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Madder Mortem - All Flesh Is Grass CD (album) cover


Madder Mortem


Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

4.16 | 24 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
4 stars On their debut album, Mercury, Madder Mortem made a small splash into the world with an album that can best be described as "safe". But right from the thundering, rolling bass line and pounding drums to Agnete Kirkevaag veritably spitting out the second line "This is where all flesh is grass" on the opener Breaker of Worlds, its apparent that the two years between the band first and second albums, along with a complete change of line except for the Kirkvaarg siblings, has resulted in a much appreciated change to the bands music, and I'm less than 1 minute into the first track. One thing All Flesh is Grass is definitely not, is safe.

Other than the production, the first big change that easily noticable is Agnete Kirkevaags vocals. No longer does her voice float along with the music a it did with Mercury, but now she has clearly taken centre stage and clearly has no desire to give it up. She gives some real guts to her performance, belting out some lines, modulating her voice through others, whispering for a noticibly creepy affect during Ruby Red and singing in the more ethereal voice previouly used on Mercury. She's obviously learned a few tricks and they are employed to great effect giving a much more detailed and noteworthy performance, an important fact given her place as the focal point of the bands music. Lyrically Agnete keeps to the usual themes of pain, suffering, loss and insecurity but takles them with a deftness that echoes the growing maturity of the band as musicians and avoids the usual cliches of getting blatently obvious with the subject matter.

Compositionally and technically the band is much improved as well. BP Kirkevaag has written music that flows along far better than previously, utilising Pal Mozart Bjorkes bass as much for melody as rhythm now. Whereas the first album relied heavily on the guitar riffing to get everything moving, BP has completely changed his writting style, drawing far more heavily from more extreme metal styles (noticably Death Metal) and the result is songs that can be completely driven by the bass, then one or the other of the guitars all the while beeing underpinned by the dynamic drumming style of Mads Solas that holds a powerful rhythm without ever sounding ploding. I'd go so far as to say that, other than Agnete's vocals, its the bass thats been made the central instrument of the album, holding it all together whilst providing a rhythmic melody that leaves the guitars free to provide melodies and riffs around it, coming back in to the fore and joining the bass in the heavier moments when the emphasis is needed. To that end new guitarist Eirik Ulvo Lagnes proves himself a very capable player and matches Kirkevaag, creating a balanced sound. The overall result is that the band have pushed themselves into new territory and created a unique take on prog metal, heavily song oriented and rather catchy from the first listen, but with plenty going on that will call the listener back time and again to find the hidden depths.

The other great area of improvement on this album is the production. Where as it was rather muddy and indistinct on the debut, its come a long way providing a clear sound where all instruments are well mixed and audible, an important requirment for their new direction as the album wouldnt have worked half as well with the sub par production of its predecessor.

As much as I really like this album, its not a perfect record. The 50 second guitar and vocals only track doesnt really add much to the album, where as the short blast that is 4 Chambers was a good idea but I dont think they really pulled it off, particularly the slower grind undeneath the chant of "4 chambers". The final nine and a half minute epic Traiter Mark doesnt work quite as well as I would have liked either, with the second half draging on a bit too much and that the last minute is of the stated 10:35 is actually silence followed by a few seconds of lone guitar work, a practice in modern music that I completely loath. However, there's no doubt in my mind that Breaker of Worlds is one of the greatest opening tracks in all of progdem and the following three songs (To Kill and Kill Again, The Cluster Children and Ruby Red) plus Turn the War On and Ten Times Defeat, as well as most of Traiters Mark are all absolutely excellent. I regularly listen to this recording (and Madder Mortem in general) and feel that it deserves a lot more attention, so I'll give this a well deserved 4.5 stars.

sleeper | 4/5 |


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