Question: When you’re halfway Bolt Thrower, but not quite Bolt Thrower, do you try to be Bolt Thrower or something totally different?
Answer: A bit of both.
Last year’s debut, For the Fallen, from former Bolt Thrower members Karl Willetts (vocals) and Andy Whale (drums) and their Benediction compadres Frank Healy (bass) and Scott Fairfax (guitars), showed an obvious tendency towards a stylistic connection with the now defunct death metal juggernaut as well as the perhaps slightly less popular, but still widely recognised death metal combo Healy and Fairfax still adorn. This tendency was not surprising and in no way regrettable! There were elements of more crust influenced metal, which surprised me, but it worked very well, and the whole affair had a lot of clout and atmosphere.
The same is true of The Silent Vigil, MEMORIAM’s latest offering, which will be out shortly. The veteran warriors seem to be more prolific in terms of inspiration and writing material than ever, and they surprise again by being able to twist the Bolt Thrower/Benediction recipes to produce a fresh and unique output.
Both slow, fast and mid tempos are explored to a further degree than on the debut, kicking off with the latter-mentioned pace as ‘Soulless Parasite’ waltzes out of the speakers. What you immediately notice is that the raw and direct sound of the debut also prevails on The Silent Vigil. All four instruments stand out loud and clear, and Willets sounds unpolished, raw and brutal.
The tempo variation already shows with the second track, ‘Nothing Remains’, where Whale hammers away. Fairfax’s riffing is utterly infectious on this song, and there are a few totally heavy parts.
‘From the Flames’ also begins in an up-tempo fashion, but is structured around a slow, almost dragged-out, melodic riff. A good solid piece, which offers no surprises, unlike the title track of the album; ‘The Silent Vigil’ is nothing like anything you heard on a Bolt Thrower or Benediction album. To begin with, it’s raw, almost naked in its expression. Simple, to the point where you think ‘where is this heading?’, and then you’re released into more familiar musical territory for a minute or so, before you are being taken back into the naked feeling of the raw guitar, bass and drums.
‘Bleed the Same’ hauls us back into Bolt Thrower country, a brutal and waltzing piece of old school death metal with a few melodic riffs and a sample of Martin Luther King’s ‘I’ve Been to the Mountaintop’ speech.
‘As the Bridges’ burn crushes on in up-tempo with a few breathers where the old school soldiers slow down a bit, only to relentlessly hammer on again. There is no less hammering on with ‘The New Dark Ages’, a varied piece, which clearly has Willetts venting his anger against all the wrongs of the world as we know it. Sure, it’s screwed up, Karl, but it fosters a lot of great music, you have to admit that…
‘No Known Grave’ brings the tempo down considerably at first and focuses on a fairly simple, ephemeral riff. The tempo picks up and the riffing intensifies, drops again, rises again, and then turns into a kind of funeral march four minutes into the song. Chilling stuff.
The Silent Vigil ends on a brutal and stomping old school note with ‘Weaponised Fear’ and thus provides a suitable full stop for another accomplished effort, which lifts the heritages of Bolt Thrower and then some.
01. Soulless Parasite
02. Nothing Remains
03. From the Flames
04. The Silent Vigil
05. Bleed the Same
06. As Bridges Burn
07. The New Dark
08. No Known Grave
09. Weaponised Fear
Playing Time: 49 minutes
Karl Willetts - vocals
Andy Whale - drums
Scott Fairfax - guitars
Frank Healy - bass