Days are shortening, and the chill of November is upon us. With spooky season still fresh in our black hearts, many of us are entering the prime time of the year for doom, gloom, goth, and black metal. There will be many records to satisfy this mood, but finding each element in one package is a challenge. Enter Marthe, a new one-woman metal project from Italian musician Marzia whose Southern Lord debut Further in Evil ticks all of the above boxes with a crust-punk edge.
Marzia is an accomplished musician already in the Italian underground (ex-Death From Above). Her Encyclapedia Metallum page features a treasure trove of projects to explore, each seemingly inspiring elements of Marthe. She plays guitar in the excellent post-punk/death rock band Horror Vacui, drums in crust punks Campus Sterminii, hardcore band Tuono, d-beat/hardcore band Kontatto, and bass & vocals in haunting drone/doom project The Mountain Moon.
Citing a ‘need to express myself in a heavier and more atmospheric way‘, Marthe is a culmination of these aforementioned sounds in the icy, necrotic clutches of black metal. As a bedroom project, Marthe takes inspiration from introspection, solitude, nature, and old Italian horror films and transforms it into a ferocious power and beauty through the power of the self. Further in Evil is nowhere near as bleak as it sounds (see Body Void – Atrocity Machine for peak bleak suffocation), but showcases its malevolence and vitriol in ways that are strangely comforting.
Opening track “I Ride Alone” is an 11+ minute journey that begins with a dirge of distorted bass drones and a somber lead guitar embellished with delay and reverb before cavernous drums build the track into a wall of distortion and a slowly unraveling guitar lead. Marthe‘s tortured vocal rasp recites line after line of solitude as empowerment: ‘For the blood of my fights/For all those silent words/For all your unraised swords/I ride alone‘. About halfway through, “I Ride Alone” shifts gears to a passage of choral backing vocals and whispers over a soft guitar as an interlude before the triumphant return of heaviness and ferocious lyrical confrontation.
“Dead To You” introduces some clean singing, the chief juxtaposition in Marthe‘s sonic arsenal. In this track it floats in the background calling to mind the ethereal quality of Jarboe while the rest of the song barrels on in a mid-paced blackened d-beat. ‘Forget my name, forget my soul/I’m mine, mine alone/dead to you‘, she snarls like a wolf breaking from the pack, each refrain of ‘Dead to you‘ a celebration rather than a lament.
The title track and lead single brings in some synth work to create sinister adornments to the prominent black ‘n’ roll riffage and venom-laden chorus. These soft touches throughout the album are haunting and hypnotic reprieves and exercise Marthe‘s knack for hooks and melodies as well as atmosphere. Take the following track, the 9-minute “Victimized” where the doomed Iommi worship is culled into the most beautiful passage on the album, like rays of sunshine breaking through the storm lighting a passage to the transformative therapy of headbanging.
“To Ruined Alters” gets even spookier with unsettling, woozy synths amidst the din of guitars, the catchy chorus, and haunted lo-fi coda. The piano transitions into album closer, a somber, yet defiant cover of Siouxsie And The Banshees‘ “Sin In My Heart”. The lyrics become a mantra for Marzia, forging the steel armor that wards off every self-important, moralistic paradigm that is the source of her anger and sadness.
Further In Evil is a blackened embrace of the kind of evil that is ascribed to you by those who will the most harm. By championing her resilience in the face of trauma, oppression, and tragedy, Marthe has found the strength in the darkest sounds of extreme music, answering only to herself, thriving on what scares and scars our psyche. While the production is a little muddy, it embraces the feel of second wave black metal and crust punk and adds to the atmosphere of suffocating distortion. Overall, this record is an excellent addition to the canon of black metal that is as triumphant as it is menacing.