Martyr – Circle of 8 (Metal Blade Records)

Saturday, 23rd March 2013
Rating: 7/10

Not to be confused with the Canadian Martyr who recently lent guitarist Daniel Mongrain to Voivod, this particular Martyr is a once-forgotten thrash/traditional metal band from Holland. Initially a European breakout success in the mid-80’s, the band called it a day in 1987, only to reunite in 2001, thus working their way back up the underground ladder, resulting in adeal with Metal Blade for the release of their first studio album in seven years, Circle of 8.

At first glance, Circle of 8 could be planted right back into the 80’s and wouldn’t sound out of place, for the production has the ring and snap of the albums from that era. ‘Tis a strange sound for some (including this scribe), who unfortunately have become all-too-familiar with over-processed and sterile-sounding production jobs. Because of this Circle of 8 does have its flaws, including a rare spike in bass volume and the drums occasionally getting lost in the mix. Still, it’s refreshing to hear an album this natural-sounding.

The band’s thrash edge still remains (think Flotsam and Jetsam circa Cuatro), as heard on the very catchy “Afterlife,” which is probably the best song of the 12. Singer Rop van Haren’s clean and throaty delivery has enough grit to it to complement the speedy “Art of Deception,” and power metal-tinged “Insensible Scream.” The attempts at meathead balls-and-chunk metal is the album’s Achilles heel, as heard on the clunky “Fake,” which sounds like a watered-down Pantera in the chorus.

It’s a tad weird to hear a band of Martyr’s ilk considering the direct plays to Flotsam and Jetsam, and disregarded 80’s Euro thrash. Circle of 8 is easy to digest, definitely, yet it sounds dated, which is bemusing. Metal is all about regurgitation these days…hard to reconcile why this doesn’t sit the way it should.

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