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Martriden - The Unsettling Dark

Label: Candlelight Records
Format: CD
Released: 2008
Reviewed By: The Goat
For those of you who may recall, Martriden's EP blew me away. I was eagerly anticipating the release of their new full length. Well, it is finally here. So, surely you are wondering, does it match? Is it as amazing as the EP? Can Martriden deliver?
 

I am mixed about “The Unsettling Dark.” Don't get me wrong, it is an excellent album. Part of me wonders though, if the appeal of the EP was the shortness of it creating the illusion of more intensity. “Unsettling,” being a longer platter, is laid out and it allows Martriden to explore many of the themes that they had compressed in the EP. In this case, it is a more deliberate exercise in metal delivery. Whereas the EP had to drive the point home with one swift direct attack and leave the listener wanting more, “Unsettling” unfolds like the slow wings of some dark being readying itself to take flight and it is somewhat more easy going with its destructive attack.

“The Calling” offers some very diligent driving rhythms that are somewhat like Morbid Angel but not as outthere as Trey Azagthoth tends to be. The drumming is tight and rapid. The vocals are very dark as the snarl across the rhythms. The real fun begins, though, with “Ascension, Part I.” The serpentine rhythms and rapid fire of the drums offers are real malevolence. Whereas the earlier parts of “Unsettling” were fairly straight forward blackened death (or deathened black) metal, “Ascension” drips with melody and exhibits more or less an At The Gates sensibility in its shredding.

Martriden demonstrate where they may be compared to Opeth with “Ascension, Pt. II.” “Part II” arrives from the confines of “Part I” by way of a very melodic, clean guitar tone before building up to a melancholic maelstrom of drums and sweeping guitars. This is the dark winged beast taking flight and soaring out of Hell. I worry for Montana's skies with such an elemental darkness present there. The beast is grounded with “Processional for the Hellfire Chariot” which delivers a hymnal reminiscent of early Dimmu Borgir yet without the Norwegian snarls or over-the-top symphonic element.

The title track creeps in with a soft and gentle acoustic guitar intro before squeezing the listener's brain between the blastbeats and sawblading shreds of the guitars. The drums are like pistons hammering down and pressuring the song to put the pedal to the medal (or metal, to excuse the bad pun). The song drops into a majestic groove that is reminiscent of old, pre-alien abduction-fixated Hypocrisy. This is the anthem for the legions of Hell, or at least their cousins.

Martriden truly deliver on “Prelude.” Where the rest of the album is excellent blackened death, there are times where I am not as impressed and I am left waiting to hear them really tear it up. “Prelude” is the song that delivers this. It has the melodic quality that I found so appealing on the EP and it is so well constructed to give malevolence that one only finds in certain classical music. “Prelude” is very much the song that will allow further comparisons to both Morbid Angel and Opeth at their extremes.

It seems that Martriden are intent on rewarding the listener who can stay unbattered by their devastating pummeling. “A Season In Hell” showcases their most varied songwriting. A little past midway in the song, the battery gives way to simply plucked acoustic guitar that allows the ears to rest before the march begins again.

Overall, while “The Unsettling Dark” delivers quality metal, I felt a little cheated. Perhaps this is a good thing. Perhaps, I was hoping too much for an exact American clone of Opeth. Considering this point, I realize that if Martriden where to follow the Opeth cookie cutter mold, they would be torn apart by the critics.

So, I remain mixed. While it most assuredly is an excellent album, I am left wondering if there was not more that could have been done. I suppose this marks Martriden as being smarter than me since they once again leave me wanting more. I suppose the only true test would be to see if Martriden can match their recorded intensity with their live performance. Perhaps, then I would be satisfied.

Or maybe not. After all, I am inclined to believe it is a good thing when an artist or band leaves you salivating in the dust.

 
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