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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.