1. Shores of Elenna
3. Heroic Deeds
4. Darkness Descends
5. Taur Nu Fuin
6. Minas Morgul
7. Witch-King of Angmar
8. The Dwarrowdelf
9. Born of Hope
Genre - Heavy Metal
Sometimes nothing can set you up for the head-in-hands disappointment when a band you loved releases a completely unexpected and out of the blue sub-par release. Such is the case I have found with Italian epic heavy metallers Holy Martyr, who release their first album in six years entitled Darkness Shall Prevail, trading the exotic ancient Japanese samurai themes of Invincible for the hobbits, elves and nazgul of Tolkien. I mean it's Holy Martyr and Middle Earth, how could you possibly go wrong? Theoretically this should have been amazing, how could it have been anything but? But in reality it bears all the scars of a band who have just by the looks of things have lost direction and don't know quite what they are trying to achieve with this release.
To begin, the production is really fucking bad for a heavy metal release, and let me tell you being a huge black metal fan I'm pretty immune to bad production jobs by now. Fair enough Holy Martyr always seemed to opt for the rougher side of the coin when it came to this, but it worked on their earlier releases; it added a sense of grit and fortitude to their sound, but here it's hard to describe as anything other than downright terrible. I get that they're going for a kind of darker sound here, but it just really doesn't work. For starters the vocals are absolutely brick-walled in the mix, they're far too loud and together with Ivano's slight accent it just comes off a bit disjointed and awkward and actually started to give me a headache about halfway through this.
Instrumentally it is decent enough, but for a band of this calibre who are so much better than this, 'decent' just isn't acceptable enough. The guitar playing lacks urgency for the most part, the tone is thin and weak. There are decent patterns scattered here and there and the odd riff which threatens to ignite some sort of spark but then it kind of just dwindles off into mediocrity each time, leaving you with the impression of lost opportunities every time. “Born of Hope” is definitely the stand out track here, containing some great riffs and vocals and was pretty much the only one to hold my attention, it's just a bit of a shame it's the last track.
What I'd love to know is where has that heroic, barbarian spirit of the past gone? When you compare the likes of “Tar Nu Fuin” to the likes of “Warmonger” and “Spartan Phalanx” there's just no comparison really. It seems like they completely lost their balls in opting for this 'darker' sound that they are shooting for on Darkness Shall Prevail. When you're attempting epic-metal in the vein of Manilla Road like these guys, you really need the hooks and melodies to hold peoples attention, and that's just not present here, the whole album kind of just passed me by like heavy metal elevator music.
I really hate to say it but the whole album was just a struggle to get through, not due to it being downright awful no, it's just painfully boring more than anything else. Where it threatens to break out into something epic and fist pumping it kind of just unceremoniously veers off into mediocrity. The likes of “Numenor” and “Witch King of Angmar” are decent enough but not what I come to expect from these guys, the whole album just sounds jumbled, incoherent and hastily thrown together, and with having had six years to work on it, is pretty inexcusable. I spent far too long looking/hoping to find something which wasn't here on Darkness Shall Prevail, so don't bother with it unless you're an absolute die-hard of the band, their previous three are so much better. These Italian warriors appear to have lost their way a bit and could do with re-finding their inspiration.
Originally written for The Metal Observer