High Roller Records, hot pink/ magenta vinyl, ltd 350, 425gsm heavy cardboard cover, lyric sheet, 2 bonus tracks, specially mastered for vinyl by Patrick W. Engel/ Temple of Disharmony
The metal scene in the Netherlands started to happen for good in the very early 1980s, being directly influenced by the glorious New Wave Of British Heavy Metal. It took until 1985 for legendary Dutch heavy metal band Martyr to issue their fantastic debut album »For The Universe«. However, formed in 1982, Martyr are anything but a second generation band, they shared the stage with Picture, Highway Chile, Together, Angus and Defender. Before »For The Universe« was originally put out by Megaton Records, Martyr had already recorded several demos, financed an EP and contributed to the legendary »Dutch Steel« compilation album (for Roadrunner Records). Original guitarist Rick Bouwman knows all the details: “When we started, we quickly recorded a first demo called »If It’s Too Loud, You’re Too Old« in our rehearsal room. During that demo recording we changed our vocalist to Rop van Haren and went on the road immediately. Soon after that we recorded our highly acclaimed demo »Metal Torture« which sold well over 1,000 copies. Our classic tune ‘Snow & Fire’ was on that tape as well as on the »When The Hammer Falls Down« compilation which made Aardschok magazine appoint us ‘the most promising Metal band from the Netherlands’ at that time! Then we did »Dutch Steel« with the tune ‘Snow & Fire’. After that it was time for a third demo entitled »For The Universe« on which we changed the vocalist to Gerard Vergouw and released that recording on an EP. That all happened in a period of around three years in fact.”
According to Rick Bouwman, Martyr’s style did not change too much between 1982 and 1985: “Martyr as a band has always been very strong-minded, meaning we always wanted to do everything exactly the way we liked. You know what I mean? Our style did not change too drastically but as youngsters we did become better musicians, also by playing many live shows. But still, even when you listen to our very first demo, it contained technical, groovy riffs with a big sense of heavy melody. That style is also very much evident on our debut album »For The Universe« from 1985, some three years later.”
»For The Universe« was the logical conclusion of three years of hard work for Martyr, all the songs had appeared on the band’s earlier demos – albeit in vastly different versions.
As mentioned earlier, the original pressing of »For The Universe« came out via Megaton Records. Rick Bouwman explains: “When we released »Metal Torture«, the Amsterdam record store noticed Martyr. They wanted to sell it in their store as well. After they had sold 100 copies in virtually no time, they quickly realised that they needed more copies. So when we did the »For The Universe« demo, they weren’t blind and deaf and signed us to release it on vinyl. So they probably wanted to make some money out of it, too, ha, ha.
Megaton is a label that was connected to Boudisque. They did release very little heavy metal before Martyr. But after our success, they went out to actively search for other metal bands.”
Somehow it is pretty difficult to describe Martyr’s music because stylistically the Dutch masters were caught right in the middle between heavy metal, speed metal and power metal. “That’s a fair assessement,” confirms Rick Bouwman. “But as I said, we wanted to do it how we felt like doing it. And we did want to sound different, more technical and riff-based than the Dutch rock/metal bands that were already existing at that time over here. I am not too fond of putting a typical label on our music. Of course it is heavy metal, but a description I really, really liked was the following: ‘Intricate and aggressive technical metal which is built on complex structures and allies a multitude of emotions from many different musical approaches. The music is not limited to the conventions of traditional metal music, the band striving to push those limits to create a more open-minded concept.’“
Martyr are originally from Utrecht. Accordding to Rick Bouwman Utrecht was no hotspot for heavy metal music in the early 1980s: “To be brutally honest, there was hardly a metal scene existing in Utrecht in those days. A few bands did have a certain following but there were hardly any clubs that offered metal shows for national metal bands in the city itself. Martyr was always known as (in Dutch): ‘Ütrecht Hoop In Harde Dagen’, meaning as much as ‘The hope of Utrecht in hard times’.”
Looking back from today, is Rick still satisfied with how the debut album turned out? This is indeed the case: “Oh yes, it brought us a lot of pleasure and we had the opportunity to enjoy our weekends playing all around the Netherlands, Belgium and a bit of Germany, too. The songs are still great, classic in fact, and the album gave us so much response. It still does, even over 30 years later! So we must have done something right, as so many people still dig it. These days the album is seen as a cult classic and we are very happy to re-release it via High Roller Records.”
When the album was originally released in 1985, press reactions were overwhelmingly positive: “The feedback from the press was just superb, truly excellent. Fortunately the press and fans recognized our intention which was trying to bring something different to the Dutch metal market. They saw that our intentions were fair and true. We got great response from everywhere around the world. One of the greatest things I remember is that I received a letter (no e-mail in those days of course) from somewhere in South America, addressed to: ‘Martyr is God, Netherlands’. And it even arrived, ha, ha. Can you imagine that? The postman must have like the band, too.”
»For The Universe« has been carefully re-mastered by Patrick W. Engel at his Temple Of Disharmony. The original cover artwork has been slightly overhauled.