The Silent Vigil
Review by Alex on October 23, 2018.
With their second full-length release a year later; Memoriam returns with The Silent Vigil. When I heard of the disbanding of Bolt Thrower I was very disappointed; however, when I heard the vocalist and drummer of Bolt Thrower were involved in Memoriam, it immediately captured my interest. Upon announcement of their second full-length album 1 year later; one would think why the rush? My initial guess was they had left over material from 2017's effort For the Fallen. Or maybe 2017's release was intended to be a double album. After listening to For the Fallen I feel as though I may be correct. Given the lyrical nature of both albums, I am inclined to believe that the songs recorded for The Silent Vigil were tracks that were not selected for 2017's album For the Fallen. Or perhaps Nuclear Blast thought it was the ideal time to have Memoriam release another album reflecting on the current times; given today's political climate and the success their last album.
The Silent Vigil is almost 50 minutes in length and is an accumulation of 10 tracks mostly ranging from 5-7 minutes long. I'm a huge fan of long songs but only when done correctly and has enough to keep me interested (no I don't have a short attention span). Memoriam don't fail here at all.
With the first track, immediately one can notice that this is a very guitar driven album; with the majority of the songs placing much emphasis on the riffs and less on the bass and drums. The first track " Soulless Parasite" is a strong opener which has a very distorted sound to power chords around the 2:35 mark. If there is one thing I have always loved about Bolt Thrower is their ability to syncopate, synchronize and harmonize fast and slow sections; with Memoriam's The Silent Vigil there is no detraction from that Bolt Thrower signature style. Many thick memorable riffs are presented on the album by Scott Fairfax who does an excellent job of making the tracks sound refreshingly new as if each was recorded for a separate album. Playing memorable riffs is something Scott Fairfax executes with diligence; giving each song a unique identity.
In the vocal department, Karl Willetts growls are easily understood; which I have no problem with given his legendary status in Bolt Thrower for producing some of the deepest growls and roars imaginable. A musician can only give so much before he/she becomes exhausted; Karl Willetts is a living legend and has absolutely nothing to prove to me vocally. His lyrics on the album reflect much of what has transpired and is currently in motion in mankind's manufactured mess of a world. I'm very pleased to know that the lyrics did not take sides or express biased disdain for either left or right like so many metal musicians have fallen victim to. The lyrics, however, highlight the consequences mankind will pay for repeating mistakes made in the past ever so often. "History Repeats Itself" seems to be the overall message of "The Silent Vigil", as mankind pummels deeper into the grasp of de-evolution as a result of ignorance and arrogance.
My only gripe on the album happens to be within the drumming department (production wise). Andrew Whale's drums sound as though Memoriam went back to 1998 and borrowed Cradle of Filth's Nicholas Barker studio drum kit, that sounded like he was hitting cardboard during the recording sessions of Cruelty and The Beast. The drums really needed to be beefed up for a release like this especially with the guitars being played at such a high amplitude. Frank Healy's bass is decently audible and tries to compensate for the loss of the vibration of the double bass and regular kicks, but falls short of success most times. I share the ideology that certain types of music need an adequate amount of bass in order to achieve longevity. It's that rhythmic vibration that worms through my spinal cord; thus inducing pleasurable recollections of music and special moments within music.
The Silent Vigil is an outstanding release by a veteran band that knows the ins and outs of death metal. Although not perfect; Memoriam still has brought to us a very well composed album; both lyrically and instrumentally. The concept of the album is relevant; all thanks to the current state of affairs on planet Earth amongst "intelligent civilized human beings". My favorite tracks are "Soulless Parasite", "Nothing Remains", "The New Dark Ages", "Bleed The Same" and "No Known Grave". The Silent Vigil is conceptual death metal at its finest; fans of death metal should be pleased with this release from Memoriam.
Rating: 8.6 out of 10