Released: 2012, Noise Head Records
Reviewer: Aaron Yurkiewicz
It’s getting to hear albums like SCENES OF BLOOD AND BETRAYAL that make this gig at Metal-Rules so worthwhile. The debut album from Jordanian death/thrashers Relics of Martyrs is a damn near flawless collection of tunes that recalls the best moments of genre luminaries like Sepultura, Kreator, Testament, and Nile to name just a few. But not in a way that sounds plagiaristic or contrived, much to the contrary. It’s like these guys studied the genre like they were preparing for a calculus exam, taking to heart the critical lessons of melody, tempo, phrasing, and arrangements rather than just trying to sound like Metallica. And the adaptation of those skillsets is executed mercilessly across the album’s 11 tracks in a way that makes you immediately sit up and take notice.
If you missed it in the commentary above, Relics of Martyrs hails from the Kingdom of Jordan - which for those of you that are geographically impaired, sits right smack in between Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Syria, and Israel. In other words, this super talented and powerfully heavy group of young men call an area of the world that generally doesn’t encourage creative rebellion in any form (artistic or otherwise) “home.” Let’s put it in plainer context – bands in the American underground metal scene often get labeled as Satanists, and they go on to sell records, merch, and concert tickets. Bands in the Middle Eastern underground metal scene also often get labeled as Satanists, but in more extreme territories it’s a criminal offense potentially punishable by death. Which makes SCENES OF BLOOD AND BETRAYAL that much more impressive. Beyond the music itself being as good as it is, the amount of effort and passion required from the band to even get to this point has to be comparatively exponential.
But enough of the sociology lesson, let’s talk music. Structurally, the songs bear resemblances to the aforementioned bands – lots of tight, crisp thrashy riffs that span the gamut from galloping frenzy (“Hidden in the Sand”, “Judas Between Us”), measured pit waltzes (“Vigil Dream”, “Justice Has Been Served”), to dirge doom punishment (“Of An Earth and Death”). The performances from the band are all impressive enough; while there’s not much going on in the way of pomp and flair, the attention is focused on getting down to business and helps streamline the overall progression of the album. Unsurprisingly, you’ll hear the occasional Eastern influence peppered across the album, but it’s more about accenting the body of the song rather than being used as a gimmick or crutch. Vocally, Amr Atieh has a surprisingly versatile growl which gives some extra weight to the tunes. At times he’s as guttural as Nile’s Dallas Toller-Wade, at other times he’s scowling like Dani Filth, transitioning between the two pretty seamlessly within each track. The sum of these parts results in making SCENES OF BLOOD AND BETRAYAL a massively heavy and smartly crafted release.
So if I haven’t gushed enough over Relics of Martyrs, let me just make it explicit – SCENES OF BLOOD AND BETRAYAL is an excellent metal debut from a band that I hope to hear much more of in the future. Check out the band’s Facebook page for more info.