Madder Mortem - Deadlands
The End Records
Heavy Gothic Metal
10 songs (57'13")
Release year: 2002
Madder Mortem, The End Records
Reviewed by Alex

Generally, I do not like dreary metal. Gothic, sad, depressed, almost suicidal – all of that would be OK, but not dreary. A good example of what I, personally, can’t stand is Serpentine by Flowing Tears. Listening to that album is like chewing grass. You spend time doing it, but you can’t feed yourself. Same with Flowing Tears. Their music rolls along, Stefanie Duchene wails her lungs out, but none of the emotions are stirred, and you suffer from sheer boredom.

I almost thought that the same fate would await me when the first three cuts from the latest Madder Mortem album played in my headphones. The truth is I only heard the name a few times, but never had a direct experience with the band. Somebody said gothic, and it is through The End Records, so you can’t go wrong. So, here I was listening to Necropol Lit and Omnivore thinking I have wasted $12. Then, BAM! Two monoliths! Rust Cleansing and Faceless are stunning. For the last two weeks I have been listening to Deadlands I tried to promise myself that I would go through the whole album patiently. Then, I can’t wait to get to these two cuts, and hit replay as soon as the final chord of Faceless is over.

Rust Cleansing starts with a minute of very interestingly tuned guitar. It is if Eirik Ulvo Langnes and Bp. M. Kirkevaag want to grind you down with the caress of coarse sandpaper. Then Agnete M. Kirkevaag sings along the bass lines by Paul Mozart Bjorke and percussion by Mads Solas. That portion alone is worth the price of admission. The song gets heavier in the chorus with some modernly downtuned heavy chops. Faceless follows in the same fashion with female vocals draped around depressive Celtic-Norse melody with excellent bass guitar. I have played Faceless to a friend recently and he came up with the best two word description of the song. I’ll borrow it from him (I’m sure my friend wouldn’t mind) – piercing intensity.

It is too bad that Madder Mortem reaches the same level of greatness, passion and force only in a few more places on the album, specifically in Distance Will Save Us and closer Resonatine. The rest, well, it just didn’t click for me.

I keep calling this band gothic and I think I am right. It is undeniable that Madder Mortem is trying to project depressive atmosphere and they achieve it most of the time. What I liked about their approach that it is free of poppy keyboards and superficial catchiness. You can’t find an “atmospheric” passage in Deadlands, but there is plenty of heavy guitar playing. Bottom line – this is not some light variety goth. In fact, some of the guitar riffs could come from a darker power metal band like Nevermore or Angel Dust. In places the tone of the guitar is very odd, almost abrasive (see the opening of Rust Cleansing), and it takes getting used to.

Rhythm section of the band is just plain outstanding. For those metal fans that enjoy audible bass loops I strongly recommend this album. And drumming is probably on par with Katatonia’s LFDGD (a huge complement in my book).

I saved the best for last. Agnete Kirkevaag is one hell of a female vocalist. Comparisons with The Gathering and Lacuna Coil are not fair and quite pointless. Agnete is not going to mesmerize you with soprano, and her voice is far from angelic. Instead of originating in her throat, she almost sings with her chest exhaling lower timbre phrases. Once in a while she is close to a grunt or almost a desperation yell. I felt that the rest of the band played to emphasize her strengths.

It is somewhat disappointing that with obviously very skilled musicians not everything jells together. If only Madder Mortem could use those two highlight songs to come up with an album full of monoliths. One thing is for sure, I will buy their next album, and will hope that it starts and ends with a BAM.

Killing Songs :
Rust Cleansing, Faceless
Alex quoted 69 / 100
Other albums by Madder Mortem that we have reviewed:
Madder Mortem - Red in Tooth and Claw reviewed by Alex and quoted 83 / 100
Madder Mortem - Where Dream and Day Collide reviewed by Charles and quoted no quote
Madder Mortem - Eight Ways reviewed by Charles and quoted 82 / 100
Madder Mortem - Desiderata reviewed by Alex and quoted 82 / 100
Madder Mortem - All Flesh Is Grass reviewed by Danny and quoted 62 / 100
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