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


Madder Mortem

Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

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Honorary Collaborator
4 stars "All Flesh is Grass" is the 2nd full-length studio album by Norwegian female led goth/doom/progressive metal act Madder Mortem. The album was released through Century Media Records in February 2001. I found a great deal of enjoyment in the band´s debut album "Mercury (1999)". It´s a doomy/goth metal album with a really pleasant and warm sound. A bit different from the usual Nightwish and Evanescence clones which mare that part of the heavy metal spectrum. There have been great changes to the lineup since the release of the debut album and only vocalist Agnete M. Kirkevaag and guitarist/vocalist/percussionist BP M. Kirkevaag are left from the original lineup. In addition to three new members their record company Misanthropy Records closed down and the band had to find a new record company for this release. But boy did they come out stronger and more determined.

I don´t know what´s gotten into the band since the debut but "All Flesh is Grass" is a much more aggressive and focused album than it´ss predecessor and even touches extreme metal territory a few times. Agnete M. Kirkevaag´s strong voice and intriguing vocal lines are still the main focus in the music but the guitar riffs and the rythm section are also strong and varied throughout the album. The music is melodic but not in the sense that the choruses are simple sing along choruses. Agnete M. Kirkevaag has a way of making her vocal lines dark and interesting which gives the music an great atmosphere. Track titles like "Breaker of Words", "To Kill and Kill Again" and "Turn the War On" speaks of the equally dark nature of the music and when the lyrics are delieved in such a venomous fashion it´s all I need to be convinced that this band mean business. This is not the most progressive album I´ve heard but songs like "Turn the War on" and the ending almost 10 minute long "Traitor's Mark" (don´t be fooled by the longer playing time displaying in your CD player. There´s unfortunately a silence ending) does feature progressive elements. Most tracks actually do on some level.

The musicianship is excellent. The new members of the band have greatly improved the instrumental part of the music. I have to give a special mention to the rythm section of bassist/keyboardist/backing vocalist (extreme vocals) Paul Mozart Björk and drummer Mads Solas who are in large part responsible for bringing the music to a higher level.

The production is excellent. Powerful and detailed.

"All Flesh is Grass" has taken me by storm. I wasn´t expecting to hear such a powerful and intriguing album from Madder Mortem. This is a deserved 4 star (80%) rating in my book and a very recommendable album if you prefer your female led metal a bit heavier, darker and intriguing than usual. Don´t expect to be blown away by complex playing on the album though. Dark atmosphere is the main attraction here. I have to make a note here that even though I mentioned extreme vocals before they are very, very sparse and people not interested in that kind of vocals should not be turned off by the very few times (and I mean very few times) they appear. While the extreme vocals may be sparse Madder Mortem still have more in common both musically and lyrically with the more extreme part of the metal scene than they have with progressive metal bands like Dream Theater or Fates Warning.

Report this review (#208500)
Posted Tuesday, March 24, 2009 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars On All Flesh Is Grass Madder Mortem takes a huge leap into more proggy territories, absorbing influences reminding me of Voivod and extreme tech metal. The vocals have become more forceful and adventurous, taking large steps outside the gentle minor key melodies of the debut. The sound is very clear, harsh and organic, a great production.

The opener Head On Pillow is more aggressive and has more ideas then any track had from the debut. The songs have become more segmented, there's still a recognizable verse chorus structure at the base, but it regularly opens up into many different directions. Especially the dissonant and crunching guitars are noteworthy. A heavily metalized King Crimson is a recognizable influence here. Impressive track. Also To Kill and Kill Again testifies of their grown maturity and power.

There are some weaker tracks you will need to indulge. The Cluster Children features competent guitar work and good riffs, but they get in the way of the vocals that really struggle to balance out the heavy atonality with good melodious lines. Ruby Red suffers from the same symptoms and feels rather disjointed. On Head On Pillow / Turn the War On, the guitars step back a row or two and Agnete's sensitive vocals are allowed to come to the fore. When the guitars kick in, they really fuel the song's intensity. 4 Chambers is a short and furious track that is smartly sequenced after the slower moment that preceded. Ten Times Defeat opens with a clean guitar loop that has a high 80's King Crimson feel. Traitor's Mark is with its 9 minute length and developing themes easily the most proggy track next to the opener.

You might need time for this one. It's immediately catchy but still needs to grow before the strength of the compositions is revealed. 4 solid stars.

Report this review (#259862)
Posted Friday, January 8, 2010 | Review Permalink
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.

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Posted Wednesday, January 19, 2011 | Review Permalink
Prog Sothoth
Prog Metal Team
5 stars This album is a monster. A female vocalist who sings like Grace Slick's slightly insane sister with a high priestess complex over progressive doom metal with a powerhouse production is what I call goodness in a nutshell. The guitars have an angry downtuned crunch, although the band utilizes chord progressions from all over the guitar necks to create these offerings as opposed to mindless chugging. Offbeat time signatures and tempo changes abound, and trippy mellow sections give this effort a heavy prog vibe.

There's a lot of variety in their song constructions, with no definative singular influence, thus the band retains an identity unique to themselves. You'll find some eerie southwestern folk in "Turn The War On" and a bit of The Beatle's "Tomorrow Never Knows" in "Traitor's Mark". One of the real kickers is "Ten Times Defeat", which seems influenced by King Crimson's Discipline era. It is absolutely brilliant showmanship and something I've never heard before. How many extremely heavy bands consider Discipline a piece to the puzzle of their sound? It's actually become one of my favorite songs, certainly of the heavy variety. Ruby Red is another fantastic number with the quiet / loud dynamic explored in an intense and creepy fashion.

The musicianship is tight with effective heavy riffing combined with dark melodic passages and some full on prog workouts (such as the middle break in The Cluster Children). No guitar solo exercises, but they aren't actually missed due to the interest I retain by the song structures themselves. Keyboards are very sparsely used but add atmosphere, particularly during the opening of Traitor's Mark. The vocals are bewitching and beautiful, and Agnete's lyrics should be particularly noted for avoiding female fronted group clichés and going for a much darker and reflective tone.

Released by Century Media, the album seems to be a difficult one to find these days. I'm going to assume that Century Media picked them up expecting a revamp concerning the goth metal shoegaze of the band's previous album into a more Lacuna Coil-like sound (considering that Lacuna Coil was on that label at the time), and just didn't know how to handle or promote such an unusual creation that is All Flesh Is Grass. The label reps probably weren't expecting that. It's a real shame this album isn't better known, and for that matter, the band themselves. Madder Mortem still exists(on Peaceville Records), and their later efforts are excellent as well, although the groovy bits on a couple of these efforts veer a bit towards a nu-metal sound. Not a bad thing I suppose, but I prefer the bombastic doomy approach they accomplished with this incredible beast than the rest of their catalogue, and pretty much almost anything full stop. Brilliance.

Report this review (#560468)
Posted Monday, October 31, 2011 | Review Permalink
kev rowland
Honorary Reviewer
4 stars This is not an easy album to listen to. The music moves from time signature to time signature, sometimes heavy sometimes light, not always melodic. It is often harsh and uncompromising, yet t others almost ethereal. Add to it the operatic style female vocals and the result is an album that is full of challenging music.

If anyone ever felt that extreme rock was played by people who only knew how to turn up the volume and play at break neck speed then they should listen to this. It is very much a progressive album; only Genesis never sounded anything like this? It is music that transcends boundaries and consequently will only ever appeal to a select few. I enjoyed it but there had to be a break between playing, as it demands so much from the listener. A concert of theirs must be a very draining experience.

If you think you're brave enough?

Originally appeared in Feedback #62, May 01

Report this review (#968516)
Posted Saturday, June 1, 2013 | Review Permalink

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