Released almost exactly a year since their excellent debut LP For the Fallen, Memoriam hit us with their latest full length opus, The Silent Vigil. As a huge fan of both their debut record and the guys’ previous incarnations, principally Bolt Thrower and Benediction, we were just a tad excited when this one landed at Moshville Towers.
First impression of the record comes from the classic atmospheric cover art, again from legendary artists Dan Seagrave, which takes you back to those classic death metal days and further whets the appetite for the nine tracks contained within.
As the needle hits the vinyl (alas, an MP3 file but allow me to indulge) my first impressions of the record are that it very much takes off from the band’s debut with a hint more aggression added. The intro riff from opener “Soulless Parasite” is classic Bolt Thrower and sets up the album nicely with Andy Whale’s mesmerising and rhythmic drumming front and centre as it is throughout.
We discovered first time around that the band collectively add their own ingredients and craft to each member’s tried and tested formulae and The Silent Vigil certainly builds on this. These guys really know how to capture that old school death metal essence and mid-tempo groove centred on that most essential ingredient, the riff. Scott Fairfax raises the bar in spades on this front. Tracks “Bleed the Same”, “As Bridges Burn” and “No Known Grave” each showcasing his skills, with the latter, the highlight of the album for me, delivering a stunning layered riff which has you hanging on every note. Equally, the main riff on sixth track “As Bridges Burn” reeks of such grooviness it stays with you for days after you first heard it. This will surely be a pit-starter in the bands natural live habitat.
Lyrically, the band are on familiar but worryingly topical subjects, from mankind’s obsession with self-destruction, and the futility of war, to global warming and increasing wealth inequality plaguing society. All of which are, as always, delivered exquisitely by Willets who balances all-out aggression with a real sense of feeling, all the while remaining legible throughout – a rare feat these days.
Overall, the production on the record is excellent, it’s polished and clear yet manages to maintain that raw and dirty heaviness that we came to love with Bolt Thrower and Benediction. There is a decent balance to things; Whale’s drumming and Frank Healey’s dirty, rumbling bass are clear and drive the agenda and Karl’s vocals seem to be accentuated more in the mix than on For the Fallen and this works well given their quality. Against this though, at times, some of the guitar parts take a back seat and lose some power when, given just how good they are, could be further forward in the mix. However, not sure if this is something to do with Scott taking on all guitar duties (guys, I am available if you need!) and it doesn’t really detract too much from the immense overall enjoyment.
The record hangs together well but I was left slightly puzzled by the choice of title track. While it certainly stands out in terms of it’s brevity (at just over 2 minutes long) and mournfulness, musically it’s probably the weakest on the album (albeit it is in exalted company). A small complaint in the interests of trying to maintain some balance! Otherwise for me this album is fairly faultless.
As I wrote at the time, For the Fallen was a seriously impressive debut (in fact my album of 2017) which added to the considerable legacy left by their former bands and began a unique one of their own. The Silent Vigil takes things up another notch and should be on eveyone’s must listen list. The world really does need Memoriam…
The Silent Vigil is out 23 March on Nuclear Blast.