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Martyr - "Circle of 8" (CD)

Martyr - "Circle of 8" CD cover image

"Circle of 8" track listing:

1. D.I.
2. Afterlife
3. Art Of Deception
4. Circle Of 8
5. All Warriors Blood
6. The Uninvited
7. Insensible Scream
8. Scene Of Hell
9. Fake
10. Justified Killing
11. Locked
12. Speed Of Samurai (Re-Recorded)

Reviewed by on November 11, 2011

"'Certainly worth a listen or two by almost anyone, but in the end, it's preaching to the converted.'"

Ah, resurrection. The fabled comeback. Haven’t you heard? Everyone’s doing it – artists big and small, high and low, from Fear Factory to Living Sacrifice in the New World, from Accept to Night In Gales across the pond. While you’re at it, toss in Holland’s Martyr. Promising also-rans in the ‘80s, their premature dissolution left behind little more than two studio albums, a few nods from the contemporary metal press, a cult fan base, and memories. 24 years later – after a live reunion, a handful of festival appearances, and an EP of fresh material – Martyr is joining the ranks of those circling around for the old college try, as their brand new full-length “Circle Of 8” makes abundantly clear.

So have they made it count? Essentially, yes, though that’s no guarantee they’ll be anyone’s darlings on the year’s-end lists. What we have here is a solid showcase of all the ‘80s strains that made groups like Metal Church such crossover heroes in both the thrash and traditional camps – updated with extra injections of ‘90s influences and modern production, for a beefed-up sonic experience. That in itself is admirable. For every classic Priest-type ripper plucked from the “Painkiller” era (“Afterlife,” “Art Of Deception,” “Insensible Scream”), there’s a track of undulating groove (“Circle Of 8”), vicious chug (“Fake”), or thundering doom (“Locked”), with smoky stoner rock riffs appearing throughout. The band manages to mold this all into a uniform package that, far from sounding desperate to attract a broad audience, reflects a seasoned maturity and a natural absorption of influences and ideas over the intervening years. Longtime Annihilator fans will appreciate the new (and, as I suspect for many, the first) incarnation of Martyr, as it mirrors Jeff Waters’ enthusiastic incorporation of all things metal and rock into his music, subgenre labels be damned.

However, unlike any Annihilator disc, “Circle Of 8” may have a tough time attracting a significant audience outside its preexisting one – or besides those already inclined to seek this specific type of music – because there is a comparative lack of hooks here. The musicianship is in top form. The production is commendable, balancing raw rock ‘n’ roll aesthetics with the precision of modern power metal. The songs are heavy. But few, if any, will remain in your head for very long. As far as “classic” metal goes, there are no classics to be found. “Circle Of 8” is certainly worth a listen or two by almost anyone, but in the end, it’s preaching to the converted.

Highs: Inspired mixing of latter-day elements with the '80s roots, rather than the tired "We're bringin' back the old school" posturing.

Lows: No hooks big enough to attract anyone not already a diehard traditional metal fan.

Bottom line: A worthy attempt by a long-absent band to update its classic sound, it nevertheless rings soulless. Only Metal Church fanatics need apply.

Rated 3 out of 5 skulls
3 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)