Let me start by getting a few things out of the way: Bolt Thrower has been a very important band for me growing up, helping shape my awesome taste in death metal and extreme metal in general. Having said that, Memoriam would be a no-brainer for me by definition; instead, I actually never really got into the band, and that’s mainly because I always feel there’s something missing. Enter ‘Requiem for Mankind’, the third album by the British quartet in a span of three years, as well as my hopes of finally being able to see some kick-ass bolt-throwing death metal.
Are we going to see some Benediction-esque atmosphere and some Cerebral Fix-like brutality like in the good ‘For the Fallen’ (2017), or are we going to be sort of numb and kind of disappointed like in ‘The Silent Vigil’ (2018)?
Well…actually, neither. ‘Requiem for Mankind’ is like putting Memoriam’s first two efforts in a blender with some iron and steel. This means that, while it’s not savage or bombastic enough to be compared to Bolt Thrower’s heydays and even their own first album, it definitely has strong, notable moments, and it’s their heaviest work to date.
The already trademark blueprint of an unsurprising and simplistic, yet stirring and crushing riffing is accompanied once again by the slower pace and a chaotic atmosphere. Songs like opener “Shellshock”, “Austerity Kills” and “Refuse to Be Led” offer this tried and true formula, while some minor experimentation – mainly songwriting-wise – can be seen on tracks such as the good “In the Midst of Desolation” and the apocalyptic instrumental that closes the record, “Interment”.
I would place the overall concept of this album in a gray area somewhere between Memoriam’s own first record and Bolt Thrower’s repetitive ‘Honour – Valour – Pride’ (2001). The passion and urge to write something special is there but, again, something is amiss in terms of memorability and long-term relevancy.
True, passages such as “The Veteran” and “Never the Victim” will reignite your war-metal needs – competently filled today by the likes of Sabaton in a wider scale, and by the excellent 1914 when talking about extreme metal – and make you want to ride in a panzer crushing everything in the way, but there are also several occasions where you’d be better off by listening to this as background music.
The bass and drums, provided by the skilled duo of Frank Healy and Andrew Whale, are as tight as you can expect, and the riffs are top-notch when Scott Fairfax is at his best, while the unmistakable Karl Willets does his thing with ease and growls his way into the effort. Quality-wise, I do feel that this is their best work as Memoriam yet, even if – strangely enough – it doesn’t feel as organic as ‘For the Fallen’.
Though I can now safely say that Memoriam will never reach Bolt Thrower’s legacy, the band has delivered here an album that should reach the hearts of their fans, managing to compress both their past endeavors into a single package. Please note that this is still a good mid-paced death metal album nevertheless, it’s just not quite on par with Willets and team’s curriculum, which is my main criticism here.
So, you see, ‘Requiem for Mankind’ instigates mixed feelings all around. The heaviness is crushing, as is the instrumental work by these seasoned soldiers. We’re talking about legendary soldiers, though, so once again I’m convinced that the final product could have been better. All in all, if you enjoy Benediction’s back catalogue or something out of a Hail of Bullets albums, this is right up your alley.