REVIEW: BETRAYING THE MARTYRS – “Rapture”
With metalcore becoming one of the best examples of a metal subgenre gradually morphing into an increasingly crowded room year on year with the sheer number of bands crafting their musicianship around this style of music, obviously, it takes a lot for a band to stand out and really be noticed. Cue Betraying the Martyrs – back with their new album ‘Rapture’ and their first since 2017’s ‘The Resilient’, scheduled for release on September 13, 2019, on Sumerian Records.
The close-to-60-seconds instrumental album opener “Ignite” doesn’t contribute much to ‘Rapture’ at all really other than being a build-up to “Eternal Machine” which properly kicks things into gear with a familiar groove-based rhythmic structure punctuated by the vocals of frontman Aaron Matts in the verses and of keyboardist/clean vocalist Victor Guillet in the choruses. Without sounding possibly too cynical, “Eternal Machine” is definitely not a radical departure musically from the kind of thing Betraying the Martyrs have built their name on but moments dotted here and there will definitely make you smile regardless.
The third track on ‘Rapture’, “Down”, feels somewhat like a misplaced dart going for the bullseye – an attempted hit at a slightly new direction but with work to be done before the desired result is finally achieved. Not a bad song by any means, but definitely the weakest (or least good) on the album. “The Iron Gates” immediately follows up next, with its ethereal sounding intro vocals reminiscent of angels singing in the skies above that are perfectly juxtaposed by the brutal guttural growls of Betraying the Martyrs’ lead vocalist. In addition to this, “The Iron Gates” manages to encapsulate what so many of people love about metalcore in terms of the duality between clean singing and aggressive screaming, and the dynamic that back-and-forth vocal bouncing can lead to in terms of the atmosphere of a song.
“Parasite”, “The Sound of Letting You Go”, and “The Swarm” mark the halfway point on Betraying the Martyrs’ new album ‘Rapture’. The first of the three tracks has already been released with a promotional music video, so if you’re into BMT you’ll very likely be familiar with the song by the time you read this and by the time the full album has dropped. In spite of this, the general vibe of the song is focused on more middle-tempo instrumentation instead of anything incredibly fast and musically blistering that attempts to catapult the listener from one moment to another, rather a more straight-down-the-middle approach to songwriting that is focused on groove more than anything else.
“The Sound of Letting You Go” is the longest of ‘Rapture’s songs clocking in at nearly 5 minutes total in length, and is the expected track that focuses on balladry opposed to traditional metalcore conventions until an unexpected breakdown followed by surprisingly savage vocals courtesy of Aaron Matts. With a track like a follow-up “The Swarm” however, the entirely opposite musical approach is taken by Betraying the Martyrs on this one with instrumentally ferocious pace right from the very beginning, and with a title like “The Swarm” anything else would be a disappointment. Additionally, this song would absolutely not feel out of place on the band’s last album – 2017’s ‘The Resilient’.If what you’ve been waiting for since the beginning of ‘Rapture’ is a track that represents everything that makes metalcore excel as a genre of heavy music, then “Monster” will likely end up being one of your favorite songs on this album. With a piano section two-thirds of the way through the track that mirrors the guitar and drum patterns immediately followed by a vocal dynamic comprising of a gang-chant and incredibly heavy riffs throughout, “Monster” is one of ‘Rapture’s most interesting songs in a number of ways.
With the album beginning to slowly wind down now as it approaches its conclusion, “Imagine” starts us off towards the end of this album’s musical journey. This track as a one-two with “Monster” before it definitely sets the stage for ‘Rapture’ being stronger musically, lyrically and instrumentally in its second half than it was in its first, but it’s down to the album’s last two songs to determine if that is going to be the case. “Incarcerated” and the album’s closing song/title track “Rapture” definitely prove this to have at least some legitimacy – with the former being undeniably the heaviest song on the album in a traditional metalcore sense while the latter achieves the accolade of picking up the instrumental pace so much to the point that it manages to transcend its own genre and take on a musical style more reminiscent of what one would hear in black metal with the groove and stomp of the scene that Betraying the Martyrs comes from.
In conclusion, Betraying the Martyrs’ new album ‘Rapture’ takes a while to really get going – perhaps almost too long if what you’re aspiring for is something that is 11 songs with lots of bites and not much else. While this is a more complex album than it may initially appear, fans of the genre that are into it for riffs, breakdowns and the audible equivalent of being punched in the head are not going to be disappointed with this album’s final few songs.