Sludgy, doom-ridden and absolutely what you’d expect from a band with bloodlines extending through such adored names as Bolt Thrower, Benediction, Cerebral Fix, Sacrilege, Anaal Nathrakh and Napalm Death, Memoriam’s debut album For the Fallen is a complete A-Z of British death metal in a compact forty-minute package.
If you were a Bolt Thrower fan but don’t know about Memoriam then the presence of Karl Willetts behind the mic and Andrew Whale behind the kit will tell you all you need to know and give you an idea of what to expect from For the Fallen. Every song has that claustrophobic Bolt Thrower feel to it; The band create an airless atmosphere with their music that presses down on your chest and leaves you gasping for breath under the sheer weight of unforgiving, thick, rancid riffs laid down by guitarist Scott Fairfax (Benediction, Cerebral Fix among others) and backed up by White and bassist Frank Healy. Whether slow and doomy or fast and thrashy (and there is definitely more of the former going on on this record) the band simply does not give the listener time to relax or catch their breath. It’s a relentless barrage of grim noise mongering, which to me works better on the shorter songs (Surrounded by Death and my favourite, Resistance, which has a real classic Slayer feel to it), but the slow songs also shine, allowing the band to go through their paces and show off their grasp of dynamics and, real, unrelenting heaviness.
I have to say Karl Willetts is one of my favourite death metal vocalist. He uses his voice as a battering ram to press home the sentiment of his always well thought-out and presented lyrics; The style he uses retains it’s essential heaviness but never becomes just a bloodthirsty gargle. You can always hear what he is singing about which for me goes a long way to enhancing the enjoyment of the album.
Everyone in Memoriam is a master of his craft, and that mastery shines through on this release. Concise, hard hitting yet also retaining a crustiness that all the best British death metal seems to possess, it’s one of the best releases of its kind that I’ve heard in quite a while.
For the Fallen is released by Nuclear Blast on March 24th.