REVIEW: MEMORIAM – “To The End”
Bolt Thrower’s spiritual successor, Memoriam, have been putting out albums consistently since their inception in 2016. Starting out as a tribute to the late drummer Martin Kearns, the band led by Karl Willets give their take on death, loss, war, and other dense subjects in the form of a death/doom act covered in Bolt Thrower influences (obviously) and the overall British way of playing extreme metal. As their continue to tell their story in ‘To the End’, some of the core elements remain the same but important pieces have slightly changed.
Having been following these guys since the early days of Bolt Thrower, I enjoyed the debut ‘For the Fallen’ very much when it came out because, well, it WAS supposed to remind us of the Bolt Thrower-era and of the killer slow, almost doom-ish, death metal which was so unique. As time passed by, Memoriam began to drift away from that image little by little to form an identity of their own, with less death/doom and a more direct, traditional approach to metal, and this album is actually the first time that we can see this transformation more clearly.
“Onwards Into Battle” and “Failure to Comply” objectively show what I mean with fewer blast-beats and more constancy in the instrumental department, with special attention to the riffs and overall playing by the awesome Scott Fairfax (Benediction, Massacre)
Brutal displays like “This War Is Won” and the title track are good choices for the death/doom purists and will bring good memories to those seeking the raw, analogic atmosphere from the ’90s. The songs have that evil aura we expect and newcomer Spikey T. Smith (drums, Sacrilege) steals the show by completely obliterating everything in his path with sick turns and vicious pounding.
While the previous albums suffered from being stale and even boring at times, ‘To the End’ has a more heterogeneous construction, ranging from a no-frills, pacey form of traditional metal to a full-on death massacre. The tracklist helps to keep the listener entertained by spacing similar songs, which makes room for instrumental experimentation in the sense of adding new elements that are key in making the album as fresh as possible.
Production-wise, this is once again a hit-or-miss, as the dynamic range is somewhat inconsistent. There are times when the bass lines are muffled by the guitars and a couple of times when the analog mixing is just too exaggerated; consistency is especially important in production, and the way this is constructed feels a little bit weird sometimes.
‘To the End’ is a nice change and a step-up from ‘Requiem for Mankind’ (2019). The album still showcases the merciless groove and chaotic heaviness we can expect from former Bolt Thrower combatants, and fans of the slower death metal approach typical to these guys will definitely find something worthwhile here, as well as people just being presented to Memoriam and casual listeners alike. All in all, it doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but with a stacked lineup like this and the way Willets and company finally managed to ally the old days of Bolt Thrower with their new Memoriam personality, it doesn’t have to. Recommended.