Malignant Records – TUMRCD117 – 8th January 2017
Greek ritual ambient duo, Martyria promise ‘5 stunning tracks of textural depth, sepulchral darkness, and exotic, richly detailed atmospheres’, and are pitched for fans of Dead Can Dance, Funerary Call, Voice of Eye, and Shibalba. I’m not going to feign superior knowledge: I’m only aware of Dead Can Dance from that list, but I have a hunch I know what’s reasonable to expect here. I’m braced for dark, haunting, atmospheric. I’m anticipating compositions which emanate subterranean spiritualism and mystery. And this is precisely what Martyria deliver.
This is dark. Dark in the sense of ominous, eerie. Dark in the sense of foreboding. Dark in the sense of the occult and the otherworldly. Dark in the sense of the unheimlich. Rhythms clatter and patter as wordless invocations float and drift above eternal drones. Dolorous bells herald the arrival of an elongated drone and an ethereal, choral female voice. Bells chime in a whorl of what sounds like didgeridoo as heaving chants and vocalisations conjured from the depths of the diaphragm in monasterial intonations.
At the mid-point of the album, ‘Nekron’, plunges into deeper, darker depths: dank rumblings and distant thunder which registers low on the sonic spectrum, churning at the gut, conjure dark, shadowy visions. It bleeds into the even longer darker, more sinister ‘Nyx’, dominated by cavernous percussion, muffled by distance and depth. It evokes flickering images of candlelit rituals held in carved temples far beneath the surface in secret cave networks.
The final composition, ‘Eschaton’, stretches out over some twelve and a half minutes with wordless vocal evocations and intimations of ancient occultism. It’s not music you can readily understand or cognise: it registers on a level far, far beneath the surface of comprehension. It’s the calling of the earth, the rocks, the trees. It registers and calls to a part of the psyche long-buried. Martyria speaks to the resonant brain, to genetic imprints, to the soul as conveyed through generations of heredity. It speaks to ancient history, knowledge buried through centuries of ‘progress’. Martyria is not a work to comprehend, but to allow to bury its way into the canals of the mind devoted to instinct. Its impact is difficult to quantify or even to explain on a rational, scientific level. And yet, it has impact and resonance – deep, slow-register resonance.