Album Review: Eight Ways – Madder Mortem

by Jack Diablo
Label: Peaceville Records
Release Date: June 16, 2009
Madder Mortem hail from the mystical, magical land of Norway. But as opposed to playing the Black Metal that seems to predominate there, this group makes a more melodic, progressive style of metal. Their latest album, Eight Ways reflects the pastoral fantasy-land that is their home rather than the rough and rugged Nordic side of the landscape that the harder bands pull their energy from. Which isn’t to say Madder Mortem doesn’t rock with the best of them, it’s just a little slower and the lyrics are sung by a valkyrie rather than growled by a berserker. The opening track, ‘Formaldehyde’ will throw you for a loop if you only listen to the intro. The only hint of metal in it is the dropped bass note during the shuffling beat just before the vocals drop. But the tension builds until about halfway through when the distortion kicks in, the vocals wail and the metal enters.
There are moments of delicate softness juxtaposed with screeching guitars and pounding drums. The album is as textured as the band’s homeland. It never quite reaches the thunderous power of Thor’s Mjolnir, instead it serves as metal for the masses. It will only mildly assault your parents’ ears. Not that that is a bad thing. In fact, lead singer Agnete M. Kirkevaag’s voice sounds surprisingly similar to My Brightest Diamond’s Shara Worden when she gets all metal on the Decemberists’ Hazards of Love. And the presumably female penned lyrics reveal a vulnerability and emotionalism that is honest and sincere vice the standard macho metal subject matter – “Is it a coward’s heart that trembles in your hands? / There’s a fear in me you will never understand / but beneath that fear there’s a wall of steel / and I think you know.” But there is still that good old fashioned angst on many tracks such as ‘A Different Kind Of Hell,’ and a good deal of cryptic, esoteric language as heard on the aforementioned ‘Formaldehyde’ or ‘Get That Monster Out Of Here.’
If progressive metal like Baroness or Isis is your thing, this might not satisfy you. Rather, it serves as more of a beginner’s guide to the genre, but a solid album nonetheless.