Album Title: The Silent Vigil
Label: Nuclear Blast
Date Of Release: 23 March 2018
Proof that there is life after death, Memoriam have risen from the ashes of Bolt Thrower to help fill the void that the UK death metal stalwarts created when they folded following the tragic death of drummer Martin Kearns three years ago. Their debut album, ‘For The Fallen’ took me a little by surprise almost exactly a year ago, mainly because it was a cracking monolithic slab of brutal mid-paced death metal that I liked as much as I hoped I would.
And now, just twelve months later, Messrs Karl Willets (vocals), Frank Healy (bass), Andy Whale (drums) and Scott Fairfax (guitars) have returned with their sophomore release, ‘The Silent Vigil’.
I have to be honest and say that such prolific output fills me with equal amounts of excitement and trepidation. It’s always nice to find out that new material is on the horizon so quickly, especially when it’s an artist you like. However, it can also be a risk because in the haste to release new music, a band’s internal quality control mechanisms might be overridden or simply go AWOL. Unfortunately, I happen to think that this is what has happened just a little bit with Memoriam.
‘The Silent Vigil’ is not a poor record and, had it been released by a newcomer or a band with a lesser pedigree than this quartet, it might have been lauded as evidence of a serious new act on the block. But when the clientele can collectively boast the names of Bolt Thrower, Benediction and Napalm Death amongst others on their CV, one’s expectations are inevitably raised. And in the case of ‘The Silent Vigil’, the output doesn’t quite match my personal expectations.
With more excellently detailed and striking artwork from Dan Seagrave adorning the front cover, I must admit to being drawn right in and hopeful of something special. Instead, what we get with ‘The Silent Vigil’ is a perfectly good album that by-and-large continues where ‘For The Fallen’ left off. As such, you can expect nine tracks of brutal and uncompromising mid-tempo death metal that once again seeks to bulldoze everything in its path with inexorable extremity. There is, if I am not mistaken, a little more by way of melody lurking under the surface, but there isn’t a great deal to differentiate between the two albums.
So why, if I gave the debut a score of 9/10, am I not scoring ‘The Silent Vigil’ similarly if it’s an album cut from the same cloth? To begin with, given the height of emotion that rightly surrounded it, ‘For The Fallen’ was, for my money, a more raw and punishing listen. It gave the record an added edge that I liked, an honesty that was commendable.
‘The Silent Vigil’, by comparison, is lacking a touch in the same levels of intensity. It still maintains that honesty, something that is apparently inherent in the philosophy and output of Willetts and co., but that edge appears to be lacking ever so slightly.
Plus, I return to the issue of speed and haste. It may be that a lot of this material was written during the writing sessions of the debut, I don’t know. But regardless, the desire to release a follow-up so quickly has definitely had an impact on the quality, with the riffs themselves taking the biggest hit. The guitar work remains chunky, abrasive and heavy, with plenty of head-bobbing power. But nevertheless, I can’t shake the nagging feeling that they are, on the whole, a little bit one-dimensional and now and again, dare I say it, dull. When the album finishes, I’m left with a gap in my memory where I’m convinced more Memoriam songs should sit.
The record begins well enough with ‘Soulless Parasite’ which has an undeniably strong groove to it. The rumbling bass is a joy to hear, whilst Willett’s unmistakeable voice smothers the song commandingly. I also really like the thick and dirty guitar tone that dominates proceedings.
However, it takes until the fifth track, ‘Bleed The Same’ before Memoriam truly get my juices flowing and grab my undivided attention. The opening guitar notes are slow and ponderous, around which the drums quietly dance. And then, in steps the first really cool lead guitar riff, blending a touch of melody and finesse into the seething brutality. The changes of pace within this track are more pronounced also, meaning that I’m taken along for the entirety of the ride without my mind wandering elsewhere. And if the mid-song stomp, complete with the sounds of Martin Luther King laced within, doesn’t get your head banging, there really is no hope for you.
‘As Bridges Burn’ features a punishing closing sequence which I quite like, whereas ‘The New Dark Ages’ has a catchy riff that rises above the tumult enough to catch my ear. I also like the sombre yet slightly more melodic and anthemic-sounding segment within ‘No Known Grave’, the album’s single longest track at just over the seven-minutes in length.
Overall however, ‘The Silent Vigil’ has not had anywhere near the same impact on me as ‘For The Fallen’. And for that reason, I find myself just a little disappointed. I really wanted to like this album and I have given it plenty of time to sink in. Unfortunately, my opinion of it has remained consistent and ultimately, it is simply a decent, solid slab of brutal and bruising death metal. It’ll find favour with purists and diehard fans, but it might prove a little underwhelming for everyone else.
The Score Of Much Metal: 7.5
If you’ve enjoyed this review, you can check out my others from 2018 and from previous years right here:
Kino – Radio Voltaire
Borealis – The Offering
W.E.T. – Earthrage
Auri – Auri
Purest of Pain – Solipsis
Susperia – The Lyricist
Structural Disorder – …And The Cage Crumbles In the Final Scene
Necrophobic – Mark of the Necrogram
Divine Realm – Nordicity
Oceans of Slumber – The Banished Heart
Poem – Unique
Gleb Kolyadin – Gleb Kolyadin
Apathy Noir – Black Soil
Deathwhite – For A Black Tomorrow
Conjurer – Mire
Jukub Zytecki – Feather Bed/Ladder Head
Lione/Conti – Lione/Conti
Usurpress – Interregnum
Kælling – Lacuna
Vinide – Reveal
Armored Dawn – Barbarians In Black
Long Distance Calling – Boundless
In Vain – Currents
Harakiri For The Sky – Arson
Orphaned Land – Unsung Prophets And Dead Messiahs
Tribulation – Down Below
Machine Head – Catharsis
Bjorn Riis – Coming Home EP
Twilight’s Embrace – Penance EP
Bloodshot Dawn – Reanimation
Rise of Avernus – Eigengrau
Arch Echo – Arch Echo
Asenblut – Legenden
Bleeding Gods – Dodekathlon
Watain – Trident Wolf Eclipse