Betraying the Martys' Phantom is out now on Sumerian, but how big of a step up is it for the band?
Perhaps the greatest advantage to Betraying the Martyrs’ metal melting pot is that it makes for music that refuses to stagnate or sit still for too long. Incorporating black metal’s symphonic tendencies, blast beats, lurching breakdowns, clean vocals and soaring choruses into one mighty maelstrom, the Paris-based sextet have spent plenty of time crafting sophomore effort Phantom. It’s a record that strikes hard, fast and with a variety of different weapons, and whilst it’s not quite a total triumph, it’s a mightily impressive statement. The notion is set and set early that this is a band who don’t wish to waste any time. No fancy schmancy introductions here, just Jigsaw’s savage, furious blast beat to being proceedings. But then it morphs into a fractured beat followed a deathly slow beat-down, before soaring into an inspired chorus and gorgeous lead-led bridge. It’s worth pointing out that this accounts for less than two minutes of the record, whilst also acting as a useful taster for what’s to come. The same scatter-gun approach isn’t re-used too often, with subsequent offerings varied but featuring substantially less shape-shifting. http://youtu.be/yyWocPrUogQ That allows exciting offerings like the title-track with its thrashy stomp an opportunity to shine, and Phantom is all the better for it. Each of the thirteen songs on offer feels like it has an identity, with plenty of light, shade and a clear desire to offer respite from the metallic din courtesy of a trio of epic instrumentals, with a rather large symphonic streak. It flows surprisingly well when you consider how most of BTM’s peers set their phasers to pummel, and there’s a clear correlation between the variation on offer and the clear step up in musicianship on evidence from front to back. Front and center of that is Aaron Matts, with his grunts and roars sounding simply monstrous, double-tracked and coming closer than most metal vocalist do to invoking an actual demon. Phantom isn’t without its issues. Firstly, it’s missing just a few more standout songs.; the second half of the record in-particular is welcomingly varied but doesn’t impress quite as much as the first, the machine-gun blasts and slightly-cheesy soaring chorus of Lighthouse sticking out highest above the parapet. There’s also an undeniable sense that Betraying The Martyrs are rushing things just a touch, so excited are they to impress that they blitz their way through moments that require a little more control. The crushing conclusions of Where The World Ends and the title-track are prime examples, fading out far too quickly having established interesting elements. Finally, the inclusion, however tongue-in-cheek of a cover of Let It Go, centerpiece of Disney’s Frozen soundtrack, does the band a great disservice, lumped in as it is as the record’s fourth track when a wiser suggestion would surely have been bonus track status. Thankfully, these problems don’t conspire to ruin what is a particularly impressive and solid heavy record. The marriage of lighter, more progressive elements and a combination of modern and black metal makes for a noticeable step up for the band, and given the swathes of identikit bands attempting to marry the extreme and...well, not so extreme, it’s heartening to hear Betraying the Martyrs evolve with their tenacity, ear for melody and identity intact. 7/10 Phantom is out now on Sumerian Records. Many thanks to Lisa @ Hold Tight! PR.