'Withering in Voluptuous Embrace'

(Americane Line Prod/Witchcraft records)

MARK: 89/100


Sometimes you get a pleasant surprise when you least expect it; used to the low-quality of most of the recent releases, I thought of a flat and not involving album as Malta is more known for a long-time Death metal scene. Yet this overpopulated island counts not many bands actually, of which the most important are Abnoba, Abysmal Torment, Achiral, Angelcrypt, Anhedonia, Apotheosis, Arachnid, Archaean Harmony, Beheaded, Biblical Infamy, Enshroud, Forsaken, Hemlock, Hydra, Ktinodia, Norm Rejection, Oblique Vision, Sceptocrypt, Slit, Stench of Necropsy, Vandals, Weeping Silence and Martyrium, the only Black metal band as far as I'm aware.
They wouldn't have competitors even if there were 40 other groups dealing with the same genre, since their debut proves to be a top-notch record from the beginning, as to arranging, lyrics (concerning satanism, infanticide, religious rites and oppression, insanity, cruelty and death galore) and originality.
The intro "Insanity Dancing with Crimson Tides" is a mix of voices and reminds me of a mad and brakeless village feast with all that derives from that; it's a good prelude to "The Ebon River Princess", elegant vicious specimen of diabolical Black alà Cradle of Filth; excellent is the entwining among keyboards, drums and vocals, as well as the fairy-tale break followed by soft female vocals sliding on velvet keyboards lines till the end; a final mention to the superlative and technical passages, rich of mysterious and majestic flavour.
"Chrysanthemum" makes you think of luxury and spectrality at the same time hovering during the serene moments, whereas the distorted ones contain quite brutal Death vocals. The spine-thrilling screams return alternating with symphonic woman's vocals on the trail of Nightwish and with growls. The previous song is the highlight of the album, but this one reveals a more elaborated songwriting capacity and we don't have to omit citing the superb funereal keyboards lines in the central part as well.
Rife with symbols and veiled allusions, "Eden (The Divine Entrap)", grows gradually until grafting a total Death riff and a good bass work; very precise the feminine vocals by La Marquise DeSade; at a certain point even declamatory male vocals show up, and so do they in the next 2 tracks.
The plam of more atmospherical composition by merit goes to "The Hatred Cornucopia", initially opened by morbid keyboards lines. To the inspired DeSade's vocals sobs and trillings are added; the male vocals are razor-blade-like but the mistake is in the too low mixing.
"Restrained in Demonic Gyves" melts Death, Black and baroque keyboards patterns, evocative clean male vocals, sighed ones and female tender vocals once again; of course there also screams and growlings, yet the peak of the song resides in the 3/4 drum beats.
The longer and hopeless composition, "Promises",contains liturgical keyboards and a deadly, gloomy break; together with the lyrics, I can't but think about Pupi Avati's great 1996 flick, "The Arcane Enchanter", a movie I strongly suggest you look for. I have to admit it's the song I like a tad less and maybe it's because it's the older one; it was composed in 1999, while the others were produced in a session in 2002, therefore it may be deducted a relevant progression in the band's results, also due to a few line-up variations.
Finally, "Tears from the Demented Heart" offers a synthetized sax at the head and tail; it's dejected, mournful and wintry, and that also owing to its majority of instrumental parts. Absolutely the deign closure of teh album, nevertheless unsuitable for the live shows, for it's too diverse from the rest of the material.

Martyrium strive to sound personal and keep the attention high often enough. The main faults of this however warmly recommended first album are clearly the usage of a few drum sounds of low quality and the lack of lyrics, which need to be downloaded from their website. As said before, they are ably written, and although there are no anthem-songs here, it remains a shame that they can't be integrated in the booklet.
If you started with Cradle of Filth to move on to Norwegian Black metal, elitaire Black metal, minimal Thrash/Black metal of the old school (Mayhem) or the new one (bands from the Moribund Cult roster) and forsook this niche of Black metal claiming 'it sucks but it's good to commence', you might find fairly interesting passages in any event. On the other hand, if you crave for skillful and crushing vampiric symphonic Black metal with ear-perforating vocals, you'll love "Withering..." and probably buy the second CD too.


Current line-up:
Vargblod - Guitars and backing Vocals
Moloch (ex-Dysmenorrhea) - Bass and backing Vocals
Lucifuge Rofocale - Vocals
Necropaedophile - Keyboards
Count Mortem (ex-Lithomancy) - Guitars
La Marquise DeSade - female vocals

E-mail: countmortem@martyrium.net
Official site: www.martyrium.net

-Withering in Voluptuous Embrace (CD - 2002)
-The Carnage Lit by Darkness (CD - 2005)