Madder Mortem - Official Website

Old Eyes, New Heart

Norway Country of Origin: Norway

1. Coming From The Dark
2. On Guard
3. Master Tongue
4. The Head That Wears The Crown
5. Cold Hard Rain
6. Unity
7. Towers
8. Here And Now
9. Things I'll Never Do
10. Long Road

Review by Benjamin on February 14, 2024.

Madder Mortem return in 2024, with their seventh full-length, and are presumably wondering as they must with every release, whether this will be the one that sees them finally grow their cult following into the kind of wider success that the quality of their progressive metal surely deserves. Despite a string of excellent, and critically-praised albums, it seems that the band have never quite been in step with the zeitgeist, and consequently the breakout moment that they have seemed destined for has never quite arrived, despite the a sound that would seem to appeal strongly to the kind of audience that has made the likes of Opeth, Leprous and (at least until their demise) Nevermore giants of the modern metal scene. 

Regardless of its wider impact though, in Old Eyes, New Heart, the Norwegians have authored another excellent entry into a stellar back catalogue, and their existing audience will no doubt clutch the band even closer to their heart, safe in the knowledge that they, at least, have acknowledged the ongoing brilliance of Madder Mortem in good time. Once more, the band continue their gradual refinement of a sound that has allowed them to carve an ever deeper niche since at least 2003’s Deadlands. Juddering djent-adjacent riffs share space with gargantuan choruses that soar eternally on the wings of Agnete Kirkevaag’s never less then bewitching voice, equally adept on the sultry lounge-blues of ‘On Guard’ as she is hitting the strident and skyscraping heights of the much heavier ‘Master Tongue’, which skitters its way through interesting staccato rhythms, before building to a sublime coda, guitars and voices joined in towering unity. Although the band have a slight tendency towards the overwrought, the melodies are generally so strong that this can be easily overlooked. When, however, they show the lightness of touch that they are so capable of – most impressively on the gorgeous vocal progression contained within the verses of ‘The Head That Wears The Crown’, Madder Mortem are the spellbinding equal of The Gathering, or Amorphis’s more gentle moments. There is something enormously satisfying about the band’s latent heaviness being restrained, hanging over the listener like a lead weight, only to be released at the last possible moment for the greatest impact, and the magnificent ‘Cold Hard Rain’ achieves this effect perfectly. When the thunderous chords finally descend, the effect is stirring indeed, as the mid-paced throb of the monolithic guitars and bass moving together thrills with sonic enormity, like a giant taking its first steps. 

As the album progresses, the huge variety offered by the high calibre songwriting means that the listener is continually assailed by both the immediacy offered by the surprisingly up-tempo ‘Things I’ll Never Do’, which tears out of the trap like a lost Insomnium track, and the more slow-burn elements of the band’s sound, typified by the gentle textures of ‘Here And Now’, which is a winning hybrid of latter-day Anathema atmospheric rock, and the kind of muscularity familiar to those of us enraptured by the recent Converge / Cave In collaboration, "Blood Moon". If there is any real criticism to be made of Madder Mortem, it is that their music is so precise and finely crafted that some may consider it a little sterile at times, as if developed in a lab, rather than forged in the fires of dank, sweaty clubs and cavern-like rehearsal rooms. Perhaps it is this obvious commitment to musicianship and melody that is off-putting to those who like their metal a little more wild and unrestrained. For those, there is probably little that Madder Mortem could do to convert them into true believers. This listener needs no converting, however, and it is reassuring to find Madder Mortem maintaining their customary standard, with another set of unforgettable songs. The eyes may be old, but the heart now beats just a little bit harder.

Rating: 8.3 out of 10