Released: 2003, The End
Somehow The End Records has a nose for signing great talent and bringing them to the fore and I consider Madder Mortem to be one of their latest triumphs. Well, let’s give the band a little credit too, as it is their fourth release.
Madder Mortem from Norway are almost indefinable but if one had to designate them a style they would fall nicely in with the rest of the bands on the label, namely a type of classy, gothic, doom-death.
The graphics on this 18 page booklet are stunning. The whole thing is a theme in muted tones portraying in a sense a modern slave state with people working on and being fed into a giant machine. The digital manipulation to create the images of decaying and crumbling workers is top-notch. Think of the cover of Testament’s, Practice What You Preach but with wickeder (is that a word? ) graphics. The presentation is morbidly gorgeous and quite different from the whole candles and skulls, wine and flowers thing practiced by so many bands from Norway.
Deadlands is nine songs and an haunting spoken intro, but the songs seem to blend together to create a seamless whole. The theme and atmosphere are very nicely done, never burgeoning or overbearing but still intense and emotional. The emotional impact is heightened by the superior vocal work of Agnete Kirkevaag, who voice turns from sweet to somber to desperate on a dime. She is also responsible for the lyrics, which to me speak of emotional and physical slavery both simultaneously eating and being eaten by the machine.
The song structures are complex and innovative and still quite heavy with drums and both guitars crunching along. Some bands in this style tend to sacrifice heaviness in favour of atmosphere and keyboards or other instrumental deviations but Madder Mortem have the guitars up front. The songs are pretty complex most of them five minutes or longer and at handful at seven minutes or longer giving us an hour of music.
This disc is hard to describe, it is really unlike many things I have heard before. It is certainly avante-garde but without being pretentious, if that makes any sense. I am entranced by this released, it works on so many levels. I know I am not doing my job as a reviewer by giving a full and accurate description but sometimes, you just have to hear these things for yourself. Sometimes words like dirgy and doomy aren’t enough to describe a release of this depth. The only thing to do is fall back on the ol’ standby technique of saying, “If you like Band X”. to help you understand. I recommend this to all fans of My Dying Bride, Anathema, Paradise Lost, Green Carnation, Agalloch and so on. Visit the band at http://www.maddermortem.com.