Review: Jack Foley
LIKE him or loathe him, Martin Grech is an artist who strives
to be different.
His music is such that it forces you to have an opinion. Open
Heart Zoo, his debut, was an astonishingly heartfelt piece
of work, almost haunting in its intensity, yet evidence of a distinct
new voice on the music scene.
His follow-up, Unholy, attempts to challenge expectation
as well as his own limits, travelling a far darker path towards
his own musical salvation.
Aptly described as a cross between Nine Inch Nails and Radiohead,
Grech's music seeks to create a disorientating landscape, as informed
by surrealist artists such as HR Giger and Joel Peter Witkin,
as it is the aforementioned artists.
During the recording of the album, Grech realised that his new
pocket of songs seemed to be converging on three specific emotions
- Holy, Sensual and Debauched.
As such, he had these his focus, not just for the album, but
for his whole life. The words loomed large on his studio walls,
while outside Martin confesses to poring over the dark biomechanical
images of the graphic artist, HR Giger (of Alien fame) and the
disturbing body part photography of Joel Peter Witkin for inspiration.
Needless to say, Unholy is as dark and occasionally
disturbing as the images that inspired it.
It creeps into your subconscious and exists to shake it up a
bit, seldom allowing you the luxury of resting easy, or laying
back with it.
For this, Grech remains unapologetic, stating: "All musicians
are interested in these days is being cool. It's so boring - celebrities
do that, you don't need musicians to do that as well.
"Music is amazing and has real value. The only place you
have revolutions are in art and politics and everyone seems to
be wasting the opportunity."
It is the sort of statement that inevitably prompts accusations
of artistic pretension.
And there are times when Grech seems to have isolated himself
a little too much from the listener.
For as ambitious as Unholy remains, it is a mixed blessing,
and one which makes for an arduous journey.
Opening track and lead single, Guiltless, sets the tone
well, emerging as a brooding, almost cinematic mood piece, driven
by distinctly threatening guitar riffs and the tortured vocals
that have become Grech's stock in trade.
It is followed by the pagan folk of Venus, an intricately
layered piece that again impresses.
But it then gets a little too weird, drifting between the choral
ambience of Erosion and Regeneration and the hostile
hard rock of I Am Chromosome (during which the Nine Inch
Nails comparisons kick in).
It takes too long for the album to re-emerge from its warped
journey, only really finding any light in final track, Sun,
which carefully creates a beautiful cinematic vista upon which
to close proceedings.
As previously stated, Grech isn't interested in pandering to
the mainstream to win easy friends; his music is earnest, from
the heart and fiercely challenging.
For that reason, you have to tip your hat to him, even if this
latest album seems like a bit of an Unholy mess.