Review Summary: The scars of Jordison's musical past are still there, but for what it is, Scar the Martyr is decent.
Given that Slipknot recently returned to Download earlier this year for a nostalgic albeit inconsistent performance, you’d be forgiven for thinking that each of the band’s eight remaining members would be halting their current side projects and working together on new material. However, Corey Taylor has his very own Stone Sour, Shawn Crahan has the more rock orientated band Dirty Little Rabbits, and now Jordison is applying his instrumental talents to his newest side-project, Scar the Martyr. There’s a great deal of interest surrounding what Scar the Martyr consists of. Chris Vrenna of NIN is on keyboards, Jed Simon (SYL/Zimmer’s Hole) is on guitars with Kris Norris (Darkest Hour), and Jordison, who certainly doesn’t need an introduction, is unsurprisingly behind the drumkit, contributing to the guitars and bass and consequently producing a rather heavy rhythm section. Now this leaves a rather unknown Henry Derek, who will doubtlessly be judged the most by many listeners, if not for his sometimes unhealthy mixture of clean and harsh vocals, then certainly for his as yet unknown musical background.
Now, with musicians like this contributing a bit of their respective talent to a band as new as Scar the Martyr, surely the music is going to be top-notch? Well, the answer to that question is a healthy balance of “yes” and “no”. For one thing, the self-titled début album consists of fourteen tracks and amounts to a far too hefty running time of seventy four minutes, and when many of the tracks could easily have been cut down by a couple minutes each (and still be called average by some), the first word that will pop up in the listener’s mind is undoubtedly “filler”. It’s understandable that the band want to show off their instrumental chops, but when the unnecessarily long endings of "Dark ages", "Blood host" and hit and miss closer "Last night on earth" leave you on the verge of wanting to switch off altogether, it’s not exactly the best of first impressions. This, surprisingly and unsurprisingly, are what Slipknot sometimes suffered from in the past.
Speaking of Slipknot, just take a guess at how much of Scar the Martyr
consists of half-hearted, rehashed beats and rhythms taken from the entirety of Slipknot’s back catalogue. As exaggerated as you think this last statement may be, you can never shake the feeling of Slipknot’s backbone bearing itself upon every single track on the album. It’s horribly uncanny that "My retribution" and the mediocre "Cruel ocean" almost sound like Slipknot would have, had the band focused more on industrial atmospheres and less on the heaviness produced by the rhythm section. Even "Anatomy of Erinyes" and "Mind’s eye" come across as trashy leftovers of early Slipknot material, however hard they try to be different or indeed original.
All this said, Scar the Martyr
does have its brief albeit delightful moments. For one thing the rhythm section is mostly consistent and well performed. The infectious heaviness that charges songs such as "My retribution" and "Prayer for prey" is very welcome, and the adrenaline-fuelled one-two punch of “White nights in a day room” and "Effigy unborn" make for a supremely monstrous atmosphere. Henry Derek’s vocal style is varied, and in no way comes across as a Corey Taylor clone. In fact, Derek seems to fully embrace whichever musical style is being performed and manages to fit in. Although he has a slight misstep or two in "Cruel ocean" or "Never forgive never forget" where the voice warbles and gives in to the overbearing heaviness of the rhythm section, both "Dark ages" and "Soul disintegration" benefit from his fusion of soft, clean vocals with harsh, energetic roars.
The other outstanding aspect of Scar the Martyr
is Chris Vrenna’s unmistakeably talented chops on keyboards. He can really give an extra spice to the likes of "Blood host" and the two brief interludes ("Intro" and the rather pointless "Sign of the omeneye") are created via eerie atmospheres and sometimes tasteful industrial noise, which very rarely becomes quieter than anything performed by the other instruments. Together with the guitars, bass and drums, it all looks like a bit of a mess on paper, but in musical form, it is consistently fluent and fits well with Derek’s varied vocal style.
So, does Scar the Martyr
hit those heights which it was aiming for? Sadly not, but there is a large amount of ambition going on here, and the musical talent simply can’t be ignored. This album is good, but far too long and far too self-indulgent to be called unique. Maybe when Jordison isn't applying his talent to Slipknot once again, he can finally settle down and work with Scar the Martyr and create truly original music, thus producing, in his own honest words, his “career-defining moment”.