Martin Grech
Hush Mortal Core


4.5
superb

Review

by NedEllis USER (4 Reviews)
April 22nd, 2020 | 72 replies


Release Date: 03/31/2020 | Tracklist

Review Summary: A wonderful, mature piece of folky, choral, industrial music; here’s to not having to wait another 13 years for the follow-up.

Martin Grech, wunderkind and critics’ favourite at the time of his first album ‘Open Heart Zoo’ in 2002, has had a commercially downhill progression since then. The eponymous track included in a Lexus television ad gave the then 19-year-old artist a running start that resulted in him moving from Interscope to Universal for his second album ‘Unholy’. Whilst still garnering considerable critical acclaim, the even darker and heavier sophomore effort did not do as well, with Universal dropping him from their roster and effectively disappearing from circulation until his self-released ‘March Of The Lonely’ two years later.

His third album was recorded acoustically in a state of self-induced, solitary confinement and the end result had more in common with Nick Drake than Nine Inch Nails. However, unless you had managed to follow each of his increasingly rare news titbits, its distribution had no mediatic resonance at all and long-term fans themselves were often unaware of the album.

As a result, he has not been on the musical world’s radar for quite some time but certain projects in more recent years have seen him featuring on TesseracT’s track ‘Hexes’ and on ‘Aeolian’ for Guy Sigworth’s album Stet, released in 2018. Also during this time, two demo collections were available for download to his fan base (Meta and Meta 2), he was credited on two OST’s and his online communication channels have become more reliable.

Fast forward this period - that lasted 13 years! - and the long-time completed, fourth album has finally been released, again independently.

The first song ‘Maelstrom Spark’ lulls us into a delicate swirl of piano and chanting voices before rising rapidly into a beat driven crescendo. A bridge of a filtered voice mumbling about the relationships between space, time and life follows - reminiscent of The Nathan Adler Diaries on David Bowie’s ‘Outside’ and reprised along with its own jazzy trumpet solo in the closing track - conjuring the aura of paranoia that many of his pieces had evoked in the past, before blooming into a latter part of soaring strings.

This is followed by ‘Auras Awol’ whose opening is reminiscent of ‘March of the Lonely’ with its fingerpicked acoustic guitar and a softly menacing singing voice introducing the first appearance of metal type chugging. The track transforms into A Perfect Circle with Martin sounding much like James Maynard Keenan before dipping into a - dare I say it? - Deftones inspired transition that evolves into driving, distorted guitars and towering vocals taking the track to its conclusion.

The album follows this schizophrenic swinging from celestial tapestries to demonic angst with ease and aplomb and with a more coherent and cohesive approach, nevertheless listeners to his past work that had trouble with the edgy and angular approach he takes to his music are still going to find it difficult to tap their foot to this album too. Possibly ‘Psychobabble’, with its manically uplifting crescendo reaching for a lull before a driving, mid-tempo climax of piano, strings and vocalisations, is as close to an easy listening track we get but it is immediately followed by the crunching ‘Into The Sun’, one of the heavier tracks on the album. Or ‘Sadness Is A Story Of Beauty Only A Dancer Can Tell’ if one can consider a depressed Neil Young catchy; it is safe to say that ‘Hush Mortal Coil’ is not shortlisted for a slot on mainstream radio.

I am no expert but the production seems appropriate and well executed as always, albeit of a more organic, approach giving the classical instruments a prominent place in the mixes. The lyrics remain abstract and poetical as in his past work. What deserves, as always, a special note of merit, is his voice. Most often likened to a mix of Thom Yorke and Jeff Buckley, it remains the beautiful instrument it has always been but his use of it is more refined, more balanced, to the needs of the song writing. He lets it take a more prominent role in the closing tracks ‘Ecstasy Astral Melancholia’ and ‘The Death Of All Logic’ but generally it is used to weave in and out of the instrumentation in order to give ambiance to each song.

Looking back at the musicians I have mentioned thus far brings to mind what Grech does so well : he represents the various artists referenced without aping them but rather blending aspects of this diverse mix to create his own sound, often within a single piece. It brings a range of high-calibre influences into his folky, choral, industrial sound that is deeply satisfying thanks to his capabilities as a multi-instrumentalist and distinctive voice.

With ‘Hush Mortal Coil’, Martin has returned to his more trademark sound but the ensemble feels far more mature compared to his first two efforts. It bridges the gap nicely between the Radiohead, ‘Ok Computer’ tinged ‘Open Heart Zoo’ and the darker, oppressive ‘The Fragile’ era NIN influenced ‘Unholy’, all the while introducing more orchestral elements such as strings, piano and trumpet. The heavier tracks have a clearly more progressive (‘Into The Sun’) or djent (‘Mothflower’) slant to their riffing as opposed to the industrial guitars of yore, whilst the more delicate tracks lean towards an almost choral (‘Nymphs In A Heliacal Rising’ and on the excellent ‘Enigmas’) or ambient (‘Hush Mortal Coil’) element. His live sessions with the Parallax Orchestra were a clear indication of his intent to integrate more classical, even ecclesiastical elements to his palette.

The album has been a long time coming, I truly hope he will have the chance to further develop his sound and release it to a larger audience since his sense of aesthetics are second to none and his voice is technically almost without rival. What is however lacking from ‘Hush Mortal Coil’ are those moments that make the average listener prick up their ears like the symphonic ‘Open Heart Zoo’, the frenzied ‘Dali’, the delicate pop-rock of ‘Push’ or ‘Penicillin’ or the vocal highs of ‘Holy Father Inferior’ but to name a few past highlights.

It is all graceful, beautiful, evocative and excellently crafted and it brings a criminally underrated musician back to the fore as he continues to forge his own path regardless of trends and popular success, I just still can’t shake the feeling that he can do even better…


user ratings (43)
3.9
excellent

Comments:Add a Comment 
NedEllis
April 23rd 2020


16 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

First review - any feedback welcome!

Interested to see what people think of the album too, thanks.

DoofDoof
April 23rd 2020


9186 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

only just started listening to this dude but comes across as a Jeff Buckley/Devin Townsend hybrid in places but somehow manages to pull that off

NedEllis
April 23rd 2020


16 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

His ability to remind you, even with just a small detail, of such diverse artists is one of his great strengths in my opinion. I hope you enjoy his (limited) discography!

DoofDoof
April 23rd 2020


9186 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I tried his first two albums and they were great too



The debut was very indebted to '90s Radiohead but not in a bad way, still has its own thing

NedEllis
April 24th 2020


16 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Indeed they are. If we pick just one artist to describe each album, albeit reductive, the guy did Radiohead, NIN and a gothic Nick Drake without skipping a beat which is pretty impressive! I feel like this is his most mature effort though (not necessarily best, I love the debut).

Do you have any idea why he's not well known? What kind of genre fan might be interested in getting to know him?

DoofDoof
April 24th 2020


9186 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

art rock? art prog?



Steven Wilson, Jeff Buckley, some Devin Townsend, Radiohead, that sort of thing



A lot of people would like his albums here is my instinct

JohnyBlood
May 14th 2020


16 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

This needs more attention. So, as I see, nothing has changed during the last 13 years. Another masterpiece from a very talented musician.

Digging: Kauan - Ice Fleet

DoofDoof
May 14th 2020


9186 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I like it

LunaticSoul
May 24th 2020


1667 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

oh yeah



4.0, 3.8 in my books it juuuuust needed one banger to be pushed to prog stardom

GhandhiLion
May 27th 2020


11214 Comments


this is good, bump

Digging: Anatol - Ana

LunaticSoul
May 27th 2020


1667 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

All jokes aside, this is probably the best Prog disc that has come out in a long, long time. I can't think of anything else other than the Ocean (which have a proggy approach, not a prog sound).



I meant to write the review for this, but never found the time.



The tagline would have been something along "if Kayo Dot went Djent" or something, just to stir some s**t on the main Sput page lol.

LunaticSoul
May 27th 2020


1667 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

This thread also needs more of the proggy sput peeps. Like legit this needs waaaaay more attention.



Can we cross-spam this on Leprous/Tesseract/blabla

Krpa
May 30th 2020


196 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

This sounds really interesting, so much I decided to listen to his older records before trying this one.

OmairSh
Contributing Reviewer
May 30th 2020


17554 Comments


Reminder to check

Digging: Kauan - Ice Fleet

NedEllis
June 1st 2020


16 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

LunaticSoul - I agree with you, fully.



Krpa - hope you enjoy them all; let us know what you think!

Krpa
June 3rd 2020


196 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I just finished listening to March of the Lonely, he really is one talented dude. Not a fan of his debut album (too much like Radiohead for my taste), but Unholy was very interesting and had this appealing creepy choral/industrial vibe I couldn't get enough of. And then March surprised me once again with its shift into folk, but didn't sacrifice any of the previous records' attention to melody or detail, in fact, it's just further proof that he can branch out into other genres with ease. Can't wait to listen to this album next!



Also, great review. It's easy to read and gives you a clear idea of how this sounds like, which is what every good review should do, I guess. I'm only a bit concerned about this album being sonically closer to Radiohead than I want it to be, but I'll find that out soon enough

NedEllis
June 7th 2020


16 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Krpa, judging from your comments on his work I'd say you'll enjoy this album too! It is less 'industrial' than Unholy but has the choral element in spades.

It is a travesty he isn't more well-known...

I have a soft spot for his debut, despite it being the least mature of the four (he was 17 when he started writing for that album though), since it was when I got to see him live - it's hard to forget one's first love! ;p

Thank you for the compliments on the review and I hope I guessed right on your appreciation for HMC!

Krpa
June 8th 2020


196 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

You actually did guess right, for the most part at least. The record didn't instantly click with me like the previous two did, but it's still very good. It would be nice if this got noticed more and give him some of the spotlight he deserves, but unfortunately that's not often the case with indie musicians. Interesting that you've seen him live in his younger days, that must've been a good show! Anyway keep on writing if you get any more chances to do so!

NedEllis
June 16th 2020


16 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I'm glad I did guess right but I'll agree with you, as I did with LunaticSoul, that it's missing a 'real banger' as he said, a track or two that any listener, even a casual one, can't help but love...probably what you mean by 'didn't instantly click'?

The live show was in a pub with about 50 people - man, can he hit those notes live! It was great fun and went from a trance club vibe to a metal concert in the space of a few songs. Reminded me of a (very little, DIY version) NIN concert.

I will try and write some more - thank you for the encouragement! - but it takes me almost as long to pick an album as it does to write the actual thing; one every two months so far :s Anyway, spread the Grech word ;)

Beardog
June 17th 2020


3990 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

apparantely this good?



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