“Ankarian Epic Art act”, try saying that when you’ve had one too many sherberts, songs that are majorly influenced by shamanism, mythology, history, war and battlefields. The album, 13 Martyrs, by Turkish metal act Forgotten includes all of these and more, a journey from classical music to heavy metal, wandering through folk music as it gets there. I find war and fighting are common themes in a lot of metal and classic rock music, the power and vibrancy of the music able to convey the chaos, thunder and hopelessness of the battlefield and the emotions of the soldiers whose lives it affects. Some musicians are able to produce music that can leave you feeling fully immersed and involved yourself whereas others use it as a lightweight covering for what little is beneath. Is 13 Martyrs an album where the artist has put their heart and soul into it or is it just a pale comparison?
First, as ever, a little history, Forgotten were formed in 1995 when Tolga Otabatmaz wanted to share his music with the outside world, the band released 2 demos, Conquer in 1998 and Retreat in 1999. There then followed a musical hiatus that lasted 9 years, during this time, a compilation of the first two demos along with 3 new tracks was released by Innsmouth Productions, entitled Through the Fields of Battle 1996-1999. In 2008 Tolga decided to revive the band name and got to work on 13 Martyrs, dedicated to all the warriors who fought side by side for their flags. The album was recorded over 2 years at Studio Loom and released by Noisehead Records on 17th October 2012.
The album starts with an impressive intro, almost cinematic in its delivery. Conquer is all keyboards and drums before a nicely worked riff brings in the rest of the track. When the vocals start they are very insistent and melodic, there is a definite epic fantasy feel to the whole song, marching into battle, a warriors lament. The riff is a nice combination of shredding guitar and powerful keyboards and injects some urgency throughout the track. There is a nice, delicate piano section towards the end of the track, a nice contrast to the rest of the song before the keyboard and guitar heavy riff runs out to the abrupt ending of the track, nothing startling but a very nice introduction to the album. War of the World begins with a call to arms from a hunting horn and a really cool riff, all sooth keyboards and ferocious guitar, a headlong rush into battle it would seem. As the melodic vocal sings the catchy chorus, there is a feel of pomp and circumstance. The nice twin guitar run that precedes an impressively shredded solo is a highlight.
I like the way the intro to Living in My Gods starts out with muted acoustic guitars and a harp like effect before the super heavy, bombastic outpouring of heavy guitar and pounding drums blows the cobwebs away. The vocal takes on a traditional hue, almost middle-eastern in its rhythm, backed by some superb guitar, especially on the twin guitar solo that burns with emotion, a highlight of this short track where the run out of the track mirrors the muted introduction. Shaman is almost a bastion of light surrounded by the darker feel of the rest of the album. The vocal is almost chanted, in keeping with the title of the track, as if performed by a shaman himself, very hypnotic in its delivery. The guitar section and solo in the middle of the track lift it from becoming a bit bland in its presentation, a nice contrast but perhaps, a bit shallow as a whole.
The folk style of the guitar at the beginning of Father is very beguiling and addictive and, as the song increases in tempo and power, this is carried through the rest of the song. There is definitive feel of an epic tale about this song, possibly the best track on the album. The thunderous riffs and scorching licks that emanate from the guitars are a touch of class and work very well with the forceful vocal delivery and chanted backing. The build up to the impressive solo gives an urgency and sense of melodrama to the song and the solo itself, distorted and technically superb is a stand out part of the track and album. The near 8 minute Song of the Wood begins like a lament with a pared back acoustic guitar and mournful, plaintive vocal delivery, perhaps intended as an epic folk track, inferring thoughts of heroic battles and acts of valor. Whilst I like the feel of the song, it lacks the fervor of previous tracks and tends to ramble on for one or two minutes too long. It is definitely lifted by the solo and backing guitars, which could be straight off an Ennio Morricone soundtrack and are very nicely done, cut back to 4 or 5 minutes it could have been much better.
At this point, the album could do with a lift and this is ably provided by Agony Cries, the intro is kept very much in the background before the guitars crash in and, backed by a sharp keyboard note, give an upbeat feel to the song. The traditional style vocal delivery, short and sharp, is a strong and integral part of the track. Again, the music invokes a cinematic style soundtrack to proceedings and the changes in tempo and integration of the harp in the quieter section of the track, backed by a delightful guitar note, are clever touches. The track runs out to a fanfare of guitar, keyboards and drums. The final track on the album, Shadows, begins with a gentle piano overlaying a rising keyboard and dominant guitar flashes that match the dramatic vocal delivery perfectly. The potent guitar then takes centre stage, almost vocal in its delivery. The track continues, ebbing and flowing, as the gentle piano takes the lead, only to be superceded by an excellent combination of vocals and guitar, definitively power metal in its delivery. The smooth guitar run and solo is neat and then the song runs out to the end, guitar and keyboards trading licks over the dynamic vocal, before that gentle piano note brings things to a conclusion.
13 Martyrs took a long time to come to fruition and, whilst not quite being the finished article, is fairly impressive. There is enough of substance here to suggest that this could be the beginning of something impressive. A good listen and, should you give it a spin, I think you’ll find you will like it. The next project from Forgotten and Tolga Otabatmaz should be something to anticipate with relish.