Sunday, December 24, 2017

Memoriam: For the Fallen (2017)

Bolt Thrower were one of the most influential death metal bands of all time.  Unfortunately, the band never released a follow-up to their 2008 album Those Once Loyal, despite a few attempts to do so.  But then, after the unexpected death of drummer Martin Kearns, the band gave up the ghost and went their separate ways.  Iron-throated vocalist Karl Willetts formed Memoriam in tribute to the former drummer and the band has released a few singles and demos before finally releasing this full-length album.

There are a couple of competing expectations one would have upon seeing this album cover and knowing the story of the band.  On the one hand, the album cover with the drab colors and imagery of the funeral procession would seem to indicate that this would be more of a doom metal album.  On the other hand, Willetts is in the band and Bolt Thrower was a very aggressive death metal band, dealing mostly with warfare.  So which side would win out?

Ultimately, they kind of both did.  This is very clearly a death metal album, but the violent and aggressive nature of Willetts's previous band was tempered somewhat with more of an emphasis on slower, grinding riffs and precision.  It is less focused on the glory of warfare, but about the atrocities and, of course, those who do not make it back.  This is amplified by the more restrained, yet still razor-sharp riffwork and the downcast lyrics.  Willetts's voice has aged as well, giving his sound a more bleak and dreary tone to it that matches well with the somber concept.  This is not to say that Memoriam do not bring the speed occasionally.  Songs like "Corrupted System" and "Flatline" do sound more like they would have been at home on one of Bolt Thrower's prime albums.

I feel like I have mentioned Bolt Thrower entirely too often in this review, and maybe I have.  But for now, Memoriam remains inextricably linked to Willetts's former band.  They were formed as a means of paying tribute to the band's now deceased drummer, and sound sonically similar, if a little slower.  This was a very hyped album and it definitely delivered.

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