Death metal dealers Memoriam keep focus on loss, tyrannical chaos on punchy ‘Rise to Power’

People are insane, and for some reason, we have a slate of folks now realizing bands they listened to for a long time—GASP!—have progressive politics! I’d say the lyrics sheet is your friend, but that doesn’t mean comprehension is automatic, so maybe pay attention to what your musicians say about their beliefs and apply that to their art! So, hold on: Memoriam are not here to kowtow to your shit.

Yes, the band that rose from the ashes of the fallen Bolt Thrower (also fans of left-wing politics) have returned with another brutal serving of war-encrusted death metal with the legendary Karl Willetts out front of this powerhouse. “Rise to Power” is their fifth record in six years, a steady clip for this band that not only commonly fights back in defense of the oppressed but also pays homage to those they lost along the way, something that continues on this eight-track, 45-minute record. Willetts is backed by guitarist Scott Fairfax, bassist Frank Healy, and drummer Spikey T. Smith, and they lash back against tyranny, fascism, and injustice but with a message to relish life, as it’s a precious gift worth defending.

“Never Forget, Never Again (6 Million Dead)” is a title that cannot possibly be misinterpreted, though there are people who don’t know Pink Floyd had a rainbow on a legendary album cover. The playing utterly chugs, a body crusher from the gates with Willetts in fine, raspy voice you cannot mistake for anyone else. This is a perfect charger to get this record off the ground. “Total War” thrashes and then gets smeary, the punches landing and opening wounds. Aggressive and jolting, the playing amasses bodies, and even when warmer tones arrive, it still feels like you’re staring into the mouth of battle. “I Am the Enemy” brings steaming guitars and a pounding pace, melodic heat scorching over the chorus. The playing keeps burning as the intensity builds with the chorus slipping back in, and ominous warnings throttling everything on front of it. “The Conflict Is Within” lets the bass slip in and the riffs generate heat, Willett’s howls devastating and peeling back flesh. “I cannot save you, you can only save yourself,” Willetts warns as the tempo gets slower and moodier, ending in total darkness.

“Annihilations Dawn” has strong leads and battering playing, bludgeoning and blistering as it builds. The guitars stretch as Willetts’ howls sink in its teeth, glorious playing unleashing hell and pulling you into the fire. “All Is Lost” lands with rousing drums and menacing playing, Willetts howling the title as brutality swells. The growls are a little deeper, and the guitars trample, the soloing lighting fires and pouring on the madness. More punches are thrown, the guitars increase the intensity, and the final strains burn away. The title track doesn’t land as hard as the other songs on here, raspy howls still registering, but the playing feels like it’s treading water. The group shouts of “Rise!” get things going a little, with the final moments just draining away. Closer “This Pain” picks things up and starts with cleaner guitars, tapped drums, and talk-like howls, crunchy thrash rousing. Start-stop playing ruptures, the leads slash, and the temperature rises, Willetts calling, “This pain will end, my heart shall live again,” ending everything on a rousing, hopeful note.

Memoriam have been on a tear, ripping out five records in six years and continuing the find passion and power with each release. “Rise to Power” doesn’t include any surprises, nor should anyone really have expected any. Instead, the band delivers meat-and-potatoes death metal that has its own, identifiable taste that still whets our appetites. Being reliable is a good thing, and Memoriam are the picture of that as they ramble with force into the future.

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