Artist: Athena’s Grace
Album: Martyrs – EP
Are you passionate enough about something to be willing to die for it? Whether it’s another person, a religious belief or a personal philosophy—do you think if you were pushed far enough, you would fall on a blade to save what you stand for? Given the no-holds-barred energy and unbridled passion prevalent in Martyrs, it would appear that Athena’s Grace would do it. However, even in spite of the name, the latest release from Athena’s Grace is anything but martyrdom: it is a lively, ferocious display of fury and frantic aggression. Fusing traditional hardcore with metallic and melodic elements alike, Martyrs is the sound of focused anger fueled by poignant, tangible passion—a blend of lacerating riffs and concussive breakdowns brash enough to turn anyone in the audience into a martyr themselves.
Instrumentally, Athena’s Grace define the crossroads between melodic and metallic hardcore—providing a uniquely intense, energetic and emotional musical dynamic. Even in the sample-heavy (and somewhat eerie) opening track, “Martyrs,” percussionist Rich Ybarra leads the band with a balance of bouncy drumming and bold, fill-heavy energy. The frantic “Green Light” and quick-paced (and aptly named) “Savages” sees Ybarra at his best—blending fast, fleet-footed two-steps into pummeling double kick drum segments and spine-shattering breakdowns. “Scapegoat,” the EP’s lengthy and groovy finisher sees Ybarra working closely with bassist Kyle Ziulkowski to provide a fluid, thick low end throughout the song that keeps the transitions smooth while ensuring the climactic breakdowns are still brutal enough to bruise bones to. Here, guitarists Ben Cutlip and Robert Gibbons truly shine. “Green Light” and “Lows” see the duo leaning heavily on more traditional hardcore elements, adding just enough groove to keep the songs catchy, while “Death Wish” is a dissonant, mosh-friendly barn burner; however “Scapegoat” sees much more metallic influence. Here, Cutlip and Gibbons add scathing riffs into their arsenal of aggressive chugs and addictive grooves, ending the diverse release with a devastating, dynamic “bang.”
With a musical canvas that isn’t chuggy and slow enough to even come close to “downtempo” criteria, while still including neck-snapping breakdowns, Athena’s Grace require a vocal element that is able to be both quick and crushing—which is exactly what frontman Nikolea Dumitrescu brings to the table. “Green Light” and “Death Wish” both see him at his most aggressive, using his vocals to lead an onslaught of pure oppressive anger at the listener—while “Lows” and “Scapegoat” see him working with Cutlip and Gibbons’ more melodic and groovy moments, matching them with introspective and personal lyrics. Dumitrescu—assisted by Cutlip—provides both diversity and determination so pervasive the listener can practically feel it. “Lows,” as well as “Savages” and “Scapegoat” see Dumitrescu ranging from grisly low bellows to intense mid-range yells, opening up more peronsal parts of his psyche to the listener—only to slam the door shit when the barbaric and brutalizing “Death Wish” kicks in. Dumitrescu manages to bring emotion to an intense and aggressive musicals canvas without sacrificing bitterness or anger; making his performance one for other vocalists to take notes on.
With the belligerence and raw power of a freight train—but a compassionate and comprehensive core of emotion and energy—Martyrs is every bit as powerful and passionate as the title would have you think. While Athena’s Grace’s release is a short one, it isn’t too short, and still manages to touch on a myriad manner of hardcore and metalcore styles. Listeners will find themselves lashing out at others—or into thin air—at “Green Light” and “Death Wish,” while more heavily contemplating the lyrics to “Lows” and “Scapegoat” (which isn’t to say the matters don’t bring the mosh—they do). Even after the first track, it is plain to see how much personality and passion was poured into Martyrs—warranting a guess that if Athena’s Grace were to die for anything, it might be their music.
For Fans Of: Left Behind, Varials, Turncoat, Lionheart, Argus
By: Connor Welsh