Melodeathcore. Is that even a genre? Well, it goes some way to describing what you can expect from the French sextet Betraying The Martyrs. It has to be said the prospect of this debut album has aroused a sizeable amount of interest with fans of modern metal slavering at the prospect of them building on the promise of their stunning EP 'The Hurt, The Divine, The Light'. Since then, though, a change of personnel with new vocalist Aaron Matts and guitarist Lucas D'angelo stepping in has led to a real colossus being born. This is music that will tear you apart with startlingly fresh-sounding bursts of power and then turn round and somehow soothe your frazzled senses by firing familiarity at you.
Their sound sticks a big dirty finger in the same holes that Winds Of Plague and Hope For The Dying, have been plugging of late; that whole sweeping symphonics meets hearty, visceral attack vibe. Being a Christian band, their music also comes with the inevitable well-meant messages which, depending on how observant you are, may either inspire or disaffect you. If it gives the band a passionate focus to really lay into their component parts, then you can always look to that as being the positive in such shenanigans. Passion in performance being, after all, the key to really making the biggest impact.
Their intro blusters in like the soundtrack to some blood-lusting, historical war movie. Symphonic strings, rippling piano arpeggios, fearsome chanting and drum-rolls all round. It stirs the blood and sets the scene for the onslaught of 'Martyrs' which blasts forth our first glimpse of Matts' gigantic death vocal, crammed with the most fulsome of lows. It grasps and shoves our heads into stirring ivory-key builds and emotion-soaked clean vocal which, upon first inspection, appears anything but out of place. There's an extra dimension which comes grunting spasmodically through in the technical guitar parts; parts that echo the djenty qualities of bands like Periphery and TesseracT. It's a repeating pattern that is only added to by the addictive hooks - the soulful choruses and flamboyant mini-beatdowns - in 'Man Made Disaster' and 'Because Of You'.
Now... have you ever wondered what atmospheric metal dubstep might sound like? Check out "Liberate Me Ex Inferis". It drags you in with a big industrial swirling, reminiscent of something Jean-Michel Jarre might produce, then rapidly transforms into a vast beast inhaling and exhaling through a gas mask. It's one scary-arsed sound but even this is out-mentalled by the crashing track that follows. 'Leave It All Behind' crushes and drives itself into steep climbs before stalling to loop and spin crazily out of control. It's a bone fide lunatic and it should come with a health warning.
Track after track the band dig at your senses, sinking their instruments of torture into flesh time and time again. Not taking the somewhat suspect wholly-clean soft rock number, 'Azalee', (yes, a soft rock number) into account, the band's only real weakness is at the points where the softer, heartfelt vocal parts step out from knitting together the dark and the light. These moments come when the music dips and they step forward. These are also the moments where their rise and fall begins to sound quite similar in construct from track-to-track. When they're in there with the bottom-end pit-worthy powerhousing (on tracks like 'Life Is Precious') there isn't a problem but, when they aren't (for instance, 'Leave It All Behind'), they sound repetitious and far less addictive than they should be. They become without doubt the focus (the parts that unite the crowd; the singalong; the fists-to-the-sky moments) so that's where the songwriting needs to step up another notch for future albums. Other than that, I'm just... well... speechless.