Martyr


Hopeless Hopes
(independent - 1997)
This excellent and underrated Canadian death metal band takes its cue from later Death and 'Unquestionable Presence' era Atheist, but is not quite as avant-garde as Cynic, at least on this debut. It's almost like the best of all worlds, with Death's flowing composition and energy (as opposed to Atheist's more jagged technical death), great solos, both Death's and Atheist's approach to technical death metal, and it even takes Atheist's jazz fusion further to the point of incorporating some Allan Holdsworth-esque soloing. Of course nothing can match Schuldiner's guitar solos and powerful compositions, but the jazz elements add a highly enjoyable and complex musical layer to this band's output. The result, as mentioned, is excellent somewhat-progressive death metal that I greatly enjoyed from the first riff to the last and which grows on you as only classic death metal can, except of course with more advanced riffing and solos. The vocals are strictly of the Chuck Schuldiner school of harsh barks/growls with thrash-metal-style yelling as well as some growling. Some have problems with it, but I felt right at home with it and it worked for me. There's no denying Martyr's eargasmic and zig-zagging guitar though, which goes from attention-grabbing sharp riffing with all kinds of jagged punctuation, to climactic harmonic and acrobatic solos, and back again. The music never sits still, sometimes it just shows off with different technical riffs, and at rare times its more about the technical riffing than the music, but the majority of the time if flows musically very nicely and builds up. Which means it has both technical wizardry for the mind as well as powerful musical enjoyment for the gut. That is, if you have a keen ear for their advanced compositions. Never boring, a little bit rough around the edges, but an instant death-metal classic for fans of Death/Atheist and fusion, and with a musical quality and flowing compositions that is rare in death metal nowadays. A superb debut.
Warp Zone
(independent - 2000)
Martyr up their game for this follow-up which launches into the proverbial warp zone. They do this by upgrading everything: The crushing energy, the vocal power (some growls added), the zig-zagging riffs and impressive jazz fusion, and the advanced flowing song-writing. As such, it sometimes sounds like Atheist influenced by Meshuggah and brutal death metal, without losing their song-writing skills or leaving their classic death metal sound completely. If their debut was great, this one is a crushing masterpiece of 'technical death metal', and it never lets up. The songs flow seamlessly from strange time-signature riffing, to invigorating Death-esque death metal, to Canadian-style blasting brutal death metal, to eargasmic jazz-fusion solos that release it all in a dizzying climax. There is much more fusion this time around and the dual vocals by two members this time are alternating barking thrash-metal style death growls and guttural low-range death growls, switching to suit the music. It's not perfect, as there is that tendency of technical death metal to shift from riff to riff without keeping in mind a theme or structure, but the flow, momentum and transitions are done superbly, and the fusion guitar solos sometimes somehow tie it all together, by playing on the themes, rhythms and sound of the song in an eargasmic convergence, before the final welcome recapitulation. So the weakness of the song structure is overcome with dizzying composition and constant momentum and flow, and then kinda glued together with fusion, so to speak. So overall, this is not as musical as Hopeless Hopes, but it is much more crushingly aggressive and features much more superbly enjoyable fusion. Standouts: All of the tracks are superb with many unique challenging riffs and rhythms, but 'Realms of Reverie' also has some epic dark melodic elements Hypocrisy-style. Fans of technical death metal with a special like for Atheist, Special Defects and Meshuggah should run to get this. The rest of you should grab it as well.
Extracting the Core (Live)
(Skyscraper Music - 2001)
As far as live albums go, this is strictly average with some points of interest. There's the good and the weak. The instrumental playing is superb and incredibly sharp, reproducing the complexity of the originals very well with impressive precision. As far as live energy is concerned, there is some, adding a little boost to the songs, but I am not sure it's enough to compensate for the lower sound quality compared to the studio releases. The sound is a bit muddy, and the mix is not the best, the vocals and guitars aren't as loud, sharp or energetic sounding as you would expect. In terms of the set-list... well they only released two albums, and this favors the second one, with only three tracks from the debut out of a total of 9 tracks. So it's not going to be seen as an upgrade for the older tracks either. So as I said, it's just an OK live album. I prefer the studio versions, but fans should enjoy this.
Feeding the Abscess
(Galy - 2006)
After a long break, Martyr return for this one final explosion of dizzying progressive death-fusion metal. I like to compare this band to that other triple-release progressive-death band, Atheist: If 'Hopeless Hopes' is their 'Piece of Time' in the sense of being Death-copycats with many unique touches, and 'Warp Zone' could be considered to be Martyr's definitive signature album like 'Unquestionable Presence' was for Atheist, then this one should be their 'Elements'. But not quite, as although this is indeed a head-first dive into more experimental music elements and advanced composition with a totally unique sound, unlike Elements, it is also an upgrade in aggression and power (a scary thought considering the crushing power of Warp Zone). I could also say that this is their 'Symbolic', not in the sense of its sound, but in terms of their apex of musical talent and eargasmic, flowing, most powerful and progressive songs. In a sense, it's good that they quit after this one because the next release would have been truly scary. This one features much more experimenting, more jazz, more dissonance, and more surprising zig-zagging and mind-blowing riffs than one can wrap one's head around. And as if that weren't enough, some songs suddenly break out into surprisingly avant-garde violin or atmospheric keyboards that somehow fit just right within the controlled madness. The first listen is guaranteed to be simply overwhelming. But even if you don't manage to get your bearings, the more musical and jazz-trained ears amongst you should be amazed. Musically, this is actually a step forward from Warp Zone despite all of the technical wizardry, because the song-writing is much better at maintaining a groove and a rhythmic theme or phrase. In other words, the songs tend to flow and build powerfully, with the guitars adding more dark music in between the crushing rhythms, rather than just hitting you with a collection of impressive riffs and arrangements. So if Warp Zone was a masterpiece and this is better, what is this? It is the very definition of sit-up-and-pay-attention exciting music, and each composition retains its own internal logic and flow. This doesn't just use fusion solos in between its death metal, the compositions as a whole are avant-garde while retaining their musical flow, using advanced chromatic scales and dissonant chord progressions combined with the brutality of death metal, making one's head explode. The primary vocals this time have lost a lot of their Schuldiner harshness and sound more like Slayer-esque barking. But it's still great, and it's also backed once again by some low range death growls. Fittingly, the album ends with a playful Voivod cover. A one-of-a-kind, ahead-of-its-time, musically overwhelming work of aggressive art.



The Last Exit 1996-

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