posted on 6/2006 By:
With all of the stylistic alchemy going on in metal these days, trans-genre appeal is nothing new, but damn if it can’t be satisfying. Up until now I’d had no contact with Madder Mortem beyond having heard their name, but for one of the first times this year, they’ve got me scrambling to check out a back catalogue. Desiderata is exactly the kind of album I like to hear from a 21st-century metal band. Though rooted in the soft-spoken gothic moroseness common to the The End Records stable, Madder Mortem swing through progressivist melodic craft, Nevermore-like eccentricity, and gut-wrenching downtuned heaviness virtually by turns on this release. The really shocking part? It all actually blends smoothly and naturally, making Desiderata one of the more immediately recognizable and thus laudable releases I’ve heard thus far in 2006.
Despite all this, I still have no great love for Madder Mortem’s basic style, and that’ll likely be the biggest stumbling block for most of this site’s readers. To really get into Desiderata, he or she has to be willing to accept both the band’s predictably lugubrious aesthetic and singer Agnete Kirkevaag’s operatics-tinted vocals. This isn’t quite as tall of an order as it might sound; Ms. Kirkevaag’s voice is clearly trained but generally steers clear of excessive pomp, while the band itself isn’t any weepier than, say, Opeth or Swallow the Sun.
And, like those two, they can get goddamn heavy when they so desire. Though Desiderata never really wanders into death metal waters, there’s plenty of extra-thick riffage from guitarists Obb Ebbesen and BP Kirkevaag. Opener “My Name Is Silence” punishes with an almost SYL-like salvo of warped uptempo string abuse during the verse before Agnete delivers a characteristically hooky chorus. “M For Malice” and “Changeling” are both driven by weighty, stuttering rhythms that never achieve Meshuggah-styled complexity but instead delve into more super-downtuned doom wailing. “Hypnos,” meanwhile, supports a slightly bouncy rhythm and exotic vocal melody with some dense tremolo picking before some delicate twin lead work.
Though the soloing is few and far between, Madder Mortem obviously lent as much weight to the more progressive segments here as they did to the bone-crushing riffs. Often their quieter moments are glum but ever-so-slightly jazzy, like the relaxed arpeggio interplay that dominates the first half of “Evasions,” but occasionally there will be moments of slightly disorienting tribalism, like “Cold Stone” and parts of “Hypnos.”
But even after all of this, what really sold me on Desiderata was the closing double-whammy of “Desiderata” and “Hangman.” At six minutes a piece, these two tracks show what Madder Mortem are really capable of. Each sees Ms. Kirkevaag float along over sophisticated, depressive prog rock before the band launches into some of their most surprisingly blistering segments. The latter, especially, achieves a particularly stunning climax as Agnete belts out her entirely believable pathos over guitars that jam nimbly from shrieking dissonance to lumbering, cathartic melody. Each song is simply stunning, and together were enough convince me that Desiderata is easily amongst the elite ’06 releases I’ve encountered, and that the best is yet to come from this band.
Register to post comments.