[April 22nd, 2012]
[Nuclear War Now! Productions]
03. Brutal Legions of the Apocalypse
07. Chaos Rape
08. Blood Prophet
10. Blades of Sheol
The apparent cresting of the New Wave of Old School Death Metal has given a bit of perspective on what the trend has really meant as a whole. Now I’m a hypocrite for saying this, as I’ll listen to anything that even vaguely smacks of Onward to Golgotha, but there’s only so may homages to specific bands or sounds (be it Swedeath, or Morbid Angel, or whatever) I can hear before they all start to run together. As in all things of course there are exceptions, exceptional death metal bands of this century taking the template of their forebears and twisting it into new shapes. Greek DM titans Dead Congregation are among the finest, conjuring the suffocating atmosphere of the New York school and combining it with a sense of melody that’s entirely European. For the most part however, these bands can be filed under the “entertaining, but ultimately disposable” column. That the first full-length by Australian horde Martire is another exception comes as no surprise at all. They’ve been around for decades at this point, sporadically releasing demo, EP, and split material throughout the years. Their self-titled album from 1991 is a minor classic of barbaric black/death metal. However, with Brutal Legions of the Apocalypse, an album almost 10 years in the making, Martire have created death metal that manages to sound not only unlike what they’ve done in the past, but really unlike anything the genre has given us before.
As with all music though, there are naturally some sonic reference points. Most notable is the bestial style of black/death metal pioneered by the likes of the almighty Blasphemy and Martire’s countrymen in Bestial Warlust. However, the unrelenting ferocity is tempered with well-developed displays of musicianship, comparable to the classic early tech-death found on the first two Atrocity albums, and even Human and Individual Thought Patterns-era Death. The technicality of the music gives it a great deal of complexity, without taking away from the wild, reckless feel of bestial metal. In the grand tradition of In the Sign of Evil, the drumming is anything but polished. The drummer’s frequent (almost constant) blasting dances every which way around the beat, and there’s clear variation in the force of every hit he makes on his kit, a constant reminder that the rabid frenzy lurking beneath the music is being produced by actual human beings. This combined with the stop/start nature of the riffing makes for one hell of a disorienting listen the first few times through. The bass player is no slouch either, generally matching the rhythm guitar parts with additional harmonies that are easy to miss if you aren’t looking for them, and occasionally letting loose with a solo as blistering and uncontrollable as those that come from the lead guitar.
The maelstrom created by this unrelenting mixture makes for a huge surprise when the band presents the second to last track, “Lucixion“, an instrumental that’s only measured and careful relative to the rest of the album. The barbaric fury returns with the last song “Blades of Sheol“, one of the best on the album, that ends with a tremolo-picked melody that crawls up and down like a swarm of insects and still leaves me with a sense of wonder at what in the hell my ears just heard. Certainly Brutal Legions is far from accessible, and it might take some time before you come to realize that there are actually songs happening (I know it did for me). But what Martire have made here is quite a grower. The album rewards repeated listens, with intricate compositions laid atop a vibe that is severely old-school without being merely content to retread the glories of past death metal greats. Martire have come to write their own glory in the blood of their enemies, and it’s about goddamned time.