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


Madder Mortem


Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

4.16 | 24 ratings

From, the ultimate progressive rock music website

4 stars All Flesh Is Grass is Madder Mortem's extraordinary sophomore record, released in 2001 via Century Media. The Norwegians' 1999 debut album Mercury had attracted lots of praise at the time it came out, and yet the band disintegrated shortly afterwards, leaving siblings Agnete (vocals) and BP Kirkevaag (guitars) alone to reconstruct the band from scratch. Enter Mads Solås (drums), Pål Mozart Bjørke (bass, keyboards) and Eirik Ulvo Langnes (guitars), and in 2000 the semi-revolutionised line-up locked themselves up in Studio Underground, Västerås, Sweden, to record the follow-up to Mercury. If the debut album had already shown the Norwegian band's subversive, unconventional streak as they stretched the rules of doom metal beyond its boundaries, All Flesh Is Grass simply blows everything out of the water.

This album occupies a special place in my collection. I cherish it and genuinely admire it as one of the most innovative, uncompromising, boundary-stretching examples of heavy metal. And yet I know that sitting through it is going to make for a raw, uncomfortable listening experience. This is because All Flesh Is Grass is a VERY demanding listen. Madder Mortem take the rulebook of extreme metal, scrap it, and then put the pieces back together in a random, chaotic order. Doom, gothic metal, nu-metal, prog metal, alternative and atmospheric rock are all mixed together to create a novel musical Frankenstein that shouldn't possibly work - and yet, in its own deranged way, it does.

This across-the-board, uncompromising approach reminds me of Solefald, albeit the latter use a rather different and more extreme sonic palette to channel their disturbed ideas into musical form. All Flesh Is Grass does not take it easy either, as far as extreme music goes. Ultra-heavy, razor-sharp guitars trace schizophrenic riffs that refuse to settle on any given pattern and instead keep mutating and morphing into something new. The drums follow a similar approach, in constant flux, mixing minimalist beats with furious, cacophonous explosions of noise. Meanwhile, Agnete's vocals oscillate between the sweet and the gruesome. One moment she uses her mellifluous soprano-range to sing gentle melodies, and the next she is bellowing her deep, low howls to the moon. Growls and shouted vocals are used too in the most jarring passages.

All Flesh is Grass deals blows with one hand and soothing caresses with the other. The bleak, disjointed guitar riffs of "Breaker of Worlds" make for a disturbing start of the album. The angular dissonances continue through the splendid "The Cluster Children" and "Ruby Red", and it is only with the short instrumental "Head on Pillow" and the gothic "Turn the War On" that we are given a fleeting moment of respite, as the atmosphere mellows and chilling melodies lull us for a brief moment, before the song explodes again in a wall of noise. These rare concessions to melody are like water in the desert and resonate the more for this reason. The album concludes with another masterpiece in atmosphere and dynamics, the sprawling "Traitor's Mark", a doomy affair that explores a vast musical universe made of noise, moody ambience and sickly melodies.

Like a car crash - painful to watch, and yet you can't look away -, All Flesh Is Grass hypnotizes and repels at the same time. It is angular, dissonant and loud. But it is also moody, melancholic and subtly melodic. It takes the listener on a musical journey that is hard to go through unscathed or to forget. While certainly not for the feeble of heart, the sheer boldness of the music that can be heard on this album makes Madder Mortem a very special and unique band in the extreme metal scene, and one that I can only highly recommend.

lukretio | 4/5 |


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