From their point of inception in 2003 far northern Chilean thrash metal band Martyrium sought to unmask the abuse of those in power, to call out the injustice inherent to human civilization and human-grinding governments across the globe. Defiance of corruption isn’t a brand new message within the history of Chile’s infamous thrash metal scenes throughout the years but, it is continually indicative of a people still eager to avoid falling back into the ways of Pinochet, the massive loss of human rights under his thumb and the discord after. Keeping this thread of ultra-violent music going is vital for empowering and enraging each successive generation since and in that sense Martyrium are among good company both in terms of a brutal, high speed thrash metal style and their overtly political themes. Though the band would push through about ten years of demos and many line-up changes they’ve managed to keep the energy up since their ‘Chaos Awaits’ demo in 2012. Since then their ‘Twisted Fate’ (2013) LP might’ve sounded like a greenhorn thrash record by most accounts but in the six years since they’ve put in the work to acclimate to new line-up changes in 2017-2018 and landed upon this second full-length, ‘Children Scream For Mercy’. Though the edges are far more rough this time in terms of the recording the compositions are a newly inspired refinement for the project.
The guitar tone is terrible. Straight up it isn’t good and sounds like a single microphone set it front of a practice amp during a rehearsal. The guitar performances are immaculate, the compositions are exciting and actually fairly technical but, man I just couldn’t get past that weirdly plain and hollow rhythm guitar sound. With a somewhat compressed mix the guitar tone is probably going to be fairly low on the list of annoyances for pickier thrash metal fans but for my taste that garage rehearsal guitar sound creates an unfitting abrasive presence for an otherwise thoughtful guitar performance. Early Nuclear and plenty of other Chilean thrash bands made these raw sound choices by design back in the late 90’s but it sounds unfinished on ‘Children Scream For Mercy’. Outside of that gripe with the guitar sound, this is a great album that finds Martyrium shifting away from the hardcore/crossover influenced modern thrash sound of their first album and taking on a sort of late 80’s Slayer tonality with some compositions that remind me of post-’86 Dark Angel. It isn’t as dramatic a shift as we’d seen from Warchest towards death/thrash on their latest but it is a different sound that focuses on providing throngs of aggressive, moderately complex riffs.
There isn’t a ton else to focus on or really examine here as ‘Children Scream For Mercy’ shoves its message of justice and exposing corruption fist first into your face and then the guitar tone is basically all you’ll hear otherwise. Thankfully the album takes a sort of Heathen-esque approach in terms of develop some nigh progressive thrash metal strings of riffs to keep things interesting on the second half of the album. I wouldn’t say Martyrium take a more serious turn on the second half of the album but maybe a more thoughtful one as the vocals appear less often and the rhythm guitars become the major focus of Side B. I was very close to just hating this record until I’d taken a closer listen to the second half, there is some promising guitar ideas there that could become the basis for a more technical record in the future. So if you felt like the first album was sort of typical this second is somewhat more mature in style and relies less on crossover/hardcore punk influences to keep the energy up, the trade-off is that the production is not particularly good. I love classic thrash metal enough to dig this and give it a handful of spins but in the grand scheme of the sub-genre Martyrium only manage a few impressive moments on an otherwise average album. Moderate recommendation. For preview I’d suggest starting with the title track as it had some of my favorite pacing and riff changes and then try the single “Twisted Fate” for a look at some of the death/thrash influenced guitar work and a glimpse of the general lift in compositional quality therein compared to the prior album.
Hatred arise. 3.25/5.0
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