With little more than two renowned, solid albums in the 80s to harken back to, Martyr emerges full of guts and glory with Circle of 8. Their first full length record since 1986 (!!!), this is pure retro thrash metal awesomeness.
Martyr, not to be confused with the Quebec death metal band of the same name, came out of Holland in 1982 and made their debut on the compilation album Dutch Steel in 1984. A year later, their debut record For the Universe was released on Megaton. After another album, 1986’s Darkness at Time’s Edge (sounds like a potential title for the new Pirates film), the thrashers disbanded in 1987.
In 2001, Martyr reunited to play the Heavy Metal Maniacs festival. After rolling through more revivals and festivals, the band continued to play live and backed Lizzy Borden on their European tour in 2008. By 2009, Martyr had dropped an EP to go with a reissue of For the Universe. And now, finally, Circle of 8 represents the first complete, unique album in 25 years.
The clan is relentless right out of the box, fully committing to the 80s thrash sound that they brought to the game in the first place. That means wild, long-haired guitar riffs from guitarists Rick Bouwman and Marcel Heesakkers to go with the theatrical vocals of Rop van Haren and the rhythmic attack of bassist Toine van der Linden and drummer Wilfried Broekman.
The first thing to note about Circle of 8 is just how damn fun Martyr makes everything.
Take the wailing riffage found on “Afterlife,” for instance. The track calls to mind the very best of Judas Priest, complete with chugging guitar and wild-eyed vocal shouts. It’s a track that will, at the very least, have you desk-drumming your ass off.
“Art of Deception” embraces the chugging runaway train of Motörhead and tosses in the odd hardcore punk yell for good measure, creating a collage of seemingly disparate elements that really take off when the guitar hooks bound for the skies.
Broekman pounds the hell out of his snare to start “Insensible Scream,” one of my favourite tracks. The punishing guitar soon spills into a sparring match between Bouwman and Heesakkers, but van Haren splits the difference with a couple of high notes James Durbin should be paying attention to if he wants to declare his metal chops.
It could be argued that Martyr’s really preaching to the choir with Circle of 8, but I don’t care. This is one hell of a fun record. Every sweltering moment pounds away with such frenetic thrash glee that I almost dug out my fingerless gloves and jean jacket. Almost.