Upon first glancing at the DigiPak packaging on my promo copy of this release I was pleasantly surprised to note that this was only the second release from Black Owl Records, the home of EMANCER's very impressive debut. Needless to say this raised my expectations a little, especially when you take into consideration the fact that this second release has come quite some time after the first. Finally a label genuine enough to offer exclusivity.
The opening track "Sentenced To Suffer" instantly conjures up images of DARK FUNERAL with its high speed riffing and solid production, and you wouldn't be deemed insane either if you noticed certain paens to DISSECTION with their rhythms. It must be noted that the general strength of the riffs is not to be taken lightly as many similar bands, the aforementioned DARK FUNERAL being particularly guilty, become very bland in a short space of time, while MARTYR have released a very solid album.
What holds the interest particularly is the variation. "A Malicious Odyssey" to me is as unlike in atmosphere to traditional Black Metal as you could possibly get away with. There is nothing cold, distant or truly evil about this release, but what it does have is aggression. The modern tinge, the present and future reality of this album from production to presence and even songmanship smacks of quality, and what’s more it has originality to boot!
Of course their traditional roots do shine through in places as after the equally, though higher quality, DARK FUNERAL-esque "Downfall" MARTYR unleash the style that they were destined for. "Failure Of The 4th" is simply an excellent mid tempoed romp with more excellent DISSECTION influenced rhythms and wonderfully memorable melodies. What makes this all the more impressive is that the band are able to step up a gear from excellent to sublime with "Stunned", a track that is by far one of the most enjoyable I've heard in quite some time.
Utilising more blasts and speed than its preceding track "Stunned" comes across as simply the best of both sides the band has to offer. Utilising the same lead melody over slower and faster rhythms allows the aggression to play perfectly off the more tranquil sections. The following mid tempoed riff is very powerful atmospherically, and I would imagine it being very powerful live if accompanied by some more powerful vocals.
With this track, along with "Failure to the 4th" being the album's peak that does not mean to say that the remaining tracks are weak, and though I am not going to give a track by track guide of what remains let suffice to say that the same powerful blend of high octane riffing with excellent and memorable melodies continues until the end.
In face of all the praise I have given the album I have to round the review off with the other side of the evaluation as it is not all perfect in camp MARTYR. First of all the production despite being very powerful and crystal clear just doesn't have enough grit for the aggression beyond the music. Added to this the vocals are too monotonous and don't do the creative riffing justice. My biggest criticism about this album is that there is just not enough atmosphere, sure some sections are magnificent, and the riffs inventive and fresh, but this album just at times lacks the powerful raw emotion that I particularly value in Black Metal. That said I personally don't believe that that was the bands aim so they have not failed in anyway.
This is about as accessible as Black Metal can get melody, production and delivery wise while still remaining top class music. So if you are looking for an album with relatively few flaws that will offer you an abundance of top drawer melodies, blending the best bits DARK FUNERAL with some DISSECTION and a less aggressive "Rebel Extravaganza" then look no further than "A Malicious Odyssey". (Online October 15, 2004)