Madder Mortem - _Eight Ways_
(Peaceville Records, 2009)
by: Kostas Sarampalis (9 out of 10)
Madder Mortem have had an interesting career so far, despite having the burden of unstable line-ups, except for the core duo of brother and sister BP and Agnete. From one release to the next, they have managed to showcase talent, wit, intelligence and progress in their song crafting. Bar their previous effort _Desiderata_ which was a little bland, all their releases were thoroughly enjoyable. Luckily, so is _Eight Ways_.

The new album sees the Madders experimenting and expanding quite a lot with their music. Definitely difficult to categorize, _Eight Ways_ can best be described as just a bunch of very good songs. The most powerful weapon in Madder Mortem's disposal is of course Agnete's magnificent voice. It has probably been the only real constant in their music since the band's inception, and once again she truly shines. If one was to nitpick, there are a few instances where she overdoes it a bit, like for example towards the end of the otherwise intense "Resolution", where her vocals get a bit annoying. But on the whole, Agnete's voice is as powerful and touching as ever.

The overall sound of _Eight Ways_ is rather harsh, notably so the guitars, which are tuned quite low. Yet this somehow gives the music a tad of urgency and angst. There are plenty of outstanding songs, and especially the second half contains the strongest material. Curiously, around just before the middle of the album, it somehow manages to lose the listener for a bit (for reasons not quite clear), but it quickly picks up and does not let go after that. Also of note is the astounding variation of themes offered in the album, yet all kept firmly in context, which in itself is a remarkable achievement.

The good thing is that they made their music fun again and, even though they are serious, heavy and contemplating aplenty, there is this playfulness in their songs this time around that takes the edge off. Aside from a couple of songs that are not as engaging as the rest of the album, there is little to fault in _Eight Ways_. Not only that, but it grows on you and as nuances and intricacies are revealed, so does the enjoyment factor increase.


(article published 5/7/2009)

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