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Feeding, Advancing, Enhancing… The Metal - 99%

bayern, May 30th, 2017

A second creative peak for Martyr; not that’s something to lo and behold, or rather listen to. After taking a low profile for over six years, the guys returned with this masterpiece which nearly matched the magnanimity of its predecessor. An unexpected feat having in mind the long gap between the two albums, but the Mongrain brothers can’t possibly produce something non-stellar, can they? The success of the album reviewed here shouldn’t be a surprise, either, as the brothers have expanded their palette beyond the rigid death metal template, and have incorporated more flexible progressive metal elements plus a healthy doze of the good old thrash; and with the inclusion of more optimistic, trippy psychedelic “excursions” one may start having a nostalgic sense of deja-vu with the late-80’s works of Voivod ringing in his/her ears, among other more or less known opuses from the distant past.

There’s so much to hear here that the listener may get oversaturated at some stage with the dizzying complexity and the infernally woven riff-patterns. “Perpetual Healing” leaps and bounds all around with loads of inventive riffage served in a most dishevelled, jarring manner with pacifying interludes and virtuoso bass parts amply provided to enhance the hallucinogenic atmosphere which hits the top with the funky/jazzy lead-driven passage the latter a great reminder of highlights like Cynic’s “Focus”, Alarum’s “Fluid Motion”, and Extol’s “Synergy”. “Lost in Sanity” is a dramatic busy shredder with cumulative rhythms and more linear thrashing additives, an interesting contrasting symbiosis which also picks up some deathy aggression at some stage, but it’s the eccentric spacey technicality in the middle that goes away with all “the laurels” for creativity and audacity. A wild, unpredictable ride which “Feast of Vermin” tries to put into more tangible frames with a portion of great melodic leads initially, but the less ordinary intricate “skirmishes” resume in a jumpy, unnerving fashion disorienting the fan as to what to expect since the delivery is really multi-faced with Voivod-ish dissonances, elaborate spastic knots ala Realm, and atonal illogical riffing in the vein of Mekong Delta. “Havoc” brings back the death metal madness, but in a very sweeping overwhelming manner recalling “Warp Zone” with a cavalcade of riffs that would make even Necrophagist and Theory in Practice listen with care; puzzling mazey thrashing follows suit the surreal atmosphere further enhanced by more bizarrorramas in the vein of the Mekongs again where the time and the tempo shifts occur every few seconds, not to mention the Erich Zann-esque violins at the end.

“Nameless, Faceless, Neverborn” carries on with the death-laced acrobatics which are thrown at the listener in a most perplexing fashion with stunning fretwork exploding from every corner; a lot of progressive, multi-layered drama which has its calmer moments where the gorgeous leads reign supreme trying to win a most difficult “battle” with the dense riff applications. “Silent Science” incorporates a marginally more static, robotic thrashy riffage, but this gimmick works just fine alongside the more elaborate progressive build-ups those distantly recalling the guys’ former idols Death. “Felony” chooses a more minimalistic, mid-paced rhythm to warm up, and later on the approach doesn’t become very speedy save for a few isolated Atheist-like spirals which don’t have time to develop since it’s the weird Voivod-ish march that takes over in the second half interrupted by more brutal death metal-ish outbursts. “Dead Horizon” is a 4-part etude which begins with a nearly jazzy hallucination the riffs jumping up and down in a mechanical, staccato manner before more orthodox technical death commences intertwined with some irrational, albeit thoroughly mesmerizing thrashing akin to the Vietnam River Band time and again. The last part of the etude reaches nearly classical virtuosity the guitars forming a knot of compelling pyrotechnics not bothering to speed up too much through this intriguing heavy miasma. The Voivod cover of “Brain Scan” is a brilliant way to end this utterly absorbing saga, done faithfully with great attention to detail about preserving the futuristic, dissonant character of the original.

Second time was already the charm for the band so whatever else was released after the godly “Warp Zone” was going to be taken readily and swallowed by the fanbase without any further expectations. However, the guys outdid themselves again here without repeating their winning formula note-by-note. Being absent for whole six years from the scene, there was hardly a handful of metalheads expecting the band to pull themselves together to such an extent… Well, they did and the world couldn’t be a happier place with these fabulous Martyrs around. Sad was the moment when they announced their split-up due to musical differences. I guess some wanted the death metal back in “full metal jacket” while others insisted on following the path of the Voivod, or this very long Vietnam River all the way to its delta. Speculations of all kinds can arouse here, but at least there were some who weren’t completely unhappy with this unexpected turn of events: Daniel Mongrain joined his peers Voivod to replace the sadly departed Piggy. A great honour and a duty that the man took very seriously as evident from his outstanding performance on “Target Earth” which brought the thrash back into the legends’ repertoire with full force.

Things look really good in the Voivod camp as of now. Mongrain will be sticking around, and this should be the case. “Once a martyr, always a martyr”, though, as people use to say… one never knows when his old comrades will decide to exert themselves for some more suffering, and for another vital feeding campaign to solidify the foundations of our favourite metal.