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MADDER MORTEM

Tech/Extreme Prog Metal • Norway


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Madder Mortem biography
Founded in Oslo, Norway in 1993 (as 'MYSTERY TRIBE')

MADDER MORTEM were formed by siblings Agnete and BP M. KIRKEVAAG in 1993, initially as the doom metal/gothic metal band 'MYSTERY TRIBE'. They recorded a couple of demos, and changed their name to MADDER MORTEM in 1997 before finally releasing their first album 'Mercury' in 1999. Shortly after the album's release their record label closed down, and after some fairly extensive line-up changes they finally got signed to Century Media and released their second album 'All Flesh Is Grass' in 2001, an album which had a heavier sound than the debut. They maintained their style of combining experimental prog metal with symphonic elements, however - sometimes strongly influenced by the more extreme genres of metal - Death, Black - but in a very balanced and artistic way.

Their third album 'Deadlands' was released in October 2002. It was darker and groovier than its predecessor, and was the band's first album release in the US. In February and March 2003 MADDER MORTEM supported OPETH on the European leg of their 'Deliverance' tour as well as playing some other Norwegian gigs, and also a one-off gig in Mexico City.

However, upon their return to Norway from Mexico there were some more big changes brewing in the band. Bass player Pål Mozart BJØRKE announced his decision to leave the band, and guitarist Eirik Ulvo LAGNES left shortly afterwards. Long-time friend of the band Odd Eivind EBESSEN was a very natural choice as replacement guitarist, and another friend Tormod MOSENG joined them on bass.

Their fourth album 'Desiderata' was recorded in April 2004, and was mixed by Fredrik NORDSTRÖM at Studio Fredman in the summer of that year, but MADDER MORTEM and Century Media wanted different things and parted ways. With no record label behind them, the actual release of 'Deisderata' got stalled until they had signed with Peaceville Records in 2005, the record finally being released in the spring of 2006.

By 2007 most of the material for what would become the fifth album 'Eight Ways' was already written. In 2008 they decided to record the album themselves, with guitarist BP KIRKEVAAG mixing it. The album was released on Peaceville Records in spring 2009.

In may 2010 Peaceville released the 'Where Dream And Day Collide' EP for which MADDER MORTEM had recorded three new songs. A bit later the same year they played the Inferno Metal Festival in Oslo for the second time, but soon after...
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MarrowMarrow
Karisma 2018
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Red in Tooth and ClawRed in Tooth and Claw
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MADDER MORTEM discography


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MADDER MORTEM top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.37 | 12 ratings
Mercury
1999
4.19 | 18 ratings
All Flesh Is Grass
2001
4.18 | 14 ratings
Deadlands
2002
3.76 | 13 ratings
Desiderata
2006
4.09 | 15 ratings
Eight Ways
2009
3.83 | 6 ratings
Red In Tooth and Claw
2016
4.07 | 5 ratings
Marrow
2018

MADDER MORTEM Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

MADDER MORTEM Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

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MADDER MORTEM Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

3.80 | 5 ratings
Where Dream and Day Collide
2010

MADDER MORTEM Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Marrow by MADDER MORTEM album cover Studio Album, 2018
4.07 | 5 ratings

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Marrow
Madder Mortem Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by Antonis Kalamoutsos

4 stars For almost 20 years now, the story remains the same. All critics and aware fans scream their lungs out to tell us that Madder Mortem is one of the best metal bands, in terms of quality and endurance but the majority of the metal scene turns its head the other way, towards opportunistic, trendy or even shallow bands. I have quit all hope that Madder Mortem will get the wide recognition they deserve but then again, why should this matter? Nothing of the above is powerful enough to influence the secret, ritualistic and eclectic delight they offer us with each new album.

For almost 20 years, the story remains the same. Like in their previous 6 endeavours, this year's album, Marrow, remains true to the fundamentally unchanged roots of their music, keeping a masterful balance among lyrical, dramatic and aggressive expressions. The dark tales they weave are ultimately for adult listeners: the atmospheric pursuits are being blended with doomy and prog ideas while the riffing always retains a modern character, despite the Norwegian origins that occasionally draw their music towards melancholic and dreamy soundscapes. It's a fact, Madder Mortem is still very hard to categorize and their compositions are always adventurous and open to transformation. This is music of high intensity that looks like the beast whose skin is silky and its claws ferocious. Art that resembles a beautiful mermaid rising up from a deep abyss enchanting you, only to realize that she has terrible, blood thirsty teeth.

For almost 20 years, the story remains the same. We will continue to regard Agnete Kirkevaag as one of the most, maybe The most amazing female performer in metal music and the majority will go on believing that we exaggerate. It is their right to do so. For us, it will still be a privilege to enjoy these performances and to realize that they have become even wiser and richer in Marrow, with less 'yelling' and more colour and texture. In the same time, some of the included compositions slightly reveal some folk influences, for the listener that yearns to discover things beneath the notes. In the list of all the fantastic songs they have delivered through these 20 years, we have to add many from this album, like the epic 9 minute long 'Waiting to fall', the first single 'Moonlight over silver white' and 'Until you return' ' one of the greatest songs they have ever composed, in my opinion. Just surrender yourself to its hypnotizing groove and watch it explode into an outburst of passionate heaviness.

For almost 20 years, the story remains the same. Each time they release an album, it is doomed to be included among that year's exceptional metal records. Remaining loyal to the stylistic visions they alone created 20 years ago, Madder Mortem is here again, strong and hungry as always. I don't know how success is defined but, artistically speaking, this band is one of the most successful out there. On 21/9 you will have another proof for this.

And I can do nothing more than hope that for the next 20 years the story will just remain the same.

Originally posted in Against the Silence.com

 All Flesh Is Grass by MADDER MORTEM album cover Studio Album, 2001
4.19 | 18 ratings

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All Flesh Is Grass
Madder Mortem Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by kev rowland
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

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

 All Flesh Is Grass by MADDER MORTEM album cover Studio Album, 2001
4.19 | 18 ratings

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All Flesh Is Grass
Madder Mortem Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by Prog Sothoth
Collaborator 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.

 All Flesh Is Grass by MADDER MORTEM album cover Studio Album, 2001
4.19 | 18 ratings

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All Flesh Is Grass
Madder Mortem Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by sleeper
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.

 Mercury by MADDER MORTEM album cover Studio Album, 1999
3.37 | 12 ratings

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Mercury
Madder Mortem Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by sleeper
Prog Reviewer

3 stars The mid 1990's saw an explosian in prog bands from Norway, both of the more symphonic and metal variaties, and '99 saw Madder Mortem join their ranks with this, their debut album, Mercury. Unlike a lot of Norway's Prog Metal acts, the band keeps away from Black Metal here and instead offers up a fusion of Doom Metal, similar to the likes of Candlemass, and Goth Metal with The 3rd and the Mortal being an obvious big influence.

As you will find with many debut albums, the band seems a bit tentative here as their musical style keeps pretty close to the Doom/Goth fusion without developing that uniqe sound that will come to charecterise the bands albums. Its particualrly noticable with vocalist Agnete Kirkvaarg, who sings in a style reminiscent of that soft, calm and airy voice of the vocalist from The 3rd and the Mortal, a style that has encompassed many goth singers for quite a while now, and a far cry from the powerful, distinct and, some would say, aquired taste that her vocals will become. In short, Mercury offers little to distinguish itself from the pack, except that within its limitations its quite a well made album. The songs are driven forward by the twin riffing of BP Kirkvaarg and Christian Ruud, sometimes using the counterpoint that would become a hallmark of the band but largely relying on the strong riffs to dominate the song. Nyborg's bass and Nielson's drums work togethor to create a strong rhythm section underpinning the riffs but without ever really making their prescence felt.

The composition of the songs is pretty good, but the album lacks variation between most of its tracks, meaning that the album as a whole wont stick in the memorry to well but indavidual songs can certainly grab the attention. The biggest problem Mercury has is that the production is definitely second rate, the first few songs in particualr sound like they were recorded on the cheap. Its the kind of quality you would expect from a demo or a first time negineer getting to grips with the kit. The sound isnt terrible, the album is certainly listenable and you can hear all the instruments, but I'm left with a definite feeling of "could do better".

I'd say that last statement sums up the album perfectly, in all departments there is nothing bad, or particularly wrong, with the album but its unsatisfying in the end. Loss, Misty Sleep and Convention are my favourite tracks on here but Madder Mortem went on to much bigger and better things after Mercury. For fans of the bleaker end of Progressive Metal, like In the Woods... and Green Carnation, who arent out to be challenged and to those that want to complete their MM discography.

 Eight Ways by MADDER MORTEM album cover Studio Album, 2009
4.09 | 15 ratings

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Eight Ways
Madder Mortem Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by usa prog music

4 stars At first listen, Madder Mortem wasn't an easy band for me to describe and it hasn't gotten any easier over time. Right from the opening notes of Eight Ways, it shouldn't be hard to figure out that it's... well, hard to figure out just what kind of band Madder Mortem is. Maybe they don't really "fit" any definition. Sure, there are metal moments, but there are also portions of the album that are more like rock, some alternative, some jazzy, some folk-ish and some that I really don't quite know exactly where they are on the musical landscape. I think the only comparison I can sort of make is to Faith No More. Yes, two very different bands, but each does have a kind of approach that's their own and branch out from that, sometimes making huge leaps while doing so. That said, I think Madder Mortem is simply their own kind of band. Nothing wrong with that. Agnete Kirkevaag's vocals help keep it all together. She's not operatic, she's not a screamer (well, okay she does do a bit of that, but not to the point of shrieking), a grunter or anything we're not used to hearing from a woman. Her voice has a sort of friendly, accessible quality to it. Really, I'm kind of at a loss as how to put it, other than that she's got a good voice and knows how to put it to use. The band is more than competent, offering up some impressive bites, but I didn't hear any clear indication of just how much they're really able to unleash. Some things caught my attention, but not a whole lot stood out; just more of a general impression overall. I hate to say it, but if you're looking for something in particular in your music, you may end up a bit disappointed. Madder Mortem is one of those bands that you should try to listen to beforehand before snagging this album on impulse or because of what may have been said about it. Eight Ways is a good album, but it's not for everyone. However, if you don't mind taking a trip with a few changes of scenery, it should prove to be an enjoyable listen that grows on you over time. I found "A Different Kind Of Hell", "Get That Monster Out Of Here" and album closer "The Eighth Wave" to be the best songs out of the bunch, but there are moments in the other songs that make the album as a whole worth a listen; "Riddle Wants To Be" and "Life, Lust & Liberty" got a few more repeats than most of the remaining songs did. It's one of those kinds of albums: easy to like, harder to fall in love with. I have to admit, this was my first exposure to the band, Eight Ways being their fifth album. For what it's worth, it won't be my last.
 Eight Ways by MADDER MORTEM album cover Studio Album, 2009
4.09 | 15 ratings

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Eight Ways
Madder Mortem Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by deathlifereborn

4 stars MADDER MORTEM'S newest album EIGHT WAYS, I heard the song LIFE, LUST & LIBERTY off Classic Rock Presents Prog free cd, and I was thinking about getting this, I eventually saw it in a small music shop and thought 'what the hell' and bought it. The cover is quite strange, I wonder who did it? It consits of a platform with a lever, overlooking hilly mountains, down towards the sea maybe. In the fold out manual, on the flip side is a picture of a heart as a machine which I thought was a nice touch, dunno why it just is.

The vocalist Agnete M. Kirkevaag, itsn't the usual sounding female singer, she's got a really unusual sounding voice but I actually quite like it though as it adds a whole different feel than if it was by say an operatic vocalist, espcially on the softer melodic songs ARMOUR (one of my favorites on the album), THE RIDDLE WANTS TO BE and RESOLUTON. The rest of the band including BP. M. Kirkevaag (the only other original member), are really great musicians and can hold each other well.

The whole album has a weird jazziness to it, thats the only way to describe it really. The structures of the songs are not basic and quite complex. It took a few listens to get used to what was going on and you'll discover little things the more you listen to it. I'm quite intrested as to where this band came from and woudln't mind getting more of their work. There's a certain fun element of highly charged emotional output that really gets your heart pumping (maybe thats the reason for the machine heart)

I'm in a tangent whether of not to give this 3 or 4 stars because I really enjoyed it but I dunno, on the ground that I did I'll give it 4 stars

 Deadlands by MADDER MORTEM album cover Studio Album, 2002
4.18 | 14 ratings

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Deadlands
Madder Mortem Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by Bonnek
Special Collaborator Prog Metal Team

4 stars On their third alum, Madder Mortem continue the changed style of the second album, presenting a good balance between doom heavy melodies, adventurous song structures, groove and an overall powerful sound that is even better then the previous album.

Madder Mortem bring a type of catchy extreme metal, combining crushing dissonance with beautiful melodic vocals. Necropol Lit and Omnivore are two short example of that and serve as an excellent introductions to the band. The music has continued in adventurous and proggy directions, Distance Will Save Us has little to do with metal, the guitars provide texture rather then riffs and a fretless bass takes the lead. One of the strongest and most intense tracks is Silverspine. It's doom rather then Prog but it's definitely more exploratory then pure doom bands like Candlemass or Solitude Aeturnus. Spine-chilling music nevertheless. Jigsaw is the only weaker track, Agnete's voice sounds too strained here. Deadlands and Resonatine offer 15 more minutes of powerful dissonance and frighteningly beautiful melodies culminating in an orgiastic climax.

The 2009 Peaceville reissue added two interesting bonus tracks. Exile is a track that equals the quality of the regular tracks. It alternates soft verses that are somehow reminiscent of Siouxsie's album Peepshow with a big sweeping chorus. Also the remake of Deadlands Revisited is a real bonus, it's not a fan-only demo but a very tasty string arrangement of the original track.

If they bring out their best quality material as on this album, Madder Mortem come up with amazing music. When I made the original draft for this review in 2002 I added Let's hope they will start to enjoy some success with a releases like this, but I'm not quite sure if that happened in the intervening time. They deserve it though, a lot more then the legion of commercial Gathering copy-cats that clutter the female-fronted metal scene. 4.5 stars

 All Flesh Is Grass by MADDER MORTEM album cover Studio Album, 2001
4.19 | 18 ratings

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All Flesh Is Grass
Madder Mortem Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by Bonnek
Special Collaborator Prog Metal Team

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.

 Mercury by MADDER MORTEM album cover Studio Album, 1999
3.37 | 12 ratings

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Mercury
Madder Mortem Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by Bonnek
Special Collaborator Prog Metal Team

4 stars The Norwegian answer to Opeth's 'Morningrise'?

Madder Mortem evokes quite an atmosphere here, not by doing long Opethian compositions or black metal rasps, but by the same frost-bitten guitars and wet drum sound as Opeth had on Morningrise. They also have that Nordic folksy vibe and must use similar chord progressions as they create the same sweeping and melancholic atmosphere.

I'm not much of a fan of female-fronted metal. It's mostly more interesting for the visuals then for the music. The Gathering and Stream of Passion are the obvious exceptions, but you also can't go wrong with Agnete here. Over the course of Madder Mortem's career her voice evolved into a very prominent and acquired taste, but here she keeps things very gentle and melodious.

I'm not sure if this would be the Madder Mortem album of preference for prog fans, certainly not for the tech/extreme metal fans. Madder Mortem evolved in leaps throughout their first 3 albums. Each one being very different. Musically the debut is adequate and brooding, be it not as challenging or technical or extreme as on later albums. But it's the mood that gets me, very melancholic, grey, subtle, eerie.

The album needs some growing but slowly and irreversibly creeps under your skin. All songs compete with each other to evoke the most upsetting psychological distress, the deepest yearning or the toughest desperation. Not all succeed equally convincing but for a debut, this album is a true revelation. Not their most proggy effort but their most touching one. Recommended to fans of the Gathering and gloomy funeral music. A slightly flattering 4 stars.

Thanks to MikeEnRegalia for the artist addition. and to Quinino for the last updates

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