I've been hooked on Madder Mortem since their very first album, 'Mercury', was released in 1999. It's been an utter pleasure in hearing them exercise their innovatively progressive prowess over the years, through some of the most emotionally profound, original and quirky metal ever recorded in the history of the scene. Their music has had the grooves, the doom, the uplifting, the heavy, the mellow, the melancholic, the wacky, the sane, the epic, the sublime, the dissonant, the cacophonic, the euphonic... and all delivered across the depths and breadths of affectively driven tracks that have remained genuinely progressive and unlike any other band. Hell, I even saw them blow Opeth off the stage, when they supported the Swedes back in 2003, in their 'Deliverance'/'Damnation' heyday. Mikael Åkerfeldt and co's music seemed comparatively dull following Madder Mortem... and I hasten to add that I loved Opeth back then.
So, all in all, it's fair to say I adore Madder Mortem... always have... and my love for these Norwegians has grown stronger still with this latest magnificent offering, 'Marrow'. It's everything I would hope from a new Madder record... and then some. With a five year gap between the band's fifth and sixth albums, 'Eight Ways' and 'Red in Tooth and Claw', it came as something of a surprise that a new full-length album has materialised so quickly. But I believe they were driven by a renewed passion for what they do, following their return to the fore in 2016, with the new album and a couple of European tours with Soen (the band featuring former Opeth sticksman, Martin Lopez... yep, he was there in 2003, too). So, it's good to see the Madders keeping the momentum flowing. And, having listened to 'Marrow' multiple times and fully digested its compositional and performance might, I can confidently declare the creative momentum is well and truly flowing free for these Norwegians right now, and in the most exciting of ways.
Press blurb would have you believe 'Marrow' is "their most doomy album to date". Sure, there are doomy, melancholic parts, but it's the usual diverse soup of varied ingredients that the band have always thrown into the compositional pot. As ever, it's all about contrasts, from the mellow to the heavy, where songs explode from dulcet comforts into the most emotionally hard-hitting crescendos. Madder Mortem have always been masters at stark emotional contrasts, and this album is chock-full of them. And sincere emotional depths. This is rooted in both the compositions and performances. The songwriting is fucking phenomenal, with each composition brought to life in Madder Mortem's usual well thought out, quirky and cliché-evading ways.
BP M. Kirkevaag is one of the most inventive guitarists in the scene. He has been for years. There are various tried-and-tested metal idioms, for sure, but these have been incorporated into songs' sonic fabric in innovative ways. And some riffage and licks that eschew any known cliché in favour of refreshing quirkiness. The press sheet accompanying this promo lists guitarist Anders Langberg as currently part of the band's lineup, but I gather Richard Wikstrand (who joined four years ago), also recorded guitar for the album and has since left Madder's ranks. The equally inventive playing of the band's rhythm section, bassist Tormod L. Moseng and drummer Mads Solås, is a sheer joy once again, through its diversity and exhilarating unpredictability. Then there's Agnete M. Kirkevaag, the beating heart at the core of Madder Mortem's emotionally nourishing profundity. Her voice is as strong, wide ranging and expressive as it's ever been, at the low and high end. Whether she's delivering angelic verse over songs' more ambient moments, or letting rip during the heavier passages, the emotional power in her singing is breathtaking and so utterly moving.
On 'Marrow', these super talented Norwegians have proved themselves as creatively fertile and innovative as they've ever been. With generic mimicry, stagnancy and mindlessly regurgitated clichés all too rife within the metal scene, the world needs bands like Madder Mortem, so thank fuck they're still making music as wonderfully inventive and sublime as what we have here. Did I mention the production and mix are both top notch, too? Get this magnificent joy of a record when it's released, you won't be disappointed. Undoubtedly one of the finest albums of 2018.
Dark Essence Records
Review by Mark Holmes
21st Sept 2018
3) Moonlight over Silver White
4) Until You Return
5) My Will Be Done
6) Far from Home
8) White Snow, Red Shadows
9) Stumble On
10) Waiting to Fall
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
"...these super talented Norwegians have proved themselves as creatively fertile and innovative as they've ever been. With generic mimicry, stagnancy and mindlessly regurgitated clichés all too rife within the metal scene, the world needs bands like Madder Mortem..."