Madder Mortem - _Desiderata_
(Peaceville, 2006)
by: Pedro Azevedo (9 out of 10)
Ever since the line-up revamping that followed their debut album, Madder Mortem have surprised me with each successive release. Both _All Flesh Is Grass_ and _Deadlands_ took a while to grow on me, but when they finally reached their potential, they left no doubt of the band's outstanding talent. Despite a couple of line-up changes, _Desiderata_ turned out to be a more immediate album for me than its predecessors, though not for lack of intricacies and subtle changes in the band's sound. The result is fortunately up to par with the band's previous efforts, which is saying a lot.

Led by the charismatic vocals of the irreprehensible Agnete Kirkevaag, Madder Mortem firmly capture the listener throughout _Desiderata_ -- an album as full of twists and turns, tranquil moments, pressure building passages and liberating climaxes as we've come to expect from the band. While the production seemed slightly underwhelming at first compared to past efforts, it didn't turn out to be a problem as the album went on.

"My Name Is Silence" kicks off the album as a real hit single, full of catchy passages and powerful riffs. "Evasions" quiets things down a bit initially before unleashing a strong chorus, and hits the listener with the album's first really emotional passage around the 2:00 mark. This type of delicate guitar work briefly returns on the next track, "Plague on This Land", also near the 2:00 mark and again later on, with excellent results -- contributing to a fast-paced track that keeps the album moving forward. The sound of Agnette's voice quite near its breaking point around the 4:00 mark is just the kind of superb detail that takes Madder Mortem to a different level altogether. "Dystopia" follows as a kind of epilogue to "Plague on This Land"; a quiet, emotional interlude that pauses the album.

Things soon start moving again with "M for Malice" however: one of the album's most memorable tracks, although in my opinion not one of the best. Beefy riffs, quiet strings and strong vocal melodies make sure "The Flood to Come" is a very worthy successor. A similar dichotomy can be found on "Changelling", until the track evolves into something else entirely: just after the 3:00 mark, Agnette leads the band on a delightfully half-deranged explosion -- one of those liberating climaxes I mentioned earlier. This is immediately followed by the quiet "Cold Stone", somewhat reminiscent of Opeth, all acoustic guitar and soft, sad vocals; that is until it changes into an almost tribal rhythm in a surprising move that works better than expected. "Hypnos" marks a return to normality for the album, another strong track in every area, with "Sedition" following suit -- while not real highlights, these tracks keep the album interesting in preparation for what is to come.

The title track that follows is even more engaging, building up to a powerful finish that constitutes one of the best cuts on the album. In retrospect however, its memory tends to be replaced by that of album closer "Hangman". This is MM at their most fascinating; after a quiet, moody start, at about the 3:00 mark again Agnette takes center stage. At that point she begins the delivery of one of the most emotionally intense vocal sequences I can remember hearing: an absolute tearing down of every last barrier, a soul exposed in its nakedness and pure, essential anguish.

With a very strong identity and no fear of trying whatever they like -- not to mention a highly impressive array of talent throughout the band, as exemplified by vocalist Agnette -- Madder Mortem deserve every success that comes their way. A great signing for Peaceville no doubt, but alas I reckon there is little risk of the mainstream actually taking notice of such a talented band.

[Chris Flaaten: "Madder Mortem is a weird creature. While their heaviness, or level of brutality if you will, is at a level that can appeal to those who normally like hard rock rather than -metal-, the levels of energy and intensity in their songs often far surpass those of even the most brutal bands. They tap into the power of harmonies and emotion, pouring their hearts into the performance while toying with disharmonics, contrasts and unusual song structures and melodies. Few bands can pull this off and still sound -sane-, least of all decent. Madder Mortem do it seemingly effortlessly and sound amazing. They have always had a unique sound, but it has never really packed this kind of a punch. Whether the improvement is due to the entire band having matured or could be credited to the two new band members remains uncertain, but considering the slightly richer and heavier guitar sound I will go out on a limb and peg the new guitarist Odd Eivind Ebbesen as a genius. Actually he is not new, but the original, first guitarist from when the band called themselves Mystery Tribe. Another refreshing thing about Madder Mortem is that their sound is so honest. While it would be easy to polish Agnete's vocals with studio tricks, it's the raw and unbridled touch to both her performance and the songwriting itself that really lets the band blow the listener away."]


(article published 22/3/2006)

4/24/2006 C Flaaten Madder Mortem: The Musings of Mother Mortem
8/2/2003 A McKay /
P Azevedo
Madder Mortem: A Dream Come True
2/13/1999 P Azevedo Madder Mortem: Crimson Dreams
7/5/2009 K Sarampalis 9 Madder Mortem - Eight Ways
3/26/2003 P Azevedo 9 Madder Mortem - Deadlands
8/12/2001 P Azevedo 9 Madder Mortem - All Flesh Is Grass
2/13/1999 P Azevedo 9 Madder Mortem - Mercury
3/21/2003 P Azevedo Opeth / Madder Mortem / Kormoss Morningrise in the Deadlands
1/14/2002 D Rocher Tristania / Rotting Christ / Vintersorg / Madder Mortem A Night to Remember, a Bill to Forget
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