Death metal lifers Memoriam pay respects to lost comrades with war-torn debut ‘For the Fallen’

To be in the presence of death metal royalty is not a thing to take lightly. Especially at a time when metal’s legends are beginning to fall in front of us or at least are seeing their power drained, we must grasp when our leaders are strong and still delivering vital content to push the movement forward.

Bolt Thrower’s demise last year was a major blow to death metal, as they were one of the purest forms of the sound. Their loss left a major gap, and they are absolutely not replaceable. That said, the silver lining in all of this is that the band Memoriam rose in its wake, a group that’s here the continue the path BT and others blazed, as well as to pay homage to those who have moved on to a different plane. Led by unmistakable vocalist Karl Willetts, who howled in front of BT for years, the band also includes heavy hitters including former BT drummer Andrew Whale, bassist Frank Healy (Benediction, Sacrilege), and guitarist Scott Fairfax (who is a live contributor to Benediction). This union initially formed to pay respects to late Bolt Thrower drummer Martin “Kiddie” Kearns, but they ended up coming up with some really punishing original material. That’s now yours to have on their thunderous debut “For the Fallen,” an eight-track, 43-minute monster that does everyone’s roots, as well as all of death metal, a tremendous amount of honor.

Opening track “Memoriam” is more like an introductory piece, as the death machine begins to crunch, and Willetts’ barks enter toward the end, pushing everything to “War Rages On,” a track that’ll make most people feel right at home. Howls of “war!” spiral in as the song gets going, with punch and crunch making an early statement, and Willetts’ wails, which are a little nastier than his Bolt Thrower work, delivering blows. The track is pure brutality, which is just what we expect. “Reduced to Zero” drives a little slower but just as hard. “The prophecy foretold, the end is near,” Willetts warns as the track takes on a mashing, decimating pace, leaving a smoking pile of rubbish in its wake. “Corrupted System” is fast and damn-near punk-like, as Willetts screams, “The walls are closing in!” as riffs pile up and punish the ground below it. The relentlessness never gives way, as things just get more furious as we go, with Willetts repeatedly yelling, “Corrupted system!” as a way-too-sobering, we-can-see-you accusation.

“Flatline” is one of the longest cuts at 7:45, and it gets going with guitars churning and the heat making itself oppressive. Gruff growls and razor-sharp riffs tear through the flesh, as the band mixes some thrashy goodness and even some very BT-like guitar work into the fray. The final minutes raise the stakes again, as the song devastates and then flatlines. “Surrounded By Death” sounds like what its title indicates, as savagery and blazing lead guitar work create havoc. The pace is animalistic, and while the beating ends quickly, it is unforgivingly doled out. “Resistance” is another hefty serving of crunch, with the pace tempered a little more but still offering total fury. Willetts growls are throaty and fierce, with the song coming to a piledriving finish. Closer “Last Words” is heavy but also emotional. Paying respects to those who have fallen along the way, the band delivers a hammering display, with Willetts letting his heart bleed with, “As I face the end, my heart to you I send.” While gushing with sadness and tribute, the band still manages a way to keep their war-torn agenda rich and fulfilled as they see their comrades to their graves before pushing out for another mission.

While we continue to mourn Bolt Thrower, having Memoriam isn’t just a next-best thing. It’s a damn solid, smothering band that keeps the ravages of war in its path but also looks back and raises battle flags for everyone who became a part of their story along the way. Death metal isn’t exactly terrain for feel-good stories, but Memoriam certainly fits that. “For the Fallen” is a record that should put a smile on your face while you’re being destroyed by their music.

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