Review Summary: An identity crisis in musical form.
Betraying The Martyrs are a six-piece metal act that hail from a land known for it’s iconic tower, art, and fine dining. Paris, France; quite a long distance away from the band’s counterparts residing in the United States and Australia. With 2014’s Phantom
, Betraying the Martyrs look to stand out in the ever crowded scene with their signature fusion of many extreme metal elements into their root deathcore sound.
From the onset of the first track Jigsaw, the listener’s first observance will likely be the harsh vocals. Aaron Matt’s growls are overlaid by heavy distortion - amongst other effects - the end product being a robotic, metallic howl reminiscent of someone being possessed by dark forces in a horror movie or a computerized text-to-speech tool. For the vocals to sound like this through the entire 44 minute duration of the album is without a doubt incredibly unnecessary, but at the same time seem to fit the bill for the sound the band is going for. While the vocals are indeed extremely overproduced, they do sound menacing and evil - accomplishing exactly what the band intended for Phantom
. No matter how ‘cool’ the vocals might sound with the extra production, I think any listener would have preferred vocals akin to Matts’ performance on debut record Breathe in Life
; not to mention the fact that there is no way this nefarious sound can be reproduced live.
Victor Guillet provides the clean vocals and keyboards on Phantom
. It almost seems unfair to criticize and discredit a band member's complete performance - especially a multi-instrumentalist, but Phantom
and Betraying the Martyrs as a whole would be much better off without Guillet. His clean vocals seek to provide harmony or a memorable chorus amidst the demonic harsh vocals. His keyboard work means to supplement the rest of the band and enhance the ‘epic’ sound that Betraying the Martyrs aim to achieve. Unfortunately for Victor, he fails in both regards. The clean vocals come off as annoying and the keyboards do nothing but further clutter the mess that is Betraying the Martyrs sound. A decent idea begins to build up only to be crushed back to sea level by vexatious clean vocals. Most notably ruined by the awful vocals is the track ‘Walk Away’ - in which a promising beginning collapses within seconds of the first chorus.
The guitars here - much like in many deathcore albums - are nothing to marvel at. Guitarists Lucas D’Angelo and Baptiste Vigier provide a catchy lead or a interesting technical riff here and there but for the most part you’ll catch the guitarists going through the motions providing superficial chords and tremolo until it’s time to slow down and chug for a massive breakdown. Breakdowns on Phantom
seem almost randomly placed throughout the songs, and it’s only made worse by the band seemingly refusing to develop a transition
between different parts of the song. On a positive note, there are a few decent solos to be found on Phantom
and there’s an instrumental track driven by some somber guitar work that anyone can appreciate.
This is the first release of Betraying the Martyrs to feature their new drummer Mark Mironov. Mironov delivers an overall unimpressive debut performance. He fills, he blasts. he drives the breakdowns, he calls it a day. The drumming on the album is not bad, just very run-of-the-mill. On the topic of apathy and indifference, the bassist Valentin Hauser is - not surprisingly - inaudible. Hauser doesn’t exactly crush anyone’s expectations of what the bass guitar’s role could possibly be in an album like this, other than to thicken the sound.
As a whole, Phantom
is a mess. Betraying the Martyrs commit the exact opposite offense that their peers are guilty of. Whereas most bands in their genre do too little to differentiate themselves with one another, Betraying the Martyrs do too much. Piled on top of their base deathcore sound are obnoxious symphonic elements, discordant clean choruses, overly technical palm muted riffs, and easy, unnecessary piano licks, just to name a few of the many glaring mistakes. To make matters worse, all these conflicting elements are thrown into a overall lackluster dual production job by guitarist d’Angelo and Nicolas Delestrade.
Betraying the Martyrs are full of good ideas and backed up by a fair level of talent, but Phantom
is ultimately hampered by an over complicated and conflicting sound in dire need of simplification and clean-up.