REVIEW: Martyr Complex - "So Dark In Eden"

By Wilde

Chain Border

Originally from Tampa, Florida, now based in Cleveland, Ohio, 2-piece self-styled "angeldustrial" band Martyr Complex consists of Aaron Egnor on synths/programming/electronics and Bob "Fried" Melendez on guitar. With ties to The Blessed Virgin Larry and the Church of the SubGenius, they've been fairly active in the Tampa local scene. They've recently packed up the shop and moved to Cleveland, and are working on building a local presence again. Their music is a slush of industrial, electro, dance, and related genres with minor goth influences. Most of the tracks on this, their second self-released album, are fairly long, some over six minutes. Egnor's vocals alternate between standard industrial shouting and loud whispering a la fellow Floridian Marilyn Manson. Martyr Complex tends to use lots of long spoken word samples in their music. As in most other industrial music, most of the vocals are unintelligible, and no liner notes are provided. Of course, that's of minor importance in terms of club play, which is pretty much the main market for this album.

As for the album's contents...

Violator - This track reminds me of a less subtle version of the Psychopomps' material. There are lots of Blue Velvet samples, and the track is kind of annoying and broken up rhythmically, but it's the sort of thing that would work well in a club setting. Not great, but not bad.

Judgment Day - Very carnivalesqe in a hurdy-gurdy sort of way. Here Aaron seems to be having a love affair with sawtooth wave synthesizers. This track uses the infamous sample from the Hellraiser 4 trailer that didn't make it into the final cut of the movie. Vocals are pretty low in the mix, so the synthesizers and drums mostly drown them out.

Martyr ComplexFire In the Hole - A military criticism piece, complete with Full Metal Jacket samples. There's sort of a fast goblinesque Halloween vibe to this one; it uses quite a few more minor notes than usual, even for an industrial band. This is one of the better tracks on the album.

S-kape the Id - Possession/psychosis time. This one's a bit more bouncy and syncopated. This track's vocals really remind me of Marilyn Manson, and MC makes injudicious use of echo effects here, like unto an Empire Hideous stage show.

Silent God - This one almost sounds more like a rock track than an industrial one, with a fairly heavy backbeat. The vocal flanger effects are severely excessive, regardless of whether or not they're appropriate, and actively detract from the song. That said, there are some nice synthesized organ bits here.

Interzone - Replete with Naked Lunch samples, but by Peter Weller rather than Burroughs (losing industrial cred for that one, boys). Other than a couple of openly silly transitions, I quite liked the synths on this one. Vox remind me of Bill Miller of the Kings of Feedback, and some of the riffs are irritatingly repetitive, particularly the long passage just after the middle of the song.

Necropolis - In the beginning, we hear a live snare for a tad, then it all goes synth again. Necropolis is maximum Gorf. We're talking Commodore VIC20-style vocoding and severely old-school synths; something tells this reviewer that this is less a requiem for people as for dead video game systems. Lyrically, these folks are awe-inspiringly generic. It's as if they used a computer program to randomly combine industrial clichés. This isn't necessarily a bad thing if they're going for humor value, but if they're taking themselves seriously, they may want to rethink the lyrics a bit. Of course, as Gene Simmons mentioned, nobody can tell you're off key if the music's loud enough.

Fall - Here's where we start to see the goth influence. Starting out with swirly synths, no percussion at first, they manage to get an actual melody (such as it is) started before fading in the drum machine. As for the vocals, it's hard to sound particularly angsty when you're croaking, not like Pete Murphy, but like someone who's been toking. Amusingly enough, the vocalist seems to be actually trying to sing here. Unfortunately, he does almost as well as Ogre did on Skinny Puppy's The Process EP, which is to say weak at best. Stick to yelling, Aaron. The excessive echo effects are back on this track.

Catacombs - Here we go into the Legend of Zelda soundtrack, with bass courtesy of Thomas Dolby and drums courtesy of KMFDM on heavy 'ludes. I suppose one might enjoy this, if one were heavily into video game soundtracks. Chock full of Hellraiser 2 and 3 samples, if this isn't purposeful camp, the band should be firmly spanked.

Devil's Candy (Going2Hell Mix) - Here we have them doing some interesting insectile stuff with synths, and there're some clever rhythms, but the effect is ruined by the morass of samples and gratuitous echo effects. Devil's Candy sounds like something MC did when bored one afternoon; it's an instrumental, if that term can be applied to anything with so many vocal samples, and makes full and varied use of stereo panning and echo effects. Martyr Complex is starting to remind me of the Thrill Kill Kult on a bad day.

Pulse - Here's some truth in advertising; this track consists of lots of random synth pulsing with more silly quasi-religious samples. Pulse is slower than most of the other tracks here, which is probably why it's a lot longer (6:15). Only folks I can think of who'd be able to keep dancing through this are some of the swirlier goths, and it might offend their aesthetic sensibilities. Pulse is definitely pornography for the sadistic DJ. There don't appear to be any vocals on the track, but rest assured, there are. Of course, it took Rush (oops, I mean Martyr Complex) over 3 minutes to get to said vocals, but better late than never. Wait, I take that back...

Electrostatic Kisses - Static-distorted vocals with a bit of a flanger effect. The beat/synths vaguely remind me of "Romeo" from the Flashdance soundtrack, very bouncy and energetic. This one is positively minimalist compared to most of the others, mostly just low-volume vox, bass synths, drums, and occasional 2-note high-end keyboards. Not bad, but a little laid back for serious moshing. The sort of thing one expects during a lull in activity in a club, Electrostatic Kisses is a song to catch your breath by. However, it's *very* repetitive.

Teenage Alienation (1998 Demo Version) - Samples dominate the song, with the drums and synths low in the mix, giving the track sort of a hollow feel. Not a bad effect, but probably an accident, being as it is a demo. No vox on this one; it's almost a relief after the rest of the album.

Spin Me Round (2000RPM Mix) - A heavily electronicised version of Dead Or Alive's Spin Me Round. It starts out fairly heavy, then the heavy synths drop out and the track abruptly becomes poncey. After a while, the bass comes back. The vocals are lackluster, and they really bog down on the shared parts. More a Dr. Demento-style novelty track than a proper cover, this makes Orgy's Blue Monday cover look like high art in comparison.

Overall, unless they rethink their stance a bit, Martyr Complex seem just the sort of mediocre industrial band to have a couple of minor hits, get signed by Metropolis, and promptly fade into the woodwork. Best of luck, gentlemen, and here's hoping the next one's better.

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