For The Fallen

Written by: AP on 07/07/2017 21:01:21

Although Memoriam is a recent entrant onto the British death metal scene, the musicians involved in the project are far from unsullied. Both vocalist Karl Willetts and drummer Andrew Whale forged an illustrious career as the legendary Bolt Thrower, which was brought to dissolution last year with the band unwilling to press on without drummer Martin Kearns, who had passed away in 2015. Bassist Frank Healy and guitarist Scott Fairfax, meanwhile, maintain corresponding roles in Benediction — another veteran band of the genre — and as such, the nature of this new beast was never in question; if classic, puritanical death metal is your poison, then at least some of Memoriam’s inaugural album, “For the Fallen”, is likely to prick up your ears.

As the moniker and this album’s title both suggest, Memoriam was formed as part of a healing process for not only Willetts, but also Healy, whose father had died only a few weeks after Kearns’ passing. Of course, it is probable that on future efforts, the two musicians will steer the project in other directions but for now, “For the Fallen” is chock full of references to tragedy, grief and mourning — both direct and metaphorical. The great injustice is that in swathes of the album, one never gets to feel the emotion underlying, as the pair seems unwilling to push beyond respectful salutes to Bolt Thrower’s legacy in instrumental terms, and into something that might sound distinctly like Memoriam. Twice they except from the stubbornness, but in order to reach the defining pieces, “Surrounded (by Death)” and “Last Words”, one must first endure a half of menial, if still passable death metal uniting the mid-tempo bludgeoning of Bolt Thrower with bits of Benediction’s thrashier style. The crushing “Reduced to Zero” initially stands out by deploying its groove-laden pummel in an odd time signature, but then gradually loses its impact by dragging on unnecessarily — something that the subsequent “Corrupted System” is also guilty of.

The consequence of the meandering is that “For the Fallen” becomes a record of two halves, entering its ascent circa halfway with the aforementioned “Flatline”. Coiling itself around an eerie, Slayer-esque melody, the song undergoes a series of tempo shifts until a hammering breakdown and the dire sound of a flatlining life-support machine end it abruptly. In its wake arrives the “Surrounded (by Death)”, which claims prizes as the grooviest, heaviest and most savage clobbering that “For the Fallen” has to offer. And were it not for the the sombre grandeur of “Last Words”, it might have stood out as the consummate highlight as well; however, the funereal melodies and the overwhelming atmosphere of mourning wrought by Willetts’ reflecting, ”As I face the end, my heart to you I send / Our fire still burning, your world keeps turning / I bid you farewell — these are my last words”, makes “Last Words” play like a haunting, deserving climax. It is one of the few outstretched arms inviting the listener to experience what Willetts & Healy have had to endure; extreme, yet soaked in emotion.

“For the Fallen” is unquestionably designed to provide temporary solace for Bolt Thrower’s dispossessed fans, yet songs like “Last Words” also signal Memoriam’s ambition to evolve into a separate entity. The band would be wise to do so; Karl Willetts’ bellows are not as muscular as they used to be and in general, Memoriam has trouble showing the teeth that Bolt Thrower did — this music sounds too tempered and honestly a bit watered down in comparison. “For the Fallen” is a solid début but it seldom creates the impression that these death metallers are shooting for the upper echelons of the genre.


Download: Flatline, Surrounded (by Death), Last Words
For the fans of: Benediction, Bolt Thrower, Hail of Bullets
Listen: Facebook

Release date 24.03.2017
Nuclear Blast Records

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