Review by Greg on January 20, 2024.
Like almost every other reviewer I've come across so far, I stumbled upon Scarlet Anger when casting an eye over the metal scene in one of the smallest states in the world, Luxembourg. The guys have been dedicating themselves to thrash, although far from the most extreme variety, since 2007, and are now at their 3rd full-length effort, the here presented Martyr, a whopping eight years after their last sign of life (2016's Freak Show). What can we expect from it?
Well, after a quick look at the sophomore's horror aesthetic and cool song titles not devoid of humour, Martyr looks like a step back in terms of presentation. All the ingredients for a headfirst downfall into alternative/metalcore (think Lost Society, Shrapnel, Ultra-Violence... wait, how come there are so many of them?!) seem to be in place, but thankfully the music is what really counts, and it tells a very different story. The rather Teutonic-esque commanding vocals of Joe Block catch the listener's ear, and coupled with the strategic melodic tendencies, as well as uber-polished production, easily recall Kreator's output in the new millennium. It was this sterile sound that tempted me to suggest the band to save a bit of money in the studio next time, but thinking back on their home country's fame, budgets arguably aren't that great of an issue...
Leaving stereotypes aside, the roughly 35 minutes of Martyr come and go mostly without fanfare. Okay, the album isn't deprived of quality stuff, to be honest. 'The Destroyer' is an excellent opener, for example, offering more or less Scarlet Anger's whole array of weapons – tempo changes, continuous (if hardly elaborate) lead sections, you name it. Closer 'Behind The Mask' is fundamentally similar and another highlight, scoring with a speed-infused character and possibly the best use of those lead harmonies in the interesting central bridge, equipped with a killer solo as well. Now, the first and last songs in an album are always bound to be remembered, but in this case, apart from being the longest ones, they're also the most appealing, by some margin. While there's no immediate, drastic drop in quality (the nicely executed groove/thrash attitude of 'No Time' and title-track is sure to please fans of Pro-Pain or Korzus, to say), it's safe to say the dudes weren't at their most inspired throughout the middle part of the tracklist. I'm struggling to remember anything from the groovy 'Akrasia', although even the fastest ones (still far from blisteringly fast, to clarify) feel rather inoffensive. Aiming for the constant epic refrain soon gets redundant as well, but 'Divided' is partly salvaged by its neat quasi-Testament licks, at the very least.
All in all, my first foray within the Luxembourgish boundaries was no doubt a strange one. Martyr is a competent, yet hardly revolutionary work. However, its short duration and couple of choice cuts might make it worth a spin, especially if you, for some reason, can't help but wonder how they do it in Europe's richest place.
Rating: 6.7 out of 10285