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Martigan: Distant Monsters

Coming out of Cologne in mid 90s, Martigan are a neo-prog outfit who have now, with their new 'long player' Distant Monsters, released five albums in 20 years. So not exactly prolific and hardly household names. However if this new effort is indicative of the standard Martigan regularly reach, then it's a travesty they aren't better known. To be fair Distant Monsters doesn't really hold many surprises, this is a traditional neo-prog approach, Genesis and Fish era Marillion reminded of throughout. Although the strongest flavour is that of mid era (think Suits) Fish, the band housing an impressive ability to take songs of easy pace and embellish them with soaring melodies, intricate passages, stunning solo slots and motifs and hooks that bite deep. Nothing across this album feels rushed or contrived, instead a reassurance that everything has been crafted, yet not killed with kindness, the reason it feels both engaging and challenging all at once.

All five musicians should take a bow, the lead guitar work of Björn Bisch an absolute joy (check out the extended solo on "Lion"), while keyboard player Oliver Rebhan does a marvellous job darting to the forefront, or supporting from the back, his mix of lush layers and dancing interludes reason to celebrate. Not to be outdone, bassist Mario Koch is given room to shine, his contributions to "Simplicius" way beyond your average four string twanger, while drummer Alex Bisch knows exactly when to sit tight and add a few hi-hat clicks, or snare-rim clacks, and exactly when to attack his toms as though they'd just stolen his favourite comfy chair. Is there a chink in the armour? Well… kinda, singer Kai Marckwordt at times proving the single most engaging aspect of the Martigan attack, however when things get frenetic, his charismatic Fish meets Gabriel almost becomes unintelligible, to the extent that I actually checked all the lyrics are written in English (they are). However through his warm tones and ever varying attack, I have to admit that I still loved every last second of his performance on Distant Monsters and have no qualms in suggesting you will too.

Eight tracks and 75 minutes will tell you that Martigan like to deal in mid-length epics (7 to 12 minutes) and with some songs segueing into one another, that effect of cohesion is heightened. That said, there's also clever variance from song to songs; "Fire On The Pier" almost latter day It Bites in its uplifting manner, "On Tiptoe" deep, dark and involved as more recent Gabriel often can be. However what makes this album stand out, is that from the atmospheric build of "Take Me Or Leave Me" to the clever musical interplays of "Theoder's Walls", not one track lets the side down.

Released with little fanfare through Progressive Promotions Records at the tail end of 2015 (so tail end that I didn't see it feature on one single year end best of), Distant Monsters really is an album that deserves much more recognition. Time to check out the back catalogue I think, if it's a good as Distant Monsters, then Martigan have been an undiscovered gem for far too long.

Track Listing
1. Theodor's Walls
2. Lion (White, Wild & Blind)
3. Simplicius
4. Complicius
5. The Lake
6. On Tiptoe
7. Fire on the Pier
8. Take Me or Leave Me

Added: April 2nd 2016
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: Martigan online
Hits: 2904
Language: english

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