Progression is an attempt to bring the future into the present. Keeping with this idea, Havre, Montana's Martriden test the boundaries of blackened death metal on their sophomore album Encounter the Monolith. Vast in scope, the band's latest recording pushes heavy metal into new stratospheres with a mix of mechanical pummeling and symphonic flourishes. Lyrically speaking, its state of the art assaults are complimented by Nietzschean philosophy as seen in Stanley Kubrick's science fiction masterpiece 2001: A Space Odyssey. When combined, these components produce a modern killing machine which evolves brutality far beyond most of Martriden's contemporaries.
The first salvo launched on Encounter the Monolith is "The Three Metamorphoses," a mini-opus which marks a departure from the melodic, blackened death metal of 2008's The Unsettling Dark. Opening with eerie chanting straight out of 2001, the song next erupts into a whirling vortex of blastbeats and tremolo melodies before collapsing into Meshuggah-esque grooves. Following this, the tune drifts into the vacuum of space, reveling in hypnotic drum patterns and angular chords emitted amidst somber choral effects. This in turn ends in tour-de-force when the band lets crushing riffs gradually morph into swelling, triumphant melodies among the best on the album.
"Heywood R. Floyd" is up next, its inhuman guitaring the definition of precision pulverizing. Stabbing harmonies occasionally undercut the aural steamrolling, letting the song explore vistas of cold, stark melody not unlike recent Enslaved. Warm bass notes float beyond driving riffs and wall-of-sound keys, producing an atmosphere of enlightenment found in the deepest space. Though heaviness is the main order of the day, "Heywood" ends with labyrinthine passages heavily influenced by progressive metal and delicate, lush keys.
"Discovery," for its part, launches into icy tremolo lines and blistering percussion. Darker in tone than the aforementioned songs, it chills listeners with an aura akin to an asteroid leaving the sun behind in the depths of outer space. Beyond this, it displays Martriden's hyper-speed capabilities by letting the band stretch out breakneck passages so fast they seem glacial. It's an interesting effect, and one which drives the song into mind-warping territory.
Equally potent is "Human Error?" a song which should slay groove fanatics with ease. Brief in its devastation, the technical wizardry at play in "Error?" wears down eardrums into paste with an unyielding persistence. Buried deep within the chaos are squealing harmonics and glossy melodies, the likes of which counter the massacre with moments of beauty. Sparse and savage, it is the most ferocious cut on the entire album.
In contrast, the gargantuan title track is among the disc's most mesmerizing compositions. Beginning with some stellar death metal, "Monolith" eventually shifts gears entirely by transforming into a soaring passage of psychedelic chugging. Replete with angelic vocals, it marks a rare moment where the ethereal meets the extreme before vanishing again in an onslaught of metal.
The instrumental "Death and Transfiguration" closes things out by gradually unfolding its intricate nuances. Kicking off with soft acoustic notes, it next balloons into organ-laced dissonance before dying down into jazzy meandering. Blasting off with a killer riff, the song next travels through a well-orchestrated microcosm of the previous songs' textures and tones, ending things with a complex summary of the album as a whole.
Equally cerebral and bludgeoning, Encounter the Monolith marks a promising next step in Martriden's continuing progression. Though fans of recent Behemoth, Enslaved, and Meshuggah will all feel at home, Martriden have cultivated a sound which is definitely their own. For anyone who hasn't discovered this fantastic band yet, this is a great place for first contact.
The Three Metamorphoses
Heywood R. Floyd
Encounter the Monolith
Death and Transfiguration