As undeniably compelling as it is, Phantom the new album from Betraying The Martyrs is also a bit of an odd beast to digest and get excited about. At times it roars with an invention which sends tingles down the spine and in other moments inspires sighs of disappointment, yet for those lesser moments where its persuasion flounders, they are more often than not swiftly followed and consumed by twists and ideation which leaves the passions ablaze once again. It is a release which maybe too often leaves thoughts unconvinced but it also provides a deeply intriguing and insatiable satisfaction in its turbulent wake which is impossible to ignore or dismiss.
The Paris based sextet of vocalist Aaron Matts, guitarists Baptiste Vigier and Lucas D’angelo, bassist Valentin Hauser, drummer Mark Mironov, and keyboardist/vocalist Victor Guillet forge a sound reaped from the strenuous depths of extreme metal, djent, Metalcore, hardcore, and progressive metal, though that is still only a hint of their tempestuous creativity and sound. The success of debut album Breathe In Life pushed the band into an intensive spotlight especially in North America which you can only see Phantom fuelling further and to a greater spread across the metal scene. Released via Sumerian Records, the album is in many ways summed up by opening track title Jigsaw, not only in sound but in that tracks feel like their elements and ideas are slotted together, generally seamlessly but with the occasional piece in the wrong slot.
Phantom is also an open progression from its predecessor, reaching deeper into and expanding the essences found upon Breathe In Life whilst infusing new twists and imagination. Jigsaw instantly descends on ears with antagonistic rhythms and jagged riffs, their attack predatory and controlled within a brewing sonic rapacity. The song is soon releasing the handbrake though as guitars tear way at the senses with snarling riffs and scything hooks bleeding death metal malevolence and metalcore vitriol. It is a quick contagion which flourishes further with gutturally spawned vocals aligned to a cleaner suasion of voice. It is not a startling start to the album and though certain aspects like the coarse vocals and melodic respite is strained at times, the track is a thoroughly captivating encounter with flirtatious temptations within its smothering wall of sound and aggression.
The following Where The World Ends opens with a classically seeded piano caress aided by clean vocals and a dramatic ambience which is as suggestive as it is enveloping. It is an outstanding start which rises in weight and intensity with rolling heavy footed rhythms and the evolving growling vocals of Matts, already showing himself to be a formidable vocalist. In no time the seductive start is a maelstrom of viciously flung rhythms and sonic fever equipped with splinters of sonic spite and djent spawned hostility. Again, with a demonic tone to the vocals which easily slip into a cleaner lilt at times, the track ignites the imagination and senses potently as the album continues to grow and increasingly impress, though the fade-out is annoying and for personal tastes always lazy.
Walk Away swaggers in next with an agitated gait within evocative keys to make a strong and potent start, guitars and bass again unleashing their volatile sinews to skilled and resourceful effect. The soaring harmonies and orchestrated climb which emerges from the ravenous entrance of the track soon defuses the striking impact, leaving thoughts lost and unsure in the unexpected turn of the song. Though perfectly and fluidly infused, there is an unsatisfactory feel to the move with the returning animosity of sound eagerly welcomed, especially with its twisted hooks and senses scorching vocal causticity. It is undeniably a powerful track but one almost trying too hard to be different and exploratory which leaves it prone to an unconvincing offering just as with next up Let It Go. The band’s latest single is cover of the song from the movie Frozen, and epitomises the album in many ways. Its melodic start is soon under a carnivorous swamp of metalcore ingenuity and savagery which leaves ears and passions ablaze yet then proceeds with admittedly great clean vocals to temper its assault with a melodic balladry to which the hoarse vocals lose their potency. The track has proven a fan favourite it seems but left us cold and totally underwhelmed, though there were still elements which enthralled.
Both the atmospherically haunting instrumental L’abysse Des Anges with its beautifully sculpted melodies and grooves within a rising climactic breath, and the incendiary storm of Phantom (Fly Away) bring appetite and emotions back into the sturdy lure of the album. Featuring Gus Farias of Volumes, the second of the two is a bestial predator of a track, leering at and gnawing over the senses with uncompromising rhythms and ferocious riffery, both aspects sharp and antagonistic beneath the spread of vocals. There is also a maturity and in places a reserve to the song which sets it apart from most others on the release, and proves the depth of potential within the band.
What’s Left of You is another to stir up the imagination and a fresh breath of hunger for the proposition, its barbarous presence underpinned by a great swinging yet understated groove. Keys provide a delicious drama and adventure to the adversarial climate of the track, merging in the creative rabidity with radiant enterprise and unpredictability. Whereas the mix of extremes failed to impress within the likes of Walk Away and Let It Go, here everything fuses gloriously proving that when Betraying The Martyrs get it right they have the potential to set new standards.
From the ok instrumental Afterlife with its epic nature and melodic poise, the pinnacle of the album erupts. Legends Never Die is a monster of a track, crippling riffs and viciously swiping rhythms bringing body and senses to their knees whilst grooves wind tenaciously around the inhospitable spine of the savaging. The thrilling keys of Guillet provide misaligned colour to the fury at times whilst in other moments flowing, as the clean vocals, magnetically through the voracious predation of the track. It is a masterful brute of a song though it is another, and far too many on the album, which simply fades away as if the band do not know how to end its design.
The final quartet of songs on Phantom, ebb and flow in their success with firstly Lighthouse a track which alone thrills and deflates across its barbarous terrain though it is more the former to be fair. The following brief instrumental Your Throne leads into the sadistic and enthralling landscape of Our Kingdom, a full on tempest which at times loses its definition of elements such its corrosive assault but matches that with some rich flights of melodic and inventive textures to chain thoughts and attention rigidly. It is a track which leaves you wanting more which the final song Closure Found is happy to provide with its similarly structured and uniquely flavoured tsunami of intent and voracity. As mentioned earlier when the band gets it right they excel, and to be fair on Phantom they do more often than not come up with richly pleasing successes.
It is not a classic album or one to set the passions blazing consistently but Betraying The Martyrs is not a band to short change on imagination and brave exploration which makes Phantom for all its ‘issues’ an easy to devour and recommend encounter.
Phantom is available now via Summerian Records @ http://www.merchconnectioninc.com/collections/betraying-the-martyrs
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