Martyr - Warp Zone
Extreme Technical Metal
9 songs (39 Mins)
Release year: 2000
Reviewed by Dee
Archive review

Canada plays home to a number of technical death metal groups, perhaps two of the most famous being Cryptopsy and Gorguts. Martyr has links to both of these bands in guitarist/vocalist Daniel Mongrain, but their style is less brutal than the aforementioned bands, opting instead to infuse their sound with thrash and futuristic influences.

Warp Zone begins tensely (but quite familiarly, as it continues from their previous album, Hopeless Hopes) with eerie discords, building into an unconventional riff which probably makes more sense to robots than to humans. Further along the pace becomes quick and vocals are introduced; first come high, barked vocals not entirely unlike the style of Chuck Schuldiner albeit lower in pitch, and not as insistent as those of Jens Kidman. Later come more traditional death growls, although these are relatively rare.

Martyr like to challenge the listener. The title track is a mere three minutes long, but the group contrive to change style as often as possible; perhaps Daniel Mongrain's father was a transformer and his mother a chameleon? What makes this set of songs so well-realised is the fact that the band understands transition and they have the ability to smooth over what would be jarring changes in the hands of less experienced musicians.

"Virtual Emotions" also features tight riffing, varying vocal styles and ostinata in obscure keys, but it is relatively accessible and has a recognisable verse, chorus and other repeated parts, although they are altered as the song progresses. What makes it special is that it also features an absolutely blistering guitar solo that touches on the best of Death, Meshuggah and arguably Slayer.

I'll synopsise the next few tracks, although I won't able to convey the sheer depth of composition. "Endless Vortex Towards Erasing Destiny" is a patchwork of complicated time-signatures and melodic solos immersed in chord change hell. "Deserted Waters" is maybe the most straight-forward piece of death metal in evidence, although that's not to say that it doesn't feature plenty of stumbling riffs and time bubbles. "Carpe Diem" appears to be composed entirely of minor or diminished chords, reminding me at times of !T.O.O.H.!, Fear Factory, Scarve, Gorguts and even the soundtrack from the classic PC game "Doom." All this in one 4 minute song. It should really end on the amazing solo; I found the re-emergence of the vocals to be a slight disappointment, marring a spectacular song by making it end conventionally. Oh well.

"The Fortune-Teller" opens with a complex intro in which the percussion excels. At this point I'm tempted to restart the CD and listen exclusively to the drums - Patrice Hamelin appears to be able to do anything he pleases, which makes me wonder why he receives so few solo spots. This song also features an incredibly brash riff and I have to say it reminded me of the Fantomas. Coprofago and Meshuggah fans should love this one too, because it features *those* shimmering jazz chords as well as a floating solo ala Abnegating Cecity.

"Speechless" and "Retry? Abort? Ignore?" seem to lack substance having followed such a song, but they are still serviceable; it is tiring to listen to average death metal songs after an exquisite one but I will try to be objective. Guitarwork in "Speechless" is impressive, featuring a lot of speedy harmonic triplets, and the chord progressions are definetly Voivodian. "Retry? Abort? Ignore?" threatens to be a Fear Factory song with a hollow synth introductory sweep but blasts you with chaotic riffs and far more original drumwork. The singing here strikingly reminds me of Max Cavalera.

The final track, although lax in pace, immediately expresses itself as something special with dramatic chords and meaningful reprises of sequences found elsewhere on the album. Above all others, this is the track which yells "Dystopia!" with its computerized percussion and angular riffs. Much of the song is focused on a fairly conventional chord progression trying to jump its rails, so to speak, but the future tames it, signalling acceptance as a grim but hopeful voice narrates as the song fades to black amid layer upon layer of harmonic guitarwork.

This is not a perfect album, but the potential for excellence is immediately recognizable; if Martyr can learn to minimize their filler - or more correctly to time their brilliant parts to minimize damage to their more conventional moments - then at some point they will release an absolute classic. I can't explain every idea on this album to you, so you'll simply have to listen to it for yourself.

Killing Songs :
Warp Zone, Virtual Emotions, The Fortune-Teller, Realms of Reverie
Dee quoted 85 / 100
6 readers voted
You did not vote yet.
Vote now

There are 33 replies to this review. Last one on Sat Apr 15, 2006 11:50 am
View and Post comments