|Musical Style: Epic Metal||Produced By: Andy Menario|
|Record Label: Underground Symphony||Country Of Origin: Italy & USA|
|Year Released: 2005||Artist Website: Martiria|
|Tracks: 12||Rating: 85%|
|Running Time: 63:26|
The Italian power metal band Martiria can trace its roots back to 1987 when it was first put together by its founding member guitarist and keyboardist Andy Menario. Originally pursuing a doom-oriented musical direction, Martiria recorded two demo tapes and played several live exhibitions over the next ten years before disbanding. The name Martiria was recently resurrected, nevertheless, by Menario for a new band he formed with drummer Maurizio Capitini (ex Astaroth) and bassist Derek Maniscalco. With former Warlord vocalist Rick Anderson (aka: Damien King III) rounding out the bands line up, Martiria shed most of its prior Black Sabbath influences and on its 2004 full length debut The Eternal Soul moves in an epic power metal direction drawing comparisons to the likes of old Warlord and even Lordian Guard.
Martiria returns in 2005 with a sophomore effort entitled The Age Of The Return that continues in the same epic power metal direction of its predecessor- but that would only be telling half the story. Built upon a foundation of classic heavy metal but reflecting the bands doom-like influences of the past, The Age Of The Return comes across dark and epic in capacity, a work of art combining heavy riffing and acoustic passage with others that come across operatic and orchestral in feel. The use of classical instruments and choirs, at the same time, helps give the project an extra symphonic touch as well. While most of the albums tracks move at a driving mid-tempo pace, its compositions are quite memorable in holding up under notable melodies and catchy choruses. One word of caution is that The Age Of The Return took at least 10 listens before it started to grow on me; hence, a certain amount of patience must be exercised in order to get the most out of your listening experience.
Martiria has brought in a particularly talented vocalist in Rick Anderson. Employing a mostly gritty mid-octave ranged vocal style that perfectly complements the moody music here, Anderson displays his versatility by exhibiting the full range of his voice on tracks such as “The Cross” and “Hell Is Not Burning”. While Andy Menario proves quite the adept guitarist in furnishing a plethora of guitar harmonies and a tight rhythm guitar sound, his playing does not quite capture the passion and emotion of William Tsamis of Warlord. I cannot help but be impressed with the timekeeping skills of Maurizio Capatini who forms a substantial rhythm section with bassist Derek Maniscalco.
The Age Of The Return showcases crisp and clean production values in which all the instrumentation is allowed to evenly stand out above the mix.
The albums lyrics – written by poet Marco Capelli – are based entirely on biblical subject matters and cover topics ranging from the second coming (“The Age Of The Return”), Judas’ betrayal of Jesus (“Regrets”), the crucifixion of Christ (“The Cross”) John the Baptist (“A Cry In The Desert”), and David and Goliath (“The Giant And The Shepherd”). While by no means a Christian band, Martiria includes one Christian member in Rick Anderson who is very open and forthright about his faith. With that in mind, I cannot help but think Anderson played a significant role in the albums lyrical direction.
In terms of the packaging, it is worth pointing out the albums poignant artwork depicting St. Michael Kills The Devil by Raffaello Sanzio. (I am surprised this has not been done before in the Christian metal genre.) The CD, at the same time, comes in a digi-pack with a professionally done mini-booklet.
“Last Chance” is a short (2:09) album opener that commences to the sound of pouring rain backed by a medieval choir. An acoustic guitar soon replaces the choir and takes the song to its close.
“A Cry In The Desert” immediately begins as an open air rhythm guitar stands in support of Anderson’s raspy vocal delivery. After the song picks up in pace, the rhythm guitar moves to the front of the mix and helps lead the way to a chorus written from the standpoint of John the Baptist:
With many names they have called me
But still they don’t want to see
I bring the news of the greatest change
They just see water in my hand
Following an extensive instrumental section driven by a blend of guitar harmony and keyboards, “A cry In The Desert” briefly moves forward to a touch of choir like backing vocals as it points to the person of Christ:
Wake up a man is coming
A special one
With fire he’ll finish
What I just began
He’ll grow a forest
Where I left some seeds
A lengthy run of edgy rhythm guitar and keyboards initiates “Misunderstanding” before the keyboards drop from the mix upon reaching its first verse. Progressing at a guitar driven mid-tempo pace, grandiose vocal harmonies hold sway over the song before it attains an anthem-like chorus which is repeated twice. I like how Menario’s lead guitar is delicately interwoven with an acoustic guitar throughout the instrumental passage that follows.
A blend of acoustic guitar and keyboards interlaced with a flute slowly takes the awe-inspiring “The Giant And The Shepherd” through its first three verses as it sheds light on the conflict between David and Goliath:
So it may happen that a shepherd
Talks too much and falls in trouble
Marks the story
Kills a giant
Find his glory!
Abruptly picking up in pace in a bombastic manner when the rhythm guitar kicks in, a fast paced and double bass driven riff pushes the song forward as the two combatants are revealed:
A man in shining armor
A giant spreading fear!
Soldiers running, shame on Israel!
But a young shepherd defends his flock
Hunter of lions and wolves
Isn’t a giant just another man?
“The Giant And The Shepherd” quickly moves on to a powerful chorus reinforced by pounding drums before the encounter – of which we are all familiar – reaches its mighty conclusion:
Now lies the warrior on his knees
And none believes
Now lies the giant on his fours
Soldiers cannot breath
“Exodus” is a medium-good hard rocker that is driven through its first minute by a crunchy rhythm guitar accentuated by a touch of choir-like vocal harmonies. Maintaining an unwavering mid-tempo pace during its verse portions, the momentum builds as the song transitions to a chorus with a good melodic feel. While it may not rank among the albums better compositions, “Exodus” does not fail to stand up under repeated play either.
After the ballad “Regrets” gets underway to a brief keyboards solo, an acoustic guitar slowly carries the song through its duration as it gives rise to a very captivating melody. A slowly moving instrumental passage is highlighted by more of the bands trademark vocal harmonies. Judas’ betrayal of Jesus is the subject matter to “Regrets”:
Thrown in the air by Judah’s hand
It was written
someone would betray
A kiss like a mark.
The nine minute epic “The Cross”, appropriately, follows. The song features a grand entrance to chanted vocal harmonies that are soon carried over a hard hitting riff, an emotional setting created as the tempo slows before Anderson exclaims, “Eli, Eli Eli Lema Sabactani! Oh, why hast thou forsaken me?” Stopping dead in its tracks, a plodding and almost doom-like riff takes over and urges “The Cross” forward until it transitions to a very catchy and hook filled chorus. After the chanted vocal harmonies briefly return and segue to a nice guitar driven instrumental passage, "The Cross" culminates as it details the crucifixion:
Nails through bones
A cross is made
Pain makes us all the same
These two men
At my side
Would deserve a better fate
As “The Cross” progresses, it gives way to the voices of Mary Magdalene – sung by Barbara Anderson – and Peter – portrayed by Gregg Gammon – who are both immediately followed by its catchy chorus.
“So Far Away” proves the albums least noteworthy composition. Kicking in to a drum solo, the song settles down to a guitar driven mid-tempo pace for its verse portions only to gradually gain momentum and move on to a swiftly moving chorus that, unfortunately, lacks the allure of the albums better material. The band, at the same time, could have expanded upon an all too brief instrumental break.
Beautiful but haunting, “Hell Is Not Burning” opens to a crunchy rhythm guitar exquisitely blended with foreboding vocal harmonies. The doom-like riff that steps forward proceeds to drive the song through its second minute until a time change is made to a more upbeat tempo for its first and second verse. The sweeping chorus that follows showcases a huge hook that – is it safe for me to say this? – almost comes across commercial in its capacity. One of the albums better instrumental portions is carried by several seconds of riffing that brings to mind William Tsamis (Warlord) at his best. “Hell Is Not Burning” touches upon the issues of creation and the fall of Satan:
Then He said “light” and light was
And stars and everything
And lux ferentes
Burning of blind jealousy
For the Creation He loves
“Memories Of A Paradise Lost” starts quietly as an acoustic guitar blended with a trace of vocal harmonies helps take the song through its first four verses as the fall of man is detailed:
Any fruit was ours, all the wealth
Except for the one forbidden
Peace, silence, eternal health
“Take it’ slowly hissed the snake
“It’s so juicy, why hesitate?”
He just fears your race to wake
After an edgy rhythm guitar enters the mix, the song advances hard and heavy until it culminates for a catchy chorus in which the drums are brought right to the front of the mix. I wish the band had expanded upon an instrumental passage limited to a few seconds of lead guitar. A very good song holding up under the strength of its chorus.
“Revenge” embarks to a few seconds of acoustic guitar before the rhythm guitar takes over and impels the song through its first minute and a half. Slowing again to an acoustic guitar for its first and second verse, “Revenge” abruptly picks up in pace as it attains a chorus fortified in a substantial manner by a choppy rhythm guitar. Once more, another very strong number but this time with an interesting instrumental section covering its opening.
The albums majestic title track slowly moves through its first and second verse in orchestral fashion to just the right amount of dark sounding vocal harmonies. Picking up in pace, “The Age Of The Return” is propelled through its fifth verse by a pointed rhythm guitar before chanted vocal harmonies quickly carry its pre-chorus. The chorus that ensues showcases a very nice melodic feel as Anderson stretches and delivers the songs emotional message:
Beware of a lamb
The Age of the Return
Following an instrumental section driven by a fiery guitar solo, “The Age Of The Return” maintains its apocalyptic theme:
In a white cloud I’ve seen
Death coming with a crown
They are here
Oh evil Babylon
Which lie will save you
Now that they have come?
Ten cruel kings of the world
It’s the end
One thousand years
Will last his reign
The chanted vocal harmonies return to help take the album to its close.
The Age Of The Return includes several great songs in “The Giant And The Shepherd”, “The Cross” and “Hell Is Not Burning”; with the possible exceptions of “Exodus” and “So Far Away”, the rest of the albums material is very notable and easily stands up under continuous play. It is also worth pointing out the albums excellent production and lyrics along with Rick Anderson’s strong vocal performance. If you are a fan of Warlord - both the old (And The Cannons Of Destruction Have Begun) and the new (Rising Out Of The Ashes) – then I cannot help but give this a strong recommendation.
Review by: Andrew Rockwell
Track Listing: “Last Chance” (2:09), “A Cry In The Desert” (4:24), “Misunderstandings” (4:18), “The Giant And The Shepherd” (5:43), “Exodus” (5:19), “Regrets” (4:20), “The Cross” (8:50), “So Far Away” (5:14), “Hell Is Not Burning” (5:51), “Memories Of A Paradise Lost” (5:25), “Revenge” (6:40), “The Age Of The Return” (5:13)
Rick Anderson – Lead Vocals
Andy Menario – Guitars, Keyboards & Lute
Maurizio Capitini – Drums & Percussion
Derek Maniscalco - Bass