Review Summary: In Deadlands, Madder Mortem destroy, erase, improve and finally converge in nearly every aspect.
2001’s All Flesh is Grass
marked the arrival of Madder Mortem into new and exciting grounds of artistic expression. However, its final merit signified that it was not what the band had exactly in mind. Of course, this assessment can be done right only if the artist takes a reasonably big temporal distance from his work, when the dust of the creative process is finally settled down. It is only then that the flaws become unquestionably and irritatingly present and corrective action has to be undertaken for their “near-zero” elimination. For Madder Mortem, a year was more than enough to bring this process into completion.
, Madder Mortem destroy, erase, improve and finally converge in nearly every aspect. The band continues to have a clear focus on the “nu metal” energetic goth/doom hybrid that was firstly implemented in All Flesh is Grass
. Only now, things are far more interesting. The first thing that becomes apparent during the first few listening sessions is the tremendous improvement in the record’s flow from song to song. The unnecessary repetition of distinct musical phrases within the tracks – a drawback which was more than obvious in All Flesh is Grass
– is now stripped down to minimum. The result is optimum temporal length and arrangement per song.
The aforementioned merit wouldn’t be characterized as such, if the themes played by the lead and the rhythm guitars weren’t so ridiculously improved. In that light, the riffing seems to be greatly influenced by the great works of mighty Meshuggah. Those influences have to do more with Messuggah guitarists’ mechanistic way of playing and less with their infamous complexity ethics. On the other side of the pedestal, Madder Mortem improve tremendously on the quality of the semi-electro-acoustic melodic, yet melancholic parts they endorse in the songs. In the aforementioned parts, one could see, besides the gothic influence, the vague presence of post-rock/metal elements as well.
The rhythm section is adequate at its duties. Although the bass is not shredding the universe, it is highly essential in its moves and, as it is audible, it complements more than adequately the essential guitar riffing. The drums follow the classic doom way, although a few surprises are more than welcome. For example, listen to the 60s doom rock rhythm in Necropol lit
The vocals in this record deserve a thorough commenting and not only because Agnete Kirkervaag’s vocals are improved by a great margin. This time, the lyrics constitute an additional, yet beneficial, factor to this improvement. The central concept of certain songs – and of the record’s whole artwork – evolves around a world that has been destroyed completely and the few survivors are now brought about to the brink of extinction through famine, pestilence and slavery under the iron grip of a shadowy dictator. In that light, the survivors’ thoughts go around their loved ones before the Armageddon, their greed and arrogance that led them to this outcome, their inability to free themselves from captivity, physical, mental or moral, their belief that their offsprings are inheriting a dead world and the shame that comes with all of the above. Surprisingly, the concept shares many similarities with Cormac McCarthy’s Pulitzer prize-winning novel published in 2006, The Road
With this concept in her hands, Agnete becomes at each song a different oppressed human being and builds dissonant vocal harmonies characterized by cynicism, anger, guilt, despair and humbleness. It’s her godly vocal harmony near the end of Rust Cleansing
. It's her smothering cynicism in "Omnivore". It’s her (more than) yelling confession of man’s decay throughout all the songs. Her performance lies near perfection, although she does not hold many of the technical virtues of her contemporary female colleagues.
The sound production is flawless. Although the guitars sound crushing, the bass is – as said earlier – audible and highly enjoyable. The high sound clarity truly highlights Agnete’s vocal performance and favors repeated listens.
the band realizes its musical philosophy in full. Seldom one will find an atmospheric metal record that combines tremendous emotional impact and the least of every possible pretense.