Outstanding return from a group many thought had disappeared
It's been a long time since I've heard anything from Norwegian (Oslo based) progressive gothic metal act Madder Mortem. So long in fact that I had assumed they had split up entirely a couple of years ago. Such is not the case, and on the strength of their latest release, that's a good thing.
In the last four years since the release of 2002's Deadlands, there have been a few changes within the Madder Mortem line up (The band now comprise of vocalist Agnete M. Kirkevaag, guitarist BP M. Kirkevaag, new guitarist Odd Eivind Ebbesen (Who was previously a member of the group when they were known as Mystery Tribe), new bassist Tormod Langøien Moseng and drummer Mads Soläs) along with a change of label (The band were previously signed to Century Media Records), both of which have slowed down the process of their fourth album. The time between albums hasn't been wasted however, as Desiderata (The Latin term for desire) is easily the band's strongest release to date, and one which shows a change of direction in the musical sense.
The album is opened up with the fast paced My Name Is Silence (Of which the video clip is added as an enhanced component), and it's immediately clear that Madder Mortem have finally found a sound that works for them. The unusual approach adopted by Kirkevaag on the vocal front is still as strange and unique (Partly operatic and partly aggressive and sharp) as it's always been, but it's the way that her voice blends into the music that really shows the work that band have made in ensuring that the two work in tandem, rather than at odds with one another (A fault that was evident on Deadlands). The slower paced Evasions is no less anthem-like once the sweeping chorus kicks in around the two-minute mark, while the progressively tinged/choral enhanced Plague On This Land once again brings to the fore the band's metallic tendencies in stunning fashion.
Another feature that separates the Madder Mortem sound of today from four years ago is the dominant use of groove, which is best amplified in tracks such as the thrash like M For Malice, The Flood To Come and the fractured timing of Sedition, while a greater progressive presence is felt in soft/harsh textures within Changeling, the industrialised feel of Hypnos (One of the big highlights on the album) and the title track Desiderata.
At the opposite end of the musical spectrum, Madder Mortem allow gentle industrial atmospherics to emphasise Kirkevaag's choral vocals in the compelling Cold Stone, before parting ways with the late night jazz feel of Hangman.
Madder Mortem has long been considered an oddity within the metal scene, which means that they've been looked over for the better part of their decade long existence. Although it's unlikely that things will change dramatically for the band with the release of Desiderata, there's no doubt that those who are willing to give this album a chance will be hailing the band as one of the scenes more interesting, if undefinable, underground acts.
(Peaceville Records/Stomp Records Distribution)