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Martin Grech - Unholy


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.

Track listing:
1. Guiltless
2. Venus
3. Erosion And Regeneration
4. I Am Chromosome
5. An End
6. Holy Father Inferior
7. Worldly Divine
8. Lint
9. Elixir

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