The Unsettling Dark

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When Martriden's self-titled debut EP was released in 2007, extreme metal enthusiasts were surprised to learn that a black metal-friendly band was from Montana, U.S.A. Black metal, after all, has been seriously dominated by Europe (the Scandinavian countries especially) since the '90s. But Martriden's 2007 EP was an American recording with a very Europe-influenced sound, and the Montana residents aren't any less Europe-influenced on their first full-length album, The Unsettling Dark. Stylistically, this early-2008 release is not much of a departure from Martriden's EP; the band still favors a caustic black metal/death metal mixture that combines black metal's trademark rasp vocals with the musical influence of death metal. Vocally, Michael Cook's approach is strictly black metal -- not once does he veer into the deep, guttural "Cookie Monster" growl that death metal is famous (or infamous) for -- but musically, there is no getting around the fact that Martriden have been inspired by both black metal and death metal. Their influences ranged from Marduk to Opeth on the EP, and that also holds true on The Unsettling Dark. The main difference between the EP and The Unsettling Dark is the fact that this release gives Martriden more room to stretch out melodically. While the EP clocked in at 25 minutes, The Unsettling Dark lasts 43 minutes; that isn't a huge difference, but it's enough for Martriden to show listeners more of their melodic side. The Unsettling Dark isn't as elaborate or as consistently melodic as albums that have been categorized as symphonic black metal or melodic death metal, but even so, it is accurate to say that nuance and craftsmanship are part of the equation on this CD along with bombast and brutality (which sets The Unsettling Dark apart from the unrelenting viciousness of Marduk or Gorgoroth, even though there are still elements of Marduk in their sound). Although The Unsettling Dark falls short of spectacular, it is a solid and worthwhile step forward for this Montana-based black metal/death metal unit.

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