ALBUM REVIEW: MEMORIAM - RISE TO POWER
UNPRETENTIOUS FULL METAL RACKET
You know those old war movies where a band disparate yet endearingly miscreant veterans, whose discipline record is also endearingly recalcitrant, are called up out of the tedium of civilian life for one last dangerous hoo-ha? Except it never is one last mission; they just keep returning as they don’t know what else to do and there is nobody else to do it? You might see this is edging towards a comparison with Memoriam. When it comes to experience on the field, Memoriam have an embarrassment of riches with an impressively time-served line-up. They simply fire out the albums too, just like you used to get in the old days – when metal was metal and stress and anxiety hadn’t yet been invented: Rise to Power is their fifth release in six years. By modern standards that is uber-prolific, but it belies an old school work ethic when bands played for music’s sake.
Memoriam’s quality hasn’t ever dipped despite the rapid-fire output. Rise To Power has a no-frills familiar quality that sits appositely in their catalogue. As ever, war is a core and recurrent theme. The opener Never Forget, Never Again (6 Million Dead) is straight forward barn-storming death metal thrash. It is a unequivocal meat and potatoes battery as is the machine gun staccato of Total War a track that doesn’t need to rely on anything more than simplicity and impact. That, in fact, can be said in general terms for the record as a whole where song structures are usually standard issue and the riffs and progressions are muscular, honest and uncomplicated. You kind of know what to expect from a Memoriam record but, in this case, that is a reassurance rather than a criticism.
If there is a stylistic departure on Rise to Power it would be Memoriam sounding a degree more solemn. While this is still rampaging, tooled-up, bellicose noise there is noticeably more mournful content than previous releases. Tracks like the opener vacillate between crunchy riffs and sorrowful, melodious hooks, while the morose I am the Enemy and the bewitching hushed lead melodies on The Conflict is Within give the record a sombre accent. Perhaps it is maturity that tends to help reflect on conflict (whatever its scale or nature) and its destructive repercussions, rather than seek and celebrate it. The clever and melancholic guitar lines are effectively well-written and would not be out of place on a gothic doom record and the immense concluding track The Pain signs off in subdued yet doomy valediction.
Yet let’s not overstate things, Memoriam are still as noisy as a rumbling Merkava tank convoy and it’s not long before the pummelling metal of All is Lost or the title track shake the mud under your boots. The immensely likeable and characterful Karl Willetts delivers a solid, reliable vocal delivery, with a style that mingles death metal with an old school crustcore punk execution (a breathier version of Barney Greenway except you can understand what he is bellowing). There is an exemplary percussion performance from Spike Smith that really propels the music with aptly machine gun-like double kicks with lively, but not over-cooked, fills and rolls that accentuate the riffs and time-changes.
Is this just another Memoriam record? In a lot of ways, yes. The style is immediately recognisable with a forthright delivery and a tendency towards kind of mid-paced songs of around 6 minutes. It isn’t experimental or radical, instead stockpiling nicely against their bullet pocked discography. Somehow, though, Memoriam are not an AC/DC or Obituary nor are they in the least bit dumbed-down. They are instead an old-school sincere act that make a kind of honourable din. There is a frank upfrontness about this form of metal that is impervious to trends and where enough love and care has gone into the craft to ensure quality control. You can just tell when a band reaches a stage of churning out potboilers to see out the autumn of their careers; but although you know what to expect from one of their records, Memoriam aren’t one of them and probably never will be.
Rise to Power is released via Reaper Entertainment.