Martyr – Warp Zone (2000)
Anyone expecting a Super Mario Bros themed album from from this Quebecois band is at best a hypothetical person I made up for the sake of a questionable lead-in joke. I’m sorry to bring such doubt to your existence, but please keep reading the blog, since each view does count. Warp Zone is instead a “technical” death metal album, with a great emphasis on instrumental prowess and unusual musical elements (by the standards of death metal). It’s not as shred-oriented as something contemporaneous like Necrophagist’s Onset of Putrefaction, but the emphases are clearly there. At least on Warp Zone, Martyr gives us a clean-burning, compositionally varied album that arguably dials back the aggression and violence a bit but is still recognizably death metal.
Warp Zone definitely hits my buttons, as it packs a great deal of intricate musical ideas into its relatively short 38 minute length. Martyr experiments with both melodic/harmonic and rhythmic/textural ideas throughout in ways that bring to mind not only earlier tech-death, but some of the more fusion oriented metal bands of the ’90s, in particular the polyrhythm-heavy, jazz inflected Meshuggah (at least from the days before that band went full atonal). The densely packed compositional style is a double-edged sword here, though – some tracks benefit enormously from the number of musical ideas they explore, while others devolve into a boring mess. I usually don’t end up recommending more repetition to the bands I discuss on Invisible Blog, but Martyr might’ve benefited if they repeated the good stuff.
More academically, the ‘riff glue’ problem has been perhaps over-featured here, but it’s at least relevant to a discussion of Warp Zone. Martyr’s musicians are definitely trying to pack more music into a duration than most of the bands I discuss here, so the effort they have to expend to be coherent is c0rrespondingly greater. Ironically, the album seems to come off stronger when you listen to the entire thing than its individual sections. I’m not sure how that came about, but you could probably assemble a reasonable hypothesis revolving around aesthetic coherence, since Martyr doesn’t make many excursions into alternative instrumentation on here. Another possible cause is that due to the generally short songs, any moments that would come off as especially shoddy in isolation get replaced with something similar but better executed in record time.
Either way, Warp Zone eventually ends with a more relaxed outro/summary in “Realms of Reverie”, after which the user has to think about whether their experience was optimal or not. It’s hard to say, really; I have some issues with Martyr’s composition process, but it does produce a few strong tracks and no especially awful ones. If you like this style and vintage of death metal, it might be worth a shot.
Highlights: “Virtual Emotions”, “Carpe Diem”, “Speechless”
P.S: This band has its own screensaver! Check the official website, which… hasn’t been redesigned since the heyday of Internet Explorer 6, but that probably means it’ll run on your old Windows 98 machine. You still have one, right?