without Internet Explorer,
in 1280 x 960 resolution
Never a band to rest on their laurels, Madder Mortem evolved and incorporated new peculiarities to their already unique gumbo of progressive doom metal. This time around, not all of it works, but the highlights are deliriously high. Following on the heels of All Flesh Is Grass, they've kept the mammoth production and down-tuned concrete heavy guitars as well as the progressive tendencies sparring with their doom-ish metal riffs, but a new (or should I say "nu") element has seeped in, and it's not one I particularly welcome, but Madder Mortem somehow makes it work, even if the tracks incorporating these aspects aren't the strongest cuts.
When I hear the term "nu-metal" tossed-off as an adjective to describe a band, I get pretty damn wary, so hearing that Madder Mortem's approach to Deadlands included some nu-metal influences before listening to it gave me a shitload of pause. Curiosity eventually won the day, and after checking it out I was pleasantly surprised as to how strong this album was. Yeah, a tune like "Jigsaw (The Pattern and the Puzzle)" with its repetitive shouting of "I tear myself into pieces!" over some funky-ass grooves gets quite grating, but in its defense at least I can state that the nu-metal semblances here owe more to something like Deftones as opposed to rap metal.
Whatever, since this album also boasts some of their best material, and considering the quality of their overall work, that's saying something. Without a doubt the most memorable track for me is the album's centerpiece, "Silverspine". Easily one of Madder Mortem's pinnacle tunes, it's an absolute doom-fueled motherfucker emblazoned with titanic riffs and seething with an atmosphere of unabashed gloom as it crawls sluggishly yet constant and unyielding to it's climax, with Agnete reaching a high note from her chest voice that strikes like a ceremonial dagger through the ballsack. Beautiful yet harrowing and downright heavy as the depths of despair, it's not merely one of the best songs by the band, but one of my favorite songs concerning the entire doom genre, right up there with "Into The Void", friggin’ "Dying Inside" and a few others classics.
Deadlands is no one-trick-pony though, as it's preceded by one of the band's most progressive numbers in their repertoire, "Distance Will Save Us". With its oddball time signatures and busy melodic riffs, the song seems more inspired by late 70's era Rush than the doom genre, yet still retains a foreboding heaviness resulting in an unusual and highly memorable track. The album also announces itself with the first non-intro track "Necropol Lit", a mean as fuck dirge bolstered by a simple yet sturdy down-tuned riff that would groove if the pace didn't remind one of slogging through quicksand. "Omnivore" is even better, an encapsulation of the band's skills, power and slow-burn intensity.
If the rest of Deadland's offerings reached the heights of the aforementioned tracks, then we'd be dealing with an absolute masterpiece. Unfortunately, tunes such as "Rust Cleansing" with its bouncy rhythm and the final epic, "Resonatine", while decent enough, just sort of hovers along without the unhinged urgency of "Silverspine", ending things on a rather mundane note, prevent this release from challenging its predecessor as a cumulative work. The strong points clearly outweigh the few weaker aspects though, and the group's resistance to subscribing to what a lot of bands featuring a female vocalist were churning out at the time at the expense of their own heavier vision gives them a vitality that's unequivocally welcome.
Although Madder Mortem always had a sound that could be described as somewhat strange, this album seems to be their most strange album to date. The album lacks songs that are compelling during the first few spins, but if you give this album a chance you will grow to appreciate it as I did.
Agnete's singing is mainly responsible for the somewhat chaotic first impression during the first few songs of the album. She changed her vocal style somewhat and no longer restricts herself to singing, but whispers, shouts and even growls as well. But fortunately, this is mainly the case during the first few minutes of the disc.
"Rust Cleansing" is the first stand out track on the album. The ballad-esque song has a catchy chorus and crushing guitar. Agnete sticks to singing during this song, which still remains the best way to go as far I'm concerned.
The best track will have to be "Jigsaw" with a creepy bass-line and supporting male vocals which fit in very well.
Although "Deadlands" is an excellent album by its own merits, Madder Mortems debut album "Mercury" remains my favorite Mortem album for now, but there is a certain possibility that this will change after a few more spins, because I seem to be enjoying the album more and more each time.
So, I heard an mp3 of "Jigsaw" and decided to get this. I really liked the song, the sound and the vocals. So what's Madder Mortem like then?
Well, it certainly is NOT: brutal death metal, black metal of any kind, power metal or thrash. Nor is it prog, electronic or synth-laden. Actually, this cd is a mix of INTENSE and the doomy intentions of Candlemass or even Katatonia. Heavy, chunky guitars; great basslines, perfect drumming for this style and the awesome vocals of Agnete Kirkevaag. Yes, this is a female-fronted band but far from a Nightwish clone, Ms. Kirkevaarg has a strong, deeper voice that goes perfectly with this band's style. Mostly clean vocals with some deathy shouts backing up every once in a while, not sure whether that's her as well, though. Doesn't matter. The point is, you need to hear this.
The only track I don't like too much, oddly enough, is opener "Necropol Lit"( the main riff sounds like something the Beach Boys wrote set to Nu metal); however, they more than make up for it with "Omnivore" and to tell the truth, the rest of the album is just as good. The great thing is, every song is different but maintains the same texture. After the intense "Omnivore", "Rust Cleansing" follows with its mellow verse and heavy chorus. You can really appreciate the basswork in this song: it is more central to the song than the guitar. "Faceless" comes along to demonstrate the group's doomy side. "Distance will save us" is another intense number, especially in the chorus. "Silverspine" is a long number, again the doomy side that reminds of Katatonia in spirit if not in style. The distinguishing mark on this song is the angst that gets across... a perfect show of depression and anger in one song. "Jigsaw" is a angry, catchy number: you can just visualize:
" I tear myself into pieces
There’s nothing here to hold me
I tell myself apart from you
Above and beyond"
Granted, this song might sound kinda nu-metallish to some people, but hey, to each his own. If you don't like this go get the latest Vomitory or Dark Throne. Like I was saying, one of the catchiest songs of the album. "Deadlands" is another doomy, intense number that exemplifies the Madder Mortem style: while not "fast" it is not "slow"... low-key, it just flows with... WORRY... That's the best word I can use to describe the feeling... like having something you can't get out of your head. Again the bass work shines, as does the guitar accenting. 10-minute closer "Resonatine" starts with soft guitar and vocals, then around 3:00 reminds one of Aghora's debut. Chunky riffs and start-stop patterns until 7:00, when they go into heavier mode with double-bass drumming, screaming and again that WORRYING sound. Then back again to the mellower sound until the end with soft, short vocal melodies.
The sound is near-perfect: all instruments can be clearly heard and are given equal importance, but the mix does not sound clinical or sterile. The guitars are heavy, the bass is clean, the drums are loud and the vocals are varied and everywhere, with appropriate double and triple tracking where needed.
Granted, mistakes may be heard by the perfectionists and critics here and there... perhaps an off-key shout here or there, but I believe it is insignificant to this band's accomplishment. Look forward to hearing their previous works and future ones as well. Go check 'em out at their website! (But my recommendation is ignore "Necropol Lit")