Sound — 8
Words like "unrelenting" and "vicious" came to mind when I first popped this disc into my stereo. I kid you not. Martyr Immortal is a beast of an album! Baltimore, Maryland's Pulling Teeth have more than earned their spot on the hallowed roster of the Deathwish label. From the ominous feedback of opening track, "With Avarice" you get the sense that things will be heading into a dreary direction. They play the kind of down-tuned sludge that has made bands like Integrity and Tragedy such heavyweights in the underground. The twin guitar blitzkrieg provided by Danny Parker and Domenic Romero runs the gamut from frenzied punk workouts to outright Sabbath-like funeral dirges. They even throw in solos throughout the festivities for good measure. The production of Mike Bossier never suffocates the performances and really serves the band's brand of uncontrolled mayhem. His warm tones and overall no nonsense approach is a breath of relief in these days of sterile digital recordings. Credit must also be given to Scott Hull of Pig Destroyer for his fine mastering job!
Lyrics — 7
Keeping with the negative spirit of Martyr Immortal's sonics, vocalist Mike Riley's lyrical approach does not stray off the path. His list of grievances is long and he spends most of the album's duration bleeding them out. The hostile "Clipped Wings" dishes out the shitstorm on rich kids who get hooked on drugs. With lines like, "what you've got though, it's not enough/a rusty spoon and a pinch of dust," being spit out like venom, it is easy to see Riley is probably talking the current denizens of young Hollywood. The singer's vegetarian views are dealt out on the track "Dead Is Dead." I haven't heard a diatribe this caustic since Drop Dead's "At The Cost of An Animal" from the early '90s.
Overall Impression — 7
I remember a time when hardcore bands were kept in a stylistic box that few fans would ever let them escape from. But here we are more than twenty years since the debut Cro Mags album and there are more hardcore sub-genres one can keep up with. Which category Pulling Teeth fall into is up for debate but they cast their net wide and the results are stellar. Actually, calling this a "hardcore record" would be doing it a disservice. There are far more things going on to pique the interests of death metal and doom fans as well. Take the chugging "Stonethrowers" which could attract fans of early Entombed or the brooding march of "Ashes and Dust" that would fit perfectly on a Southern Lord compilation album. The songs are kept brief, with the exception of the closer "Dismissed In Time," so even the shortest attention spans can keep up. Yes, the ADD youth have not been ignored this time out! The most crucial aspect of Pulling Teeth's power structure is without question Parker and Romero's guitar playing. Their amalgamation of punk, hardcore and Swedish death metal take their compositions way past the tired expectations of their scene. Sure, their style isn't in the technical, math-y variety, but their tasteful mode is more than ideal for these songs. With labelmates like Converge and Blacklisted, Pulling Teeth had to make the kind of album that would earn them respect from the underground and their peers alike. Martyr Immortal should do this and so much more.