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Martyr
Fear the Universe

Company: Rusty Cage
Release: 2009
Genre: Traditional
Reviewer: Vinaya

  • Releases sound like the works of two very different gatherings of minds



  • As a certifiable loony when it comes to vintage Euro metal, I am rather surprised that I had never heard of Netherlander's Martyr until this oddly titled double CD package came my way for review. For those of you who were just as confused as I was upon reading that seemingly nonsensical album title, Fear the Universe is a shortened hybrid title for the two rather short- and very different- albums contained herein: Martyr's new 2009 reunion release "Fear" and their 1984 debut "For the Universe".

    A lot can change in a quarter century, and comparing these releases side by side, heard in quick succession, reveals that Martyr are indeed a band whose sound has changed considerably since 1984. A listen to their reissued debut reveals a busy, melodic, ambitious but somehow rushed-sounding approximation of a spaced out version of French metallers Sortilege or a low-budget, echo-heavy Maiden derivative. Pop in the Fear disc, however, and you will hear much more modern, slightly more polished, but fairly basic chug metal that sounds like the work of a band weaned on Tool and 90s-era Metallica.

    Confused? So am I. Sure, a band can change their sound considerably over time, but the two releases combined here sound like the works of two very different gatherings of minds (even though the same two guitarists and bassists are present throughout). For the Universe boasts tricky song structures, tasteful but not particularly remarkable melodic soloing and soaring vocals over tuneful, very European-sounding riffs. Fear, oddly enough, chucks most of that out the window in favor of the more modern (but still adventurous) sound described above.

    There is, however, one feature that I find common to both releases: a sort of naiveté that was somewhat expected and welcome for a new band, but simply a head-scratcher this late in the game. The debut sounds like the work of an ambitious, determined bunch of upstarts who wanted to lay down something impressive but hadn't quite developed the necessary chops and general know-how to execute it properly (in the case of this album, the recording quality didn't help either). On Fear, meanwhile, the band have managed to get a much more professional recording job done (with improved playing tightness to match), and a bit of the compositional adventurousness is still there, but the new songwriting approach seems a bit trendy, derivative and indistinct.

    In short, it seems that Martyr are a band who appeared promising from the get-go, but have never managed to forge (or rather, stick to) a distinctive sound to call their own. Fear, in particular, seems the work of a commendably creative band stifled by stylistic second-guessing, perhaps in a misguided attempt to sound current. Really, I simply don't know what Martyr are trying to do musically, and frankly, I'm wondering if they themselves even know.

    Choice cuts: Fear's "Eaten Alive," which combines the Tool and 90s Metallica-type sounds (including a very James Hetfield-like vocal on the chorus) with an intro riff that could have come from the For the Universe days; and most of the debut album, but especially the valiant "Speed of Samurai."


    About this Writer:
    Vinaya Saksena // Vinaya is either a writer who dabbles in guitar playing, or a guitar player who dabbles in writing. A Maximum Metal staffer since 2004, he has also served as a reporter for several newspapers in Rhode Island and Massachusetts. Although his obsession with music is such that it does not allow time for much else by way of hobbies, he also enjoys traveling, trivia, photography, British comedy and the occasional A-Team re-run.

    Maximum Metal Rating Legend - Click for Full Details
    5 Excellent - Buy it and say a prayer to the metal gods that you were tuned on to this masterpiece. A classic.
    4-4.5 Great - Almost perfect records but there's probably a clunker or a lacking somewhere to keep it from perfection. You won't feel bad about dropping some bones on these.
    3.5 Good - Most of the record is good, but there may be some filler. This is the OK range where you'd search for the record on sale or used.
    3 Average - Some good songs, some bad ones at about a half/half ratio. Could show skills but be dull overall. Redeeming qualities for indy bands are effort and passion. Majors that don't try or suck outright end up here.
    2-2.5 Fair - Worth a listen, but best obtained by collectors. There is much better metal out there.
    1-1.5 Bad - Major problems with music, lyrics, production, etc.
    0 Terrible or an otherwise waste of your life and time.

    Note: Reviews are graded from 0-5, anything higher or not showing is from our old style. Scores, however, do not reveal the important features. The written review that accompanies the ratings is the best source of information regarding the music on our site. Reviewing is opinionated, not a qualitative science, so scores are personal to the reviewer and could reflect anything from being technically brilliant to gloriously cheesy fun.

    Demos and independent releases get some slack since the bands are often spent broke supporting themselves and trying to improve. Major releases usually have big financial backing, so they may be judged by a heavier hand. All scores can be eventually adjusted up or down by comparison of subsequent releases by the same band. We attempt to keep biases out of reviews and be advocates of the consumer without the undo influence of any band, label, management, promoter, etc.

    The best way to determine how much you may like certain music is to listen to it yourself.



    ALL FULL REVIEWS FOR: MARTYR
    CD
    TITLE BAND
    DOR
    REVIEWER DATE
    Fear the UniverseMartyr
    2009
    Vinaya Saksena1/7/2010


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