Martröð – “Transmutation of Wounds”

Martröð is the collaborative project of an international group of musicians united by their shared musical and ideological goals. Featuring Wrest (of Leviathan), D.G. (of Misþyrming), Alex Poole (of Krieg), and others, their pedigree is impressive, but their music ought to stand by itself, and with such an incredible line-up it’s only natural that expectations are high. Thankfully, those expectations have been met, and Martröð really have crafted a very special release with ‘Transformation of Wounds’.

The sound is ultimately rooted in black metal, but much like the projects of its constituent musicians, traverses well beyond the genre’s traditional confines It draws on death metal, noise, psychedelia, and all things malevolent. The first song opens with about two minutes of tortured, terrifying abstract noise and unrecognisable vocals before the black metal assault spews forth. This record has an unspeakably unsettling quality to it, its psychedelic inflections quickly turning feverish and nightmarish. To describe this record as ‘atmospheric’ would be to understate things: few have ever gripped me and moved me like Transmutation of Wounds does, in its own claustrophobic way.

MkM’s inhuman, guttural cries and growls give terrifying voice to the demented personality at the heart of this record. And while D.G. largely sticks to his work on the bass, he does contribute some of his ferocious vocal talents to the record as well. The frenzied guitarwork (courtesy of Alex Poole, H.V Lyngdal, and Wrest) is disorienting, frequently off-kilter and jarring; the opening section of the second track, ‘Draumleysa’, being one of the most manic and unnerving pieces of black metal in recent memory, its rising harmony reaching a fever pitch before stepping back and allowing the hypnotic atmosphere to envelop the listener completely. The majestic tremolo-picked guitar passage that follows builds to a rising crescendo with some incredible percussion and spiralling, demented layered guitar harmonies. The latter half of this second track is surprisingly moving, in a despairing, melancholic way, that tastefully straddles the line between aggression and sorrow.

It’s a bittersweet end to a record that is over far too soon. In fact, if I have any criticism at all, it’s that this really ought to be longer. A little more meat on the bone would have helped round out this record. Nonetheless, the fact remains that in just over 16 minutes, Martröð have crafted one of the most utterly twisted and incredible metal records of the year.