Madder Mortem

For the average Heavy Metal fan Norway is best known for extreme Metal, it is […]
By Martin Knap
August 26, 2019
Madder Mortem - Mercury album cover

For the average Heavy Metal fan Norway is best known for extreme Metal, it is after all the country that gave birth to Black Metal as we know it and seminal bands like EMPEROR, DARKTHRONE, or BURZUM will forever have their place in the annals of Heavy Metal history. But anyone who is not a total noob or a diehard edgelord interested only in Second-Wave Black Metal will be aware that Norway has a very rich Experimental and/or Progressive Metal scene with many bands with a really original sound that are not necessarily edgy now but might have come from the Black Metal scene - think of bands like IN THE WOODS..., ULVER, ENSLAVED, BORKNAGAR, VIRUS, DØDHEIMSGARD, MANES, or EMPEROR's own IHSAHN. MADDER MORTEM is another Norwegian band with a Progressive bent that I find really interesting. They were formed in 1993 (under another name) and have put out seven LPs since; everything I've heard from them is absolutely great and judging from other writer's reviews their discography is pretty much flawless.

"Mercury" is their 1999 debut album now re-released on Dark Essence Records. Apart from the original album, the re-issue contains also five new tracks, three re-recorded songs and two new songs composed using old, "Mercury"-era, riffs - kudos to the label and the band for putting extra effort in and giving fans extra value, this is how it should be done. MADDER MORTEM's sound hasn't changed drastically over the years, but this album is definitely of its era when the influence of Gothic bands like PARADISE LOST or THE GATHERING loomed large. The songs are dreamy, with melancholic, lulling melodies carried by Agnete M. Kirkevaag's soft voice and piano or synth lines, but the music doesn't lack good riffs - it is definitely "riffy" and heavy enough to be considered Heavy Metal. The songwriting is focused but there is space for nuance and dynamism and there are even some more experimental moments, but these don't take away from the overall cohesion of the album. A comparison with THE GATHERING seems quite apt to me, although I feel like MADDER MORTEM are a bit more Gothic influenced.

The songs are simply fantastic, there is nothing clichéd or melodramatic in them, after a few listens you'll see that not just the song, but the album as a whole has variety and nuance. The opener "Undertow" has a dreamy verse with driving synths, the chorus is more laid-back; there is a beautiful atmospheric middle-section with a slow build-up, and at the end the song finishes with heavy guitar riffing - a simple but effective climax. Crunchy guitar riffs and soft singing complement each other nicely in the verse of "Under Another Moon," the chorus has a soaring melody in which Kirkevaag's voice gets a bit more dramatic. The song takes a darker turn in the second half and also ends on this heavy, sinister note. Songs like "He Who Longed For The Stars" or "The Grinding Silence" have very subdued, minimalist verses and big, dramatic choruses, they are both mournful and slow in tempo, but by no means just some formulaic ballads: for example the former opens with a very melodic folk riff which comes back in the second half and helps to build up the climax. The fastest song is probably "These Mortal Sins," it has a fast picked, driving verse riff and powerful chorus.

The album great front to back, each song stands on its own and brings something to the album as a whole. The music is soulful, enchanting in its dreamy melancholy. The performances are wonderful, particularly Kirkevaag's singing that is dramatic but doesn't lack subtlety, has to be appreciated. This album is rightfully considered a classic and after getting the opportunity do dive deeper into this wonderful debut I'll be certainly be delving into the bands discography in the coming days and weeks.

10 / 10









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"Mercury" Track-listing:

1. Undertow
2. Under Another Moon
3. He Who Longed for the Stars
4. These Mortals Sins
5. The Grinding Silence
6. Loss
7. The Remnants
8. Misty Sleep
9. Convertion
Bonus Tracks:
10. He Who Longed For The Stars (2019 Rerecording)
11. The Grinding Silence (2019 Rerecording)
12. Remnants (2019 Rerecording)
13. Shadows Coming Home
14. Vigil

Madder Mortem Lineup:

BP M. Kirkevaag - Guitars
Agnete M. Kirkevaag - Vocals
Boye Nyberg - Bass
Sigurd Nielsen - Drums
Christian Ruud - Guitars

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