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(68:21, Airaid Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. End of the Beginning 3:47 2. Drag of the Mask 5:10 3. Rising Darkness 3:23 4. The Beast on Hollins Street 4:32 5. Stand under the Water in the Crest Depth 6:42 6. Legion of the Moose 4:59 7. God out of the Machine 3:52 8. Airaid 16:10 9. Mad Mardygan 3:47 10. March to Darkness 7:08 11. Gun Pointed at the Head of the Universe 8:51 LINEUP: Matt Graboski – guitars; vocals Garrett Henritz – drums Ken Moore – bass
Prolusion. The US outfit MARTINI HENRY was established sometime around 2005, initially in the Baltimore/Washington region of the States, but since relocating to Los Angeles. "End of the Beginning" is its debut effort, and was released by the indie label Airaid Records in 2007.
Analysis. This is a disc that has been languishing for some time in the awaiting reviews section of this website. In a case of bad luck more than anything else, it has taken its good time for this one to get written about. Such things happen from time to time, even at websites and magazines much larger than this one. I'm mentioning this because Martini Henry is a band that as of today is either out of commission or too busy to update their websites; its main site is offline and its MySpace site hasn't been updated in a year or so. The style of this band which may or may not still be active is one that may be described as acoustic rock. Not an acoustic band as such, as I'm pretty sure that they do use an electric bass, but the guitar is acoustic, a token few exceptions aside. But this trio doesn't languish in the realms of gentle pastoral music however; instead, it has opted for territories of a much more energetic kind. Pace-filled and almost frantic drums in a strong and dynamic interplay with a bass of similar qualities are the foundation for these compositions, and the acoustic guitar motifs are rather pace-filled and frantic as well. There's almost a punk edge to these songs, at least as far as momentum is concerned, while the stylistic expression is a merry blend of subtle details from folk, post-rock and singer/songwriter stuff, at least to my ears. Vocalist Graboski has a fine voice, and that is needed, as especially the shorter pieces here are rather vocal heavy. My first impression of his voice made me think about Metallica’s James Hetfield, albeit with a stronger melodic sense and delivery. By and large, this is an intriguing mix, but on the other hand, it seems it promises more than it can deliver. While energetic, the songs tend to be too repetitive, lacking subtlety as well as stark contrasts and variation. And vocalist Graboski doesn't cope too well when he tries out with a more intense delivery, the voice getting rather hoarse and with a tendency to appear as shouting rather than singing, which to my ears doesn't suit the moods explored on these compositions. But when the components of these creations gel the end result is interesting. The slightly dampened instrumentation and subtly nervous rhythmic display of Rising Darkness adds an enticing atmosphere to this piece, and towards the very end of this disc March to Darkness and Gun Pointed at the Head of the Universe both contain some subtle but highly effective variations and alterations missing elsewhere that make these creations well worth checking out for an impression of this band at their most sophisticated. And while not as impressive as such, the epic-length Airaid will most likely be the number that finds the warmest welcome amongst art rock fans, as the alterations in pace, mood and intensity on this one correlate quite nicely with most descriptions of progressive rock as a genre. The fact that the electric guitar makes one of its rare appearances in the second half of this creation will most likely be regarded as another asset seen in this context.
Conclusion. "End of the Beginning" is a promising initial effort by a band consisting of highly skilled musicians. And while this disc may not be a good fit for your average art rock fan, I'd guess that those among you who enjoy energetic music where the acoustic guitar is a central part of the proceedings might find this release to be a rewarding experience.
OMB=Olav M Bjornsen: Agst 15, 2011
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