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Betraeus - 'Towards The Sun' (siege of amida) 4/5

Manchester prog metal outfit Betraeus are fairly new additions to the uk metal scene. Formed in 2009 they have been build themselves a bit of a reputation lately thanks to a show stopping appearance on the New Blood stage at this years Bloodstock festival and support slots for the likes of Blaze and Beholder. Earlier this year they signed to Siege of Amida records and now have issued their debut ep. Towards The Sun.

Now there's a lot of good stuff going on on the old prog-death scene in UK, recently we've had some corking releases from the likes of Spires, Impaled Existence and Fornost Arnor that have really been showing what a depth of talent there is in the uk at the moment, and now we have this little gem to ally any doubts you may have that UK death-prog is here and means business.

There are three cracking tracks at the business end of this one. We start with Towards The Sun itself a true epic as just a few seconds short of the 10 minute mark. Sounding not unlike some of the early work of Opeth, this track alone shows what an interesting and versatile outfit Betraeus are. It starts out like Van der Graaf 
Generator on a Behemoth trip develops through some tasty death metal passages with some licks and motifs that come straight from the Fish era Marillion song book, slides neatly through some good old school trashage and dark gothic acoustic moments before winding up with a section that reminds me of the sort of stuff Dream Theater used to cook up before they started the serious exploration their own backsides. Damn good it is too.

The other two studio tracks on offer are equally noteworthy, Frustrate Recluse is a touch less prog and more old school thrash, pounding Toranaga style rhythms and heavy bridge damped chuggs a-go-go; and Blossom Into The Void is a true classic with a beautiful acoustic vibe that feels very Wishbone Ash.

Add in two storming bonus live cuts, Obsolete and Locust lifted from the band Bloodstock performance, which show whatever this lot can do in studio they can do on stage and a shortened single edit of the title track to round things off and you have a cracking release from a great new band with a lot to offer. I got a feeling this lot could go places.

Highly recommended

For fans of... Opeth, Spires, Impaled Existence, Elimination, Hammers of Misfortune.....

Martyr - 'Circle of 8' (roadrunner) 4/5

Ok I think I had better start with a quick history lesson here. Dutch metal combo Martyr (not to be confused with the Canadian post hardcore outfit of the same name) came together in 1982 and were key supporting players in the euro metal movement that grew up in parallel with the NWOBHM. They issued a couple of albums in the 80's that are now looked on as collectable cult classics then just when it looked like they were about to break through to bigger and better things split up. The rest of the story is now a familiar one, a reformation a few years back to play at a festival or two, a sudden shock that people still remembered them, a couple of tours supporting some legends from the past (in this case Lizzy Borden and Flotsam and Jetsam), an ep to support said tours and now we have the bands first full lenght opus in over 25 years.

I will be honest here and say I'm not 100% up to speed on Martyrs early output, all I've got in my collection is a couple of tracks on compilation albums, so exactly how Circle of 8 compares with their classic stuff I can't really say, however I can safely say that as far as come back albums from classic 80's bands goes this is a bit of a corker.

This album is rooted firmly in the strong metallic traditions of their past. Opening cut D.I. is pure Ride The Lightning era Metallica, All Warriors Blood comes over like a classic Megadeth number, Art Of Desception hat tips both Anthrax and Armored Saint and Scene Of Hell wouldn't sound out of place on a Metal Church album. OK its not very original, but it still highly enjoyable.

The band themselves sound very happy at doing what they are doing  This is specially noticeable in the performance of vocalist Rop van Haren who even in the growled shouty bits of his performance has a sort of chuckle about him, almost as if he is about to burst out to the laughter of pure joy at any moment. And as for the rest of the band... well these guys are having a ball, wielding riffs like broadswords, pounding rhythms like the hammer of Thor on the forge of Vulcan and generally laying down some of the best old school metal of the year.

In short this is a great album and while it may never become a massive world wide hit, it will go a long way in making sure Martyrs cult status as a great band of the old school is maintained.

For fans of... Megadeth, Waxface, Elimination, Metal Church, Armored Saint.....