There’s an unfortunate trend amongst contemporary bands who sing about war to turn it into exactly the sort of glorification of militaristic strength that makes far-right nuts salivate at the thought of burly men dying for their incessant patriotism. So, it’s good to see Memoriam, a band lauded as somewhat a spiritual successor to Bolt Thrower, intermix their war themes with explicitly left-leaning tracks, as well as at least one that highlights the horrors of warfare. Originally formed as a tribute to late Bolt Thrower drummer Martin “Kiddie” Kearns, the four-piece are fronted by the legendary death metallers’ ex-vocalist Karl Willets, who has used his platform on Twitter to speak out against discrimination, a viewpoint reflected in ‘Bleed The Same’, an equality-promoting track from last year’s The Silent Vigil.
This time around, amongst tracks that confront the horror of war and the despair of being in mourning, the band find time to criticise the brutal fiscal policy of austerity that has plagued the UK since the recession (“A shameful crisis of morality / as millions live and die in poverty / is this the 21st Century? / there has to be a better way”), take aim at deceitful politicians (“Rhetoric of hate / poisoning the mind / political debate / blind following the blind”) and send a message to the government to help PTSD-afflicted veterans rather than see them out on the street (“A message to the government / honour the military covenant”).
Such messages are bolstered by Requiem For Mankind’s more polished production than past affairs, which strips some of the rawness but undoubtedly helps the guitars to hit harder than ever, and Andy Whale’s (also a former member of Bolt Thrower) percussion simply booms out of the speakers. Though it does nothing no fan of death metal won’t have already heard elsewhere – in fact, even amongst the current crop of fantastic OSDM artists, Memoriam are resoundingly old-school – it reruns the genre’s tropes with such finesse that even the most pessimistic of those who spend their time bemoaning oversaturation will still struggle not to give in to the monstrous grooves and steamrolling riffs.
If you weren’t convinced before, there’s more than enough here to convince you that Memoriam are no tribute act. Whether it’s the more mid-paced monstrosity of ‘In The Midst Of Desolation’, the targeted momentum of ‘Austerity Kills’ or the irresistible grooves of ‘The Veteran’, this is an album packed with bangers so infectious that they’ll worm their way into your brain and keep you up late into the night.
Requiem For Mankind is out 21st June on Nuclear Blast. Purchase here.
Words: George Parr