Circle of 8 is the first full length return for Dutch rockers Martyr since their return a couple of years ago, an album that reignites the appeal they had at their height in the mid 80’s fused with an attack forged in modern intent. The album consists of twelve bustling tracks that link their origins to the now with satisfying effect if not with spectacular results, but overall is an enjoyable album that achieves its aim to entertain and rouse the spirit.
1982 saw Martyr begin their five years of existence, grabbing strong acclaim and adoration from fans and the release of their two albums, For The Universe (1985) and Darkness At Time’s Edge (1986) which became cult metal classics. Compilation appearances and shared stages with international bands saw their stock rise even further until they disbanded in 1987. Then in 2001 the band reunited to play the Heavy Metal Maniacs festival, and four years later the Headbangers Open Air and Keep It True festivals when most of the 1982 line-up came back together. The closing dark of 2008 saw the band support Lizzy Borden on their European tour, and the following two years had Martyr supporting legendary acts such as Flotsam & Jetsam, Vicious Rumors, Jaguar, Evergrey and more around Europe.
2009 also saw Fear a new EP from the band released coupled with a re-release of For The Universe as a double digipack on Rusty Cage Records. Now back with a vengeance the band entered the studio during 2010 and 2011 in between live shows to record Circle of 8, which is released this month on Metal Blade Records. The album as well as a welcome return for existing fans is sure to garner in an ever increasing source of new fans with its strong heavy rock sounds and determined metal power.
The album starts off with ‘D.I.’ a strong track that sets the release off impressively if not dramatically. The great military drum beginning from Wilfried Broekman is not particularly original but always gets the pulse rate stirred up. Catchy and probing riffs from guitarists Rick Bouwman and Marcel Heesakkers race ahead with deliberate intrusion whilst the bass of Toine van der Linden drops strong rhythms alongside the eager drums. The vocals of Rop van Haren are enthused with good control which is not always the case further into the tracks of Circle of 8.
‘Afterlife’ follows with a firm Metallica/Megadeth like feel and lifts the levels from the satisfactory opener. Urgent riffs and striking guitar play sets the track up well to pleasure the senses with skilful old school metal and 2011 intensity. The track like the album is a grower with subsequent plays unveiling some of the deeper creative touches and punishing elements. Musically throughout the album the band are tight and creative, their heavier and more forceful moments outweighing their melodic interplays though these are striking enough. At times the band is wonderfully incessant as on ‘Art Of Deception’ and ‘The Uninvited’ and in others demanding with riffs and power that batters the senses as in the title track and ‘Justified Killing’. There is great variation throughout from the hard and dirty aggression to classic rock in songs like ‘All Warriors Bleed’ and ‘Scene Of Hell’.
Circle of 8 is a good album but the major flaw comes from the vocals of van Haren. Now admittedly personal taste is coming into play here as classic rock vocals and high squeals always bring a cringe and unwanted taste but at times where the music has leapt into the now van Haren has not, his delivery is straight out of the 80’s and the band’s heyday and at times it does not work as well as they and he deserves. The tracks where his clean swells and supporting growls merge are by far the best and most effective and hopefully this is an area they will pursue ahead. As said this is part personal taste and probably not an issue for many others.
Martyr is not only back but looking more forward than behind with Circle Of 8 an album that will please the old and the new fans equally.