Although he's most famously known as the drummer for iconic masked metallers Slipknot, Joey Jordison has also been a regular FEARnet favorite thanks to his many macabre side projects – including a stretch on the road with Rob Zombie and the reunion of legendary shock-rock unit Murderdolls, which he reanimated a few years ago with co-founder Wednesday 13. Jordison is still active with Slipknot, of course, but during a lengthy offline period (partly due to the death of bassist Paul Gray in 2010), he turned his creative energies from that band and focused instead on forming the industrial-metal supergroup Scar The Martyr – who have just unleashed their mammoth self-titled debut album.
“I was working on new Slipknot material but I had to shelve it and wait until we all know we’re getting back together,” says Jordison. “But I couldn’t stop writing! I stayed in the studio because I had so many ideas and I decided to put another band together. I wanted to really challenge myself and come up with some material that worked on a more intellectual level and that wasn’t just a standard metal project... I needed to keep the integrity of Slipknot, but branch out into some areas I've never visited before.”
For this mission he assembled a highly skilled team – including former Nine Inch Nails keyboardist Chris Vrenna (on the album itself; his role is assumed onstage by Joey Blush of Blush Response), the guitar duo of Strapping Young Lad's Jed Simon and Darkest Hour's Kris Norris, and producer Rhys Fulber, formerly of Front Line Assembly and an icon of industrial and electro-rock. Jordison is not handling lead vocal duties here – that task goes to relative newcomer Henry Derek – but his guiding hand is felt throughout: not only does Joey take his rightful place at the drumkit, he also lays down bass tracks (In This Moment's Kyle Konkiel handles those duties onstage), as well as additional guitars. The result is an atmospheric electro-metal behemoth with distinctive horror elements (not the punkish, sardonic EC Comics horrors favored by Murderdolls, but something more abstract and nightmarish), with the intense madness of Slipknot burning at its core.
In fact, horror forms the gateway to the album, via a creepy intro laced with demonic chants, tormented screams and ghostly wails (a motif continued later in the interlude "Sign of the Omeneye"), giving way to the thunderous industrial groove of "Dark Ages." That beat is bolted to grimy machine riffs that hit hardest in the low-frequency range, while Derek delivers a burnished melodic vocal reminiscent of early Faith No More-era Mike Patton, escalating to hardcore-style screams at the breakdown. His vocals get a serious workout in the ground-pounder "My Retribution," and he proves himself admirably, belting out clean melodies with just the right amount of coarseness and aggression... and when called upon to unleash hell, his demonic roars are especially frightening. The single "Soul Disintegration" was introduced this summer, and it's a strong entry as well, with symphonic keyboard elements expanding the scope of the simple but memorable chorus.
The second single "Blood Host" (see video below) is much darker in tone, accomplishing some amazing feats with a deceptively basic two-chord structure; equally strong entries are the "Prayer for Prey," highlighted by a surprisingly bright, clean chorus sporting arena-sized power chords, and the gritty, throbbing cyber-metal of "Effigy Unborn," which features some of the album's strongest percussion (including gut-punching double kicks). Touches of progressive metal enhance the moody cuts "Anatomy of Erinyes" and "White Nights in a Day Room," providing some welcome shifts in tone, and the standard album closes with the eight-and-a-half-minute epic "Last Night on Earth," a down-tempo piece that stomps along like an apocalyptic death march. The expanded version of the album includes four additional tracks, the best of which is “Flatline & Fracture,” which has a distinctly Slipknot feel; I suspect this track may have originated as one of those songs-in-progress which Jordison was tackling during the band's hiatus.
While the rhythmic essence of Slipknot haunts these tracks like a masked poltergeist, Jordison and company have managed to build on that familiar base of thick, muscular and ultra-violent metal to create a vast, chilling soundscape that balances aggression and atmosphere consistently well. The sheer density of Fulber's production is impressive in itself, and lends a more cinematic scope to the album, but it doesn't overwhelm Jordison's tight, memorable song structures. Time will tell whether this combination will resonate with both Slipknot devotees and fans of more electronically-infused metal... and it seems that time is nearly upon us, as Scar the Martyr is preparing to embark on a Fall tour with Rob Zombie and Korn. Tickets and updated venue info are available at their official site, and you can get a taste in the performance video for “Blood Host” right here: