Martyr Feeding The Abscess
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01. Perpetual Healing (Infinite Pain)
02. Lost in Sanity
03. Feast of Vermin MP3
04. Desolate Ruins
06. Nameless, Faceless, Neverborn
07. Silent Science
09. Echoes of the Unseen
10. Romancing the Ghouls
11. Stasis Field
13. Brain Scan
Many possibilities have emerged by the time a band reaches the decade plus mark of their existence; release a string of albums (usually averaging a new releases every 2-3 years and varying in quality and consistency), get a great reaction for the first couple years, fade out, break up and then suddenly gain fanfare/acclaim and proudly regroup, and a few take that road less traveled and do things their own way. Quebec's technical, progressive thrash/death metal monster Martyr have always seemed to be content with exercising the third option noted above. In their 12 year history, a catalog of three studio albums and a live record has emerged, each one packed with plenty of guitar acrobatics, strained vocals, incredible drumming and some of the best jazz fueled bass work outside of that genre. While retaining the intensity of fellow Canadian acts like Augury, Neuraxis, Quo Vadis, Cryptopsy and Gorguts (the last three all featured guitarist/vocalist Daniel Mongrain at one point or another), Martyr exhibit lots of exploration into realms a listener would likely find on records by Dream Theater, Watchtower, and Spiral Architect who, despite varying shades of aggression, keep things much more melodic. This powerful combination of sweet harmony and acidic harshness worked well on their debut "Hopeless Hopes" and was taken to the next level with the classic "Warp Zone." With their latest, Feeding The Abscess, Martyr don't tread much new ground, but still lead the listener on quite the journey, a trip worth taking more than once.
"Perpetual Healing (Infinite Pain)" is a 5 1/2 minute knockout with sharp leads and gripping rhythms that go full force before segues peppered with angular, Atheist like riffs come in and pure mathematical music madness ensues. "Lost in Sanity" has a great intro, a strong build up that relies heavily on traditional thrash flair and is sure to get heads banging and horns raised. "Feast of Vermin" reminds me of Death during their Individual Thought Patterns period with lots of meaty solos, pounding drums and just the right amount of melodic flourishes. An instrumental interlude, "Desolate Ruins" follows, really showing off the astonishing bass skills and is a nice break from the onslaught. "Havoc," which many Martyr fans got to hear pre-production material from when it was posted on the band's official MySpace page this summer, has some great contrasts especially with the intro/outro and is probably my favorite performance on the album in regard to the vocals. "Nameless, Faceless, Neverborn" rampages with technical brutality, and is largely instrumental, save for a few primal shouts/growls here and there.
"Silent Science" is a solid tune and thought a good show for all involved, doesn't really capture my attention too much beyond the first couple minutes, which unfortunately is the case at times with certain Martyr songs past and present. There are points where it seems they just tried to put way too much into a single track, a condition quite a few bands in this small subgenre are hindered by, Gorguts being a prime example, especially in their later years. Thankfully, "Felony" makes up with interesting time changes and spectacular six-string sorcery. Martyr closes out Feeding The Abscess with a four-part epic, "Dead Horizon." Though just a couple minutes long, the first chapter, "Echoes of the Unseen," is adequate proof of their professional, progressive playing while the second entry into the saga, "Romancing the Ghouls" is further confirmation of Martyr's daring tech metal finesse and powerhouse symbiosis. "Stasis Field" is a brief bit of ambient music before sinking into the depths of melodic death metal with "Shellshocked," one of the more in-your-face offerings on Feeding the Abscess. Finally, there is a cover of "Brain Scan" originally performed by Quebec sci-fi metal unit Voivod. I am not sure if this is meant to be the final piece of the "Dead Horizon" presentation or not, but it's good either way. Having never been a huge Voivod fan, it was interesting to hear Martyr's re-imagining of their work and gave me some additional appreciate for these pioneers, though having heard the bulk of the Voivod catalog before, it's still not enough to make me a fan.
When I've read other listeners views on Martyr, whether they are in person, a live/CD review, or on a message board, the main point of disaffection stems from the vocals. While both guitarist/vocalist Daniel Mongrain and bassist/vocalist Francois Mongrain contribute their respective styles, traditional thrash shouts for the former and death growls for the latter, neither are usually spoken of in the kindest words, even from long-time fans, who end of chalking up their acceptance of either vocalist as an acquired taste, a category which I put myself in. I don't think either Daniel or Francois is particularly bad when it comes down to it, not at all, but I think this band would be even greater with a new, dedicated vocalist. Especially since the vocals on "Hopeless Hopes" and "Warp Zone" were probably the best Martyr ever laid to tape and Feeding the Abscess really doesn't replicate that quality. Another problem, which I mentioned earlier, is Martyr's tendency to overload their songs, creating some self sabotage easily remedied by trimming the fat off the tracks and concentrating their musical focus more thoroughly. There is nothing wrong with experimentation and shedding the "verse chorus verse" mentality is an absolute prerequisite in the tech-prog metal game, but with Feeding The Abscess and now and again on their first two releases, Martyr get carried away in both arenas. While the band would be great even if these two changes never come to fruition, if installed, they could truly expand the boundaries of not just their own expectations, but of technical/progressive metal and death/thrash metal in general. Yet, as I state in the beginning of this review, Martyr are likely going to go their own way regardless of the opinion of this critic/fan (or any other for that matter), so I plan to stick along for the ride, as it's been well worth it up to this point .
The production is amazing; Pierre Remillard does it again, with the ever-popular Alan Douches at West West Side providing the mastering. The sound is clear but not too clean, allowing the technical wizardry to shine through but not so overtly polished as to hold back the heaviness. Artwork is some of Martyr's best yet, while the lyrics are what most have come to expect from this band; intelligent and interesting, but nothing so incredible that it becomes a life altering coda.
Bottom Line: Fans of Martyr's previous work will no doubt be impressed; inductees who like the output of bands in the technical/progressive death metal vein are sure to be blown away, but to enhance the effect, I'd highly recommend checking out their earlier releases as well. Not that this album can't be admired independent of its brethren, but the trio of albums works quite well together. Feeding The Abscess is what you've come to expect from Martyr, but not much more. A new throat behind the mic and some song editing would be fantastic alterations, but Martyr is still a force to be reckoned with regardless.