Betraying The Martyrs – ‘The Resilient’ [Review]
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Since it first emerged at the turn of the 1970s, metal has been through so many evolutionary shifts that at this point, any given band has a vast wealth of influential options to cherry-pick from. Anything goes, and anything can happen. Only one rule remains: There are no fucking rules.
Betraying The Martyrs are the ultimate embodiment of that one and only rule. For their sophomore LP, 2014’s Phantom, these guys pulled out a fat and brutal cover of Let It Go – a key track from the soundtrack to Disney’s monster hit movie, Frozen. Naturally, Let It Go proved controversial and divisive – and so prepared Betraying The Martyrs for the release of The Resilient, the next stage in their sonic development.
Given that they incorporate elements of more or less any extreme metal genre you’d care to name, trying to pigeonhole Betraying The Martyrs is a pointless exercise. “Extreme metal” naturally fits – but that’s an umbrella term, technically a niche but nonetheless a non-specific one. On The Resilient, though, BTM have stretched their sound not toward even more intensity and heaviness, but into…whisper it…commercially accessible territory.
Okay, wait a second – that’s not technically true. The Resilient is absolutely Betraying The Martyrs’ most accessible album to date, but commercial?
For me, aiming at a wider market isn’t an issue provided a given band’s integrity and authenticity (read: honesty) don’t get compromised in the process. While The Resilient is playing, you couldn’t credibly claim that Betraying The Martyrs are wimping out or faking it in the hope of accumulating stacks of cold hard cash. Besides, it would be pretty ridiculous to expect BTM to get heavier still this time around.
There’s only so far you can go before you wind up making noise instead of music.
On The Resilient, catchy hooks and facebreaking riffs that adhere closely to a core 4/4 pulse are prioritised above everything else. Vocal-wise, there’s a heavier emphasis on cleans and harmonies than on Breathe In Life or Phantom, but The Resilient is no pop album. Expect your eardrums to be pummelled by plenty of throat-scarring screams, even as said screams share a greater portion of the spotlight with cleanish melodies that often fall stylistically somewhere between Periphery’s Spencer Sotelo and Chester Bennington of Linkin Park.
There’s a fair amount of millennial alt-metal influence present on The Resilient. Opener Lost For Words features some partially-rapped vocals that briefly brought to mind Jonathan Davis of Korn, and said legends’ penchant for relatively simple but equally fierce riffs is present and correct on The Resilient too. But whereas nu-metal has often been maligned for being too self-pitying and negative, Betraying The Martyrs take a far more positive yet vulnerable tack this time around.
Case in point: Won’t Back Down. As its lyric video makes clear, The Resilient’s seventh song was penned in response to the still recent Parisian terror attacks that turned an artistic paradise into hell on Earth. Cathartically fuelled by the fact that such horrific events happened in their home city, Betraying The Martyrs pull out a real showstopper at this point, standing in defiant solidarity with their fellow Parisians while laying down a modern metal classic.
The Resilient will inevitably divide fans for whom Phantom represented one of modern metal’s ultimate peaks. But at the same time, it will also act as an ideal gateway album into the heaviest possible territory for those still finding their way through the thick, tangled jungle-maze that is heavy music in 2017. Creative progression is essential for any band keen to prevent stagnation and self-boredom, and Betraying The Martyrs could hardly be expected to push the extreme envelope further than they have already without turning themselves into a band whose appeal is limited to a tiny handful of beard-stroking musos.
Despite my own status as such a muso – if a beardless one – and the fact that I personally prefer Phantom, I can still appreciate that at this stage in their careers, Betraying The Matryrs had to make an album like The Resilient. Where else could they go? Fortunately, The Resilient remains a frantic, crushing, frequently spine-chilling, and seriously cool release.
And, again, it’s guaranteed to lure plenty of listeners into the heaviest territory imaginable. As far as I’m concerned, that is a Very Good Thing.
TMMP RATING: 87%
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