced Italian band have been around since 1994, releasing several demos and a couple of EPs before finally getting their full-length CD out, and their experience shows. Despite the somewhat dry production, it is clear from the start that they have been doing what they are doing long enough to get the formula right.

The 7 full songs on 'Still at war' are all expertly developed, with several bridges and harmony and solo sections stretching out the track lengths without making the songs drag. A 10-minute song in this subgenre often means the same 3-minute song played twice with a keyboard interlude padding out the middle – see Majesty – but in the case of "Hatred is my strength" the listener will perhaps be surprised to see the track length when the song, a mixture of soaring vocals and urgent, driving rhythms comes to its conclusion.

Musically, Holy Martyr are relatively simplistic. The drumming is unspectacular but fits perfectly, constantly pounding and driving the songs along. Similarly, the riffs are all fairly basic, but form the perfect basis for the melodies. The lead playing, though, is possibly the best aspect of the CD – the guitar solos do not simply appear and disappear at the expected parts of the song, but rather seem to develop naturally from the melody, with many guitar harmonies emerging and building up to a solo that later merges seamlessly back into the song.

This constant, marching sound is also the only real drawback – with everything going along at mostly the same upper-midtempo pace, with very similar rhythm parts, a lack of variety becomes apparent as the CD edges to a close. Only the thrash riff at the beginning of "Warmonger" offers something a bit different to the rest of the CD. The band have found a blueprint that they like and are sticking to it religiously – which is fair enough when they can write songs of this quality – but for the CD to find a regular place in the listener's rotation, something as simple as a power ballad in the middle of the CD may have been beneficial.

However, for a debut CD, 'Still at war' is a great effort from a band that will hopefully be given the backing to put out a few more. For fans of Manowar, Manilla Road and the like, it will provide one of the surprises of 2007 with its traditional brand of epic metal.

(Originally written for http://www.metalcdratings.com/)

True Epic Metal! - 90%

Orklord, June 6th, 2007

Holy Martyr is an Italian epic metal band. Raising the banner of true metal and ready to conquer the world without fear and with their debut album Still at War in the pocket. This Italian band has already a great reputation in the Epic Metal scene. The Demo and 2 Ep’s were received very well and everyone was looking forward to their debut release. Now finally after 2 years since their last EP was released they are back with a glory ride into the battle, because Holy Martyr is still at war….

A speech to the soldiers that’s where the album starts with and the army marches into battle. With the battle drums pounding, the war horns blowing we are getting closer and closer to the enemy. The tone that has been set this is just great and you can’t turn back, you can’t turn it off, you just have to listen. Battle cry! Holy Martyr managed to put you in the front row of the battle. Alex Mereu does a great job on the vocal part and with the great guitar work (there are some nice solo’s on this one) it keeps you into the music. On the song Warmonger we even have a thrash metal part, some heads must roll here! The best tracks of the album are in my opinion Vis Et Honor, Ares Guide my Spear and From the North Comes the War.
What about the production? The production really fits this album, the drums aren’t too loud, the vocals good on the front and the guitars and bass nicely in the middle of the mix which really managed to keep the atmosphere in it. I think that this album wouldn’t be so great with a real clean production.

After this I can only conclude that this is a top release and I wonder what the other epic bands will bring this year. This one is already a strong one. For everyone who love the 80’s, loves Epic Metal or Black Sabbath should check this one out.

Official writen for http://www.digital-steel.com/