Memoriam are a band needing no introduction to the extreme metal scene, formed as a logical conclusion to the end of Bolt Thrower and the beginning of a new chapter. With a variety of large profile tours, Memoriam had the easiest time making their presence known due to band members from well established acts (Benediction, and Bolt Thrower). However, the scene has a proof read history of bands spawned from the ashes of other bands with varying levels of success. Some have been dramatic improvements, a completely different entity, a logical progression, or simply “emperor’s new clothes” – universally panned by music critics.
One has to admire the sheer drive of Karl Willets and his troop; getting over a huge chunk of his life due to the passing of Martin Kearns, wanting to continue with a new project to honour him, and catharsis. This has been heavily documented in numerous interviews, over the past couple of years. Nevertheless, there’s a huge spectre that follows Memoriam in the form of Bolt Thrower’s previous works. If a sideways perspective is applied to the listening experience, addressing the confirmation bias of the dyed in the wool fanbase – would anybody care if the band were comprised of complete unknowns that came from nowhere? Their previous album, “For The Fallen”, despite containing huge levels of enthusiastic song writing and vibrant energy – contained parts that felt like the mask was going to slip; to reveal the band for what they truly are, with a new name sellotaped to it.
Memoriam’s second album “The Silent Vigil” (out now on Nuclear Blast), arrives a year after “For The Fallen”; a quick turnaround that shows the band are rich with new songs to feed an ever growing fanbase. Then again, a cynical metal fan would find it hard to shrug off the notion that a reasonable chunk of the album sounds like tracks that didn’t make the cut for “For The Fallen”, or reworking of tracks that never made the light of day. This sheds some concern over the band spreading themselves too thinly.
The opening track ‘Soulless Parasite’ is a perfect example, sounding like a track that’s interchangeable with anything picked from their debut and isn’t immediately inspiring. Things improve dramatically with ‘Nothing Remains’ and ‘From The Flames’, increasing the pace with heavy kick drums permeating the track nicely; urgent, driving, meaty riffs convey an air of power that’s vintage British death metal in the best sense. “The Silent Vigil” is a steady paced track, aiming for an anthemic feel and almost bluesy riffing, while ‘Bleed The Same’ goes for a wall of guitars approach that Bolt Thrower done so well, adding a nostalgic nod. ‘As Bridges Burn’ is immediately catchy, with deep thunderous riffing that for some reason sounds like Bolt Thrower had covered an Obituary track circa “The End Complete”, with highly competent guitar solos adding a distinct flavour. ‘The New Dark’ ages continues in a similar vein and as catchy as the track proceeded it, which will be a strong crowd pleaser. But, the closers ‘No Known Grave’ and ‘Weaponised Fear’ are reasonable – but feel as if they’re in danger of treading water.
“The Silent Vigil” is a decent album that builds upon their debut, containing deeply infectious enthusiastic song writing that pours from the speakers – defying the notion that Memoriam are comprised of seasoned veterans where many bands eventually sound tired from their era. However, Memoriam as a whole are on the correct path – but needs to break away from the baggage of Bolt Thrower and to be its own thing, half of the album at least demonstrates this is clearly possible. In conclusion, “The Silent Vigil” is a competent album that will take some time for certain listeners to get into, and further steps into the band finding their feet and a new enriching chapter.