Review Summary: In their debut, Madder Mortem, succeed in capturing the very essence of the Gothic/Doom metal sound, adding, however, some of their own personality to the genre’s universal constants.
It is common ground that history is written by people spinning copiously around the means to an end. One of those people is, without a doubt, a female British citizen by the name of Tiziana Stupia. It was in 1993. Being a dedicated Burzum fan, she couldn’t put up with the fact that Burzum couldn’t find a record contract to release their (then) new album. This was due to Varg Vikernes’s problems with Norwegian authorities. She sent letters to several record companies expressing her request, but no record company wanted anything to do with Burzum or Vikernes at that time. In cases such as this, the only way is the DIY way. Tiziana followed the advice of a music industry corporate member, founded Misanthropy records and finally eased her mind. Although the record company was founded for the sole purpose of that particular Burzum album release (for the history, it was Hvis Lyset Tar Oss
), that album sold surprisingly well. That pushed Tiziana to run Misanthropy records as a full time company, signing up other bands as well. And gosh, what bands did she chose indeed... Fasten your seat belts boys and girls: Arcturus, Beyond Dawn, Fleurety, In the Woods…, Katatonia, Mayhem, Monumentum, Primordial, Solstice and Ved Buens Ende. La crème de la crème of the European avant-garde metal scene, hands down. The company’s last entry was Madder Mortem, a band from Norway and their debut album was Mercury
In their debut, Madder Mortem, succeed in capturing the very essence of the gothic/doom metal sound, adding, however, some of their own personality to the genre’s universal constants. This holds due to 2 things.
, the band avoids building its songs solely on keyboards, a common practice for the majority of gothic metal bands during the late 90’s, that made them sound ridiculously similar. In Mercury
, keyboards have a mild and discrete role on all songs, as they serve as interludes at the beginning of or within them, whereas at times they serve as a thin "transparent" layer upon the basic rock orchestration (two guitars, bass and drums). The band’s musicians are fairly proficient in their duties as players and composers. The songs’ backbone is built upon two separate concepts. The first evolves around the fruitful controversy rising from the combination of powerful rock/metal guitar riffs with dark electro-acoustic guitar melodies. The second lies upon the successful blending of acoustic guitar influenced doom riffing with mesmerizing semi-lead, semi-rhythm electric or acoustic guitars. The rhythm section sounds equally diverse. The drumming is energetic at times (one can hear even double bass pounding) or wisely quiet. Finally, the bass, which is heard quite clearly, follows either the drums, or the guitars, but quite a few times, neither of them.
, it’s the female vocals. Instead of the common "thin soprano" mournful female vocals that most gothic metal bands had in the late 90’s, copying the style of Theatre of Tragedy or The Gathering, Agnete Kirkevaag’s vocals are different, yet convincing. Her vocals follow closely the main melody in each song. Most of the time, she sounds low-to-middle-pitch, but in moments she is going high-pitch as well with fair success, accompanying at times the guitar melodies with her vocals. Her approach is soothing and emotional.
The sound production is fairly good and totally in the spirit of the gothic/doom metal genre. That is a big deal, especially if one considers the fact that Madder Mortem was a totally underground band, signed by a totally underground record company. All instruments are sounding as they should, although one could say that the guitars lack in "weight". Something that’s most welcome is that the bass is audible, especially when the tone within the songs lowers. Agnete’s vocals are rather low in the final mix and as a consequence, they sound somewhat "distant", but this not a drawback by any means.
The overall result of music and vocals, are songs that flow optimally, leaving the listener with a feeling of comfortable numbness.
Despite the lauding reception after the release of Mercury
, Misanthropy records was shut down, as Tiziana went out to become a pagan priestess. Madder Mortem were left without a label contract and three band members parted ways, due to this shortcoming. The quality of this record, however, provided the remaining band members, Agnete and BP Kirkevaag, with enough momentum to set up a new line-up, pursuing new and exciting endeavors…