Now this is a very welcome return! Although Madder Mortem never actually split up they have definitely been on what can only be described as serious hiatus. It was 2009-2010 when we last heard from them with album ‘Eight Ways’ and follow up EP ‘Where Dreams And Day Collide’ and then puff, they disappeared in a proverbial cloud of smoke. Those of us following on their official web portal have heard rumblings of their return for some time and now they are back, pretty much unscarred with the exception of one replacement guitarist in their ranks from when we last heard them. Labels have changed and their long standing relationship with Peaceville is no more but thankfully Norwegian label Dark Essence were at hand to snap up their country-folk. Musically the question is, is it business as usual and does this tread similar paths to the out their avant weirdness of past opuses such as favourite albums like ‘All Flesh Is Glass’ and ‘Deadlands’?
The answer is very much yes. As guitars twist frond like around you, bass chugs, drums pound and that unmistakable voice of Agnete M. Kirkevaag hits it is the sound that could only be of the one band. ‘Blood On The Sand’ like many of the songs here has plenty going on in it. There’s stacks of depth to the album and it’s all bolstered by melodious harmonies. Don’t go looking for a quick fix, the complexity is not that easily accessible and you will find yourself hypnotically drawn back into the arms of the music looking to penetrate its depths and any inner meaning to the songs. Of course they are all somewhat bewildering to any but there muses and the fantastical elements and lyrical ideas can only be guessed at making the journey all the more intriguing. Vocals go from calm and beseeching to strident and raw in full unbridled strength. There are dark and dreamy passages as on ‘If I Could’ which is musically a bit reminiscent of the likes of The Gathering. The repetitive croon of “I’m so sorry,” makes you wonder what on earth the singer can be apologizing for, perhaps the long gap between releases, already though this is forgiven. There’s no real further insight into the world that they inhabit can perhaps be delved watching video for ‘Fallow Season,’ which suggests the band are happy not really explaining anything but just glad to be back and rocking out. The beat and twang behind this one musically thrusts into an almost rockabilly, alt-country realm but strangeness lurks behind it and the chorus is really strong getting right in your head and some of the lunatic edged vocals are completely ear shattering. ‘Pitfalls’ continues to drop you down a deep hole with a chaotic element and some chugging complex rhythmic thrusts that aren’t a million miles away from getting a djent tag to them, although tumultuous an absolutely divine melody is present and you really are getting the best of both worlds with tracks like this. Ponderous and stomping heavily ‘All The Giants Are Dead’ starts heavily and instantly moves into a touching lament, the two elements jousting with each other both cataclysmically and with a near torch like song caress in contrast.
There is a definite smoky jazz feel at times and ‘Returning To The End Of The World’ gently flows in this fashion although has some rigorous drum patterns waking you out of any lounge reverie you may have fallen into. Building into a near temper tantrum rage this is one that has gone from completely calm into a manic finale. ‘Parasites’ is a wild and unhinged all out banger and one that is going to no doubt go down a storm when as we are promised ‘tours and festivals are announced.’ Those aforementioned djenty bounces go full ballast on ‘Stones For Eyes’ and the album has really hit an aggressive patch that shakes, rattles and rolls you all over the shop. I had not set out to do a track by track review but it appears I’m compelled by the amount of things going on here and the fact that each and every track has such a compulsive melody. ‘The Whole Where Your Heart Belongs’ is the album’s most gorgeous number and has completely spellbound me each and every time; you’ll understand when you hear it. Wrapping things up with,… well just get the album, it’s another really strong contender towards the end of the year and it won’t disappoint fans of the band in the slightest. Welcome back Madder Mortem, that whole in my heart has been filled!
(8.5/10 Pete Woods)