With the sheer amount of sub-genres that currently exist in metal, as well the high volume of purists who will immediately correct you if you so much as get a syllable wrong, it may come as a shock to know that mere decades ago, metal was undefined as a genre. People didn’t know what to make of it – was it harder rock, darker blues, or simply noise? The world quickly smarted up, but it goes to show that metal is still a young genre that is perfect for experimentation. Martin Templum Domini claim to fit this mold by defying conventional tags, defining their sound as “neo-prog instrumental metal.” With their self-titled full length album, they fuse neo-classical shredding with more modern-sounding riffs, alongside the time signature changes prog-metal is known for, to create something beastly.
After the orchestral intro track, things kick off properly with “Inferno,” something that sounds like a fusion of Marty Friedman and Yngwie Malmsteen’s signature sound. With rapid-fire alternate picking and fret-tapping, it’s a great tune to get the blood flowing and set the tone. I really enjoy how, despite being an instrumental, it’s structured similarly to how song with vocals would be, with repeating verses and choruses. The next track, “Paradise, slams on the breaks with a beautiful clean passage that opens the track. It’s short lived before the impressive riff work rears its head. As a whole, this track has a stronger focus on the rhythm guitar than the last one did, considering the lead guitar doesn’t come in until the last quarter of the song. Next up is “Through the Hades,” and it amps up the speed considerably. The riff work on this is also fantastic, but given the continued absence of lead guitar parts, I’m wondering if this would have worked better with vocals, as it feels a bit.. empty, for lack of a better word. Regardless, the instrumental technicality is still in full force. “Underworld” is one of my favorite pieces on this album, balancing its fantastic, almost vocal lead-work with the killer rhythm guitar riffs. Unlike the last two tracks, the song knows when to let each part shine to make the song feel more complete.
Next up is “Torn Souls,” a song that goes full Yngwie the second it starts, with an impressive sweep picking lick laying the ground work. The rest of the song is par for the course. Track 7, “The Minos Judgment,” takes a more stripped-down approach than its predecessor, but it’s not too different than what came before. “On the Shores of Styx” however opens with a dark, atmospheric passage layered with some crazy shredding in the phrygian mode. It’s a nice change of pace before the formulaic song patterns that I’ve grown accustom to return. “Fallen Angel” is another standout tune for me, with the entire first half of the song being comprised of clean arpeggios that sound straight out of the 80s, in terms of their chorus-laden guitar tone. The last half of the song still gets heavy, but it feels like a rewarding payoff rather than something to be expected, thanks to what preceded it. The final track, “Templum Domini,” really digs into the Marty Friedman influence, with riffs that sound like it belongs on Megadeth’s “Rust in Peace.” It’s a great way to end the album!
Overall, while I feel that Martin Templum Domini doesn’t break as much new ground as I was expecting, they certainly delivered pulse-pounding guitar work throughout the record. The production is a bit rough, but because of that, I feel more attention was diverted to the song-writing, and it definitely shows. If you’re a fan of technical shred guitar work a la Steve Vai, Cacophany, Michael Angelo Batio, etc, definitely give these guys a listen
Overall Sound – 8 out of 10 (technical and raw guitar work that is performed with precision)
Overall Song Composition – 7 out of 10 (tight with some variety, but at times formulaic and repetetive)
Originality – 7 out of 10 (these guys wear their shred influences on their sleeve)