While the Heavy Metal world, let alone Death Metal world, is ridiculously populated with bands ranging in talent and originality, in very few cases, bands arise that are able to make music that shines brighter than their peers and is forever etched into the collective memory of fans worldwide. Although some musicians are bestowed with popularity on the heels of making formidable albums, they find that later in their career, they are unable to duplicate the sound, feeling, and ultimately, the popularity of their past ventures. Enter Memoriam. Its members have been in bands such as Cerebral Fix, Colostomy, Sacrilege, Napalm Death, Anaal Nathrakh, Benediction, and of course, the mighty Bolt Thrower. After long careers, the members of Memoriam came together as the result of friendship and wanting to have some fun by jamming on some of their favorite classics. What became clear, though, was that they now had that special chemistry that some of their former bands had, the ability to craft genre-topping Death Metal anthems and reinvent themselves in a totally new project. Their first album, For the Fallen, was released just last year, but when the momentum is up, and things are clicking, there’s no way that a band can stop. They now stand ready to release their sophomore effort, The Silent Vigil, and as will be detailed below, they are writing their names in the Death Metal hall of fame with this exciting and gripping material.
Perhaps what first comes across from listening to The Silent Vigil is that while their first album dealt mostly with themes of loss and sorrow, this new material, is soaked in adrenaline and much more aggressive. Having had such storied careers, the members are able to flirt with other styles at times throughout the record as will be explained further. Such styles include not only old school Death Metal, but also elements of Thrash, and Doom as well. This is mature, refined songwriting of the highest quality.
The first track, “Soulless Parasite” is characterized by a single, catchy riff that drives the mid-paced song. At the 02:15 mark, though, is a Doom breakdown with slow chords that ring out with active, audible bass underneath. “Nothing Remains,” the second track features precision riffing characterized by syncopated, rhythmic patterns. The third track, “From the Flames,” explodes with a brutal riff composed of triplets, double-picked cleanly and so brutal one ‘s hand aches just listening to it! Metallica‘s “Disposable Heroes” is a point of reference for the main riff but doesn’t hold a candle to this. Toward the end, in the of the most memorable parts of the album, all instruments drop out except for the bass which drives the main riff home soaked in grimy distortion. “No Known Grave,” the eighth track, is perhaps the song that is the most out of the box on the album. It features a catchy, sliding riff, but in the middle, a somber melody delivered by single notes interrupts the song as it changes gears. At this point of the song, the band sounds like the most potent of Doom Metal bands, as the drums slowly plod along, and the single notes are harmonized by low chords added by other guitar tracks. An extremely out-of-the-box lead closes the song with a haunting harmony that tends to dwell in one’s mind for hours after listening. “Weaponized Fear,” the last track, contains a pre-chorus riff that sounds huge with palm-muting intermixed with tremolo picking. As the song fades out, one cannot help but think of Bolt Thrower for it sounds as if the band is exiting a battle.
This album is old school Death Metal at its finest. While other bands are only capitalizing on their past efforts through nostalgia, it is more than a little exciting to witness the fiery songwriting that is put forth in this solid release. Karl Willets’s vocals are heavy and still classified as Death Metal, but they are clear and allow the listener to discern the lyrics with a little nod to the vocals of Lemmy. The stellar production allows every instrument to be audible, and thankfully, the bass drum sounds natural and the bass guitar is fully present and audible. This is music made to be listened to on vinyl with driving mid-range tones that beg for analog playback. The guitar tone is classic, and it would be surprising if it weren’t a Marshall JCM 800 with a Tube Screamer. The riffs are simply relentless as they pummel the senses with a variety of chords, harmonies, and rhythmic picking styles. There simply is no filler, and the music never feels tired because of the careful attention to detail they have delivered. Perhaps the positive aspect of this current environment is that unlike previous times, there is a marked hunger from fans old and young who will lap this up and demand more. It is a testament to the band’s creative legacy to be able to release an album like this that not only honors their collective past but drives the genre, if not Metal in general ever forward.