When news broke in 2015 that Bolt Thrower’s drummer, Martin ‘Kiddie’ Kearns, had died it marked the end of the English death metal behemoths. But, from the ashes of Bolt Thrower, arise Memoriam. Comprised largely of members of Bolt Thrower and Benediction, the old school death metal quartet are ready to wage war once again with their debut full-length, ‘For The Fallen’. But, does this debut offering of traditional death metal have what it takes to trade blows with the frontrunners of the modern movement?
‘For The Fallen’ opens with Memoriam, a solemn and steady paced track clocking just under two and a half minutes. Isolated lead guitar play from Scott Fairfax presents itself first before unfolding into a slow and hard-hitting combination of Fairfax’s riffing and Frank Healy’s thick basslines, which really captures the bite of what death metal stands for. A sustained but short track, Memoriam builds sheer anticipation. A fine start indeed.
‘War Rages On’ follows suits and as the title suggests, the band really begin to fire on all cylinders through winding riffing and consistent blasts from Andy Whale’s drums. The sheer weight of the track is gargantuan in size; from the piercing notes from Fairfax’s guitar to Karl Willets’ iconic vocal deliveries, the sheer power of the track engulfs you and it’s hard not to be swept away. In fact, this is where Memoriam really shine with ‘For The Fallen’, when all their musical traits fuse to create a sound that can flatten a city with absolute ease.
These moments are in abundance with ‘For The Fallen’ and for good measure too as the record ticks all the boxes of the core death metal formula. ‘Reduced To Zero’ is a mid-tempo rager through consistent pummels of solid guitar and bass work whilst Andy Whale’s drumming keeps the momentum flowing effortlessly. The pacing of the track is balanced excellently, with enough speed to keep your heart racing but played enough to really let the track ensnare your attention. The execution of pace is always a make or break for death metal bands. Often the speed is pushed to the absolute maximum and repetition rears its ugly head, diluting the overall impact of the record. However, ‘For The Fallen’ is a nurtured and mature beast and displays a variety of pacing throughout the record’s duration which really keeps you on your toes.
One such example is ‘Corrupted System’. After the mid-tempo grooves of ‘Reduced To Zero’, ‘Corrupted System’ kicks things into overdrive through a flurry of slick riffing and rapid-fire drumming. Karl Willets’ vocal deliveries excel here, propelling the track as it surges forward through the frantic speed of Scott Fairfax and Frank Healy’s combined guitar and bass lines. Or take ‘Flatline’; a track that truly hammers home the essence of the old school death metal sound. Bombastic drumming, riffs that hook deep and guttural vocals that soar above the musical battlefield. With a variety of pace on offer, ‘For The Fallen’ ebbs and flows, balancing the momentum on the tip of a sword whilst ensuring the killing blow is effectively delivered.
One thing is certain with ‘For The Fallen’, it is a consistently solid record throughout as the final trio of tracks ensure that Memoriam deliver on providing the sheer brute force of death metal. ‘Surrounded By Death’ echoes to the Bolt Thrower soundboard by offering a soundscape that replicates artillery fire whilst ‘Resistance’ unleashes another dosage of hard-hitting guitar work that will leave you floored. It’s incredibly impressive and it builds to a climatic finish with closing track ‘Final Words’. Death metal albums often end abruptly, with their shock and awe approach often leaving the listener dazed and yearning for more and yet Memoriam deliver a poignant conclusion to ‘For The Fallen’. Sustained lead guitar play, solemn drumming and Karl Willets’ solitary and slow vocal lines build for a slow and nurtured opening before the track roars into life with the standout riffs on the record. Standing at a mighty eight minutes and forty five seconds, ‘Last Words’ is colossal in both its length and musical scope and demonstrates a band pushes the old school death metal sound forward in the modern age. The musicianship on show here is top class and it is an utterly breathtaking way to conclude the record.
As death metal continues to push forward in terms of technicality and experimentation, Memoriam have grabbed the style by the scruff of the neck to celebrate the sheer raw power of the genre. ‘For The Fallen’ demonstrates the sheer destructive force of death metal, showcasing that despite all of the genre’s expansion and evolution, that the core DNA of extreme music can still be breathtaking in the modern age.