If we look back to past occasions when well-known musicians from different bands decided to gather under a common project, what’s usually described as an “all-star band”, we could think about good and bad results. Probably more of the later, due to the fact that they tend to create some sort of confluence of the different sounds of their respective bands and end up with something that lacks of own personality or cohesion. So, when I found out about this new entity called Martröd, and discovered its absolutely remarkable Black Metal all-star line-up, I obviously had my doubts on what I could find on ‘Transmutation of Wounds’, their first EP.
And I say this taking into account that I consider the personalities involved in this project from very good musicians to absolute masters of the darkest sounds. Obviously MkM (Aosoth, Antaeus) and Wrest (Leviathan, Lurker of Chalice) easily stand out, but if you add to them D.G. (Misþyrming, Naðra, Skáphe), Gionata Potenti (Deathrow, Handful of Hate, Macabre Omen, Acherontas …), H.V Lyngdal (Wormlust) and Alex Poole (Chaos Moon, Krieg and Skáphe) …. well, you simply have an amazing bunch of dark creative minds combining their crazy ideas.
‘Transmutation of Wounds’, which is presented under a very fitting cover by Misanthropic-Art (Alchemyst, Baptism, Eternity ...) , only includes two songs “Draumleiðsla” and “Draumleysa”, across sixteen minutes, which I must admit was a bit disappointing when I found out (especially taking into account the current price of vinyl records), but in some way we could say this is justified or understandable for a first effort given the depth and complexity of both tracks, which definitely require a few spins before totally correctly digesting them and getting caught by their thick atmosphere and twisted compositions. So at least they had a good idea by repeating the two songs on both sides of the 12” vinyl, as I’ve been turning the vinyl quite a few times since I received it (I know, I don’t need to do it as I can simply put the needle back on the same side, but understand it, it’s part of the ritual).
And, in some way, I should admit this first recording of the band can be described as I did for most of all-star bands a few paragraphs above, if we put an exception on the last part of that comment. Because in Martröd these five guys have found a meeting point for their deepest and most twisted ideas, managing to melt them in a very cohesive and impacting way, and spawning a beast that could be compared to some of their own bands due to its modern and complex approximation to the genre, but which also has its own personality and form.
Starting by the fact that both tracks are quite different, with “Draumleiðsla” showing their most extreme and sick face, on a somewhat Deathspell Omega vs Antaeus vs Leviathan kind of warped and mind torturing attack of blastbeats, dirharmonies and pure audial noise terror, with an amazingly twisted job on the guitar side mixing melodies, sharpened riffs and layers of distortion (one would sometimes think there’s keyboards given how surrounding the guitar layers are in some points) flowing on a rhythm section which, no matter the fast or slow tempo, keeps a very intense and suffocating pace (D.G.’s bass lines and Thorn’s drums melt just perfectly into a drowning bass effect), and crowning it with MkM’s always crushing performance.
“Draumleysa”, on the other side, flows towards more atmospheric and psychologically altering states of conscience, sounding like the perfect match between Lurker of Chalice, Wormlust and Aosoth, with a more mid tempo based skeleton above which all the instruments draw a somewhat nightmarish and at the same time beautiful kind of progressive evolutions, with some very atmospheric and even slightly calm moments (calling it Post-Black Metal would definitely be blasphemous for some I guess). Again, I could think some of the guitars are keyboards due to how ethereal they become, double bass drums take over the blastbeats (which are still present though at the beginning of the track) and MkM takes a more ripping tone which fits the more introspective form of the track.
Last, but not less important, I should mention the fact that this EP has an astonishing sound quality. Obviously, the fact that there’s only 16 minutes of music per side of the vinyl helps but, most importantly, the top tier production they’ve managed, which perfectly extracts every element in the mix, no matter how chaotic and complex the part is. The bass drum could be the only weak point (too triggered for my taste, especially when using the double bass), but the rest sounds neat and razor-sharp, and manages to create a real sense of depth and texture.
I really hope this is only the beginning of something bigger, and they will sit together and write some new songs very soon, as ‘ Transmutation of Wounds’ is a very promising release.
Gia Thanatos is a webzine dedicated to music for the apocalyptic times. No matter the scene or genre it comes from, and mainly chosen according to its author's taste.