Thursday, 6 February 2014

Extreme Thursday: Landmine Marathon

Another week is nearly over, which means it must be time for another Extreme Thursday. This week we are shunning the fantastical themes, the elaborate costumes and conceptual story arcs of last week and instead embracing the brutality of raw death metal with the curiously named Landmine Marathon from Phoenix, Arizona.

Active since 2004, Landmine Marathon was formed by bassist Matt Martinez and vocalist Grace Perry. Initially playing short, grindcore-influenced songs, the band produced two demos before being picked up by Level Plane Records to release their first full-length, Wounded, in 2006.

The album really defined the bands sound. High speed, but not without subtlety; viscious and dirty and loud with chugging bass, discordant guitar and high speed drumming underpinning Perry's shrieks and growls. Not afraid of getting to the point, the lyrics and themes are violent, visceral and wouldn't seem out of place on a high budget horror or low budget slasher flick. Death metal in sound, content and execution. To give a sharp edge to the macabre, the songs on Wounded are kept short and to the point, most weighing in between 44 seconds and 3 minutes.

This video of 25th Hour, the opening track from Wounded, is from a 2010 performance. With a band like this, it's hard to find high quality gig videos from their early career.

Landmine Marathon quickly became infamous for Grace Perry's stage presence. No theatrics, no mugging for the crowd, her presence on stage was driven by throwing herself into the vocals and, frequently, into the crowd.

Around this time Ryan Butler, who produced both wounded at the 2nd demo, joined the band in place of guitarist Eric Saylor. As Butler took on more songwriting responsibility, the band's sound morphed further into death metal territory, with more structure and more riffing.

After a successful split EP with thrash band Scarecrow, it was time for another album. Rusted Eyes Awake was released initially on Level Plane in 2008. The album saw a continuation of the evolution of style with Butler on songwriting and Perry still providing the shrieking, growling menace that still defined the band's sound. Song length increased to accommodate guitar solos and more complex structures, with every song over two minutes.

After this release, Landmine Marathon were picked up by Prosthetic Records. The first thing the new label did was rerelease Rusted Eyes Awake in 2009 before sending the band on a short festival tour and then back into the studio for third album Sovereign Descent in 2010.

After spending much of the year touring the album, the band headed back into the studio to produce their fourth album, Gallows, in late 2011. Received with critical acclaim, this release boosted the band's popularity by being the most polished record to date. Despite this, the fundamental sound, attitude and fascination with horrific themes continued unabated.

After touring Gallows, Grace Perry decided to leave the band to pursue other career options and was replaced by Krysta Martinez (no relation to Matt, as far as I can tell) of Portland grindcore band Transient, whose 16 track debut album was released in 2013. A true grindcore album, the tracks are all around the 1:30 mark and take full advantage of Krysta Martinez's vocal extremes.

In late 2012 Landmine Marathon released Krysta's debut with the band; the single Dead Horses from Gallows. Metalsucks featured both the album and single versions to highlight the different styles of vocal delivery Grace and Krysta bring to the band. Here they are, album version on the left, single on the right.

At present Landmine Marathon continue to promote Gallows. Now that Transient's debut is released, Krysta's time may be freed up for her debut album, so watch this space!