‘Impera’ (Latin) Translation - ‘rule.’ From the phrase - ‘Divide et Impera’ = ‘Divide and rule.’
Martyr De Mona are made up of Louis Hale (Vocals/Guitar) Ant Rickett (Guitar/Vocals) Joshua Wooldridge (Bass/Vocals) and Ashley Leatherland (Drums) As I have said many times before there is a real buzz around the music scene in the Black Country at the moment and the general feeling is that these guys are leading the charge, so there is almost an expectation that this record will be the one that will breakthrough and pave the way for the bands currently jostling for position just behind them. No pressure.
Opening track ‘Siege Mentality’ is a slow build. The opening minute of atmosphere building piano serves as not only a great intro to the track but a great intro to the album. The melodic opening also differentiates the band from the current trend of trying to be the loudest and the fastest seemingly purely for the sake of it. That’s not to say that this is some gentle ballad, soaring vocals and equally soaring guitars soon takeover giving an insight of what is to come.‘Influence and Persuasion’ is the first track that I ever heard from the band, something about it really caught my ear, and a month on it sounds as good as it ever did. The song’s hook begins with the line ‘To live free or die with regret,’ which I just think is a fantastic lyric. It’s really simple but it’s something that can really connect with the listener. This melodic but hard hitting style is fast becoming the bands trademark.
Sparse, low key intros are a feature of this album. They really help build the track, and provide a subtlety giving the record a real ebb and flow. Nowhere is this more apparent than on ‘Reprisal’ where the track flickers into life in almost haunting fashion. The track is a slight step down in pace form the opening couple but still retains the same hard rock edge.
‘Sentient’ sees the vocal from Hale really come to the fore. It has a familiar sound without sounding like a straight copy from bands gone by. There are echoes of Jacoby Shaddix (Papa Roach) but the song itself has a real Alter Bridge style feel to it, and anyone who knows this blog will know that in my eyes that’s no bad thing. The track does have one real surprise in store where the guitars briefly drop away before returning with an imposing riff that gives the track a totally different feel.
In contrast to the previous couple of songs title track ‘Impera’ is all action from the start. The scream background vocal really gives the track an edge. ‘Nothing Sacred’ again begins in similar vein but has more of a melodic feel. I was unsure about the song on the first few listens but it really grew on me, with the brilliant guitar solo in the final third of the song making a lasting impression.
We now arrive to my favourite track on the record; ‘Gravity Breaks.’ On an album packed full of high points, this for me is definitely the highest. Lyrically I feel that this is the band at their brilliant best. The opening verse is fantastic, set to a backdrop of gentle guitars and understated drums you really get a chance to feel the lyrics. Again the Alter Bridge influence is evident in the structure of the song, but it’s still wonderfully original. It’s an incredibly well-crafted song which could potentially make a brilliant single.‘Kyo’ is a musical force of nature. If this track doesn’t get your head bobbing nothing on this Earth will. You’re a lost cause. Powerful vocals, guitars performing gymnastics and a brilliant breakdown bringing drummer Leatherhead’s skills to the forefront all help to create what is hard rock at its finest. Penultimate track ‘Suffer Unto Me’ comes with now obligatory great intro and an a sort of anthemic quality. This is something that runs throughout the album, and I think helps give it the flow and polished feel that comes crashing through your speakers.
If I had to describe album closer ‘Hollow Shore’ in one word that word would be ‘epic.’ There are more ups and downs here than at the biggest of theme parks. This is the whole album wrapped up in one song. Delicate interludes juxtaposed with hard hitting drums, big guitars and powerful vocals. The track ends with a short piano outro which gives the album a real rounded feel as it returns to where it all began.I could sit here and throw around metaphors and ridiculously flowery language to explain how I feel about this album but frankly that would be pointless, because it’s simple really. This is a fantastic hard rock record. Actually scratch that, this is a fantastic record full stop. Bands like Martyr De Mona are always walking a tightrope when it comes to albums. The album needs to be hard enough to satisfy the hardest of hard rock fans but there also needs to be an accessibility for the casual listener, and for my money this album delivers just that.
Impera is perfectly balanced; hard hitting, but at the same time understated. Big things were expected from this album and it has delivered on every level. The year may only be three months old but I may well have just reviewed the album of the year.