Madder Mortem - Where Dream and Day Collide
Peaceville Records
Progressive Metal
5 songs (21:07)
Release year: 2010
Madder Mortem, Peaceville Records
Reviewed by Charles
Madder Mortem have been a perpetually underrated presence over the last several years, releasing one of 2009’s most distinctive metal records in Eight Ways. They present an unerringly progressive and shape-shifting amalgamation of crunching Tool-like grooves, liberal swaths of jazz-influenced tomfoolery and sinister gothic melodies, all of which is cemented together by the striking vocal gymnastics of Agnete Kirkevaag. She can spin seemingly uncontrollably from sweet croon to ear-piercing shriek, giving the band a jolting and unpredictable edginess.

This EP is a logical extension of last year’s album. Two of the five tracks are taken up by the title song, which was a high point of the full-length (one version is identical, and one is a single edit). It is a very strong song, and a typical example of what this band does. Its complex structure winds enigmatically through hushed, ambient-with-a-rock-beat verses, gloomy and sepia-toned pseudo-swing, and classy harmonies, before roaring into a loud wall of clunking metal grooving and frightening banshee-wail vocals. It throws enraged, tongue-in-cheek and nostalgic together and makes them stick in one emotional oddball.

The three songs which will be unfamiliar to those who enjoyed Eight Ways see the band branching further afield and clearly looking to draw new musical realms into their sights. I’m not entirely convinced by all of it, it must be admitted. Jitterheart is great. It sounds initially like a pastiche of 1920s swing with its hi-hat introduction which preludes a crashingly heavy-metallized boogie woogie riff. But it repeatedly loses and relocates this train of thought, becoming embroiled in a maze of abrasive sonic effects and, by wild contrast, luxurious vocal harmonising. The Purest Strain actually does something rather similar, switching between Django Reinhardt-inspired gypsy jazz and its metal expropriation. This time, though, it sounds a little too cute for my tastes, reminiscent of heavily tongue-in-cheek acts like Diablo Swing Orchestra. Finally, Quietude lives up to its name: a carefully textured and restrained composition evoking The Gathering’s mellower moments on records like Souvenirs. Perhaps it gets uncomfortably close to Enya-type easy listening, or the sort of thing that might soundtrack a family Christmas TV drama.

This is an exploratory suite of songs from a great band. Its weaker points, as I see them, are not necessarily the result of over-ambition- in fact, extravagance is something which has propelled the band admirably in the past. It’s more that such an eclectic and experimental approach makes it impossible to impress uninterruptedly. Still, those that enjoyed Eight Ways will find much to love here.

Killing Songs :
Jitterheart, Where Dream and Day Collide
Charles quoted no quote
Other albums by Madder Mortem that we have reviewed:
Madder Mortem - Red in Tooth and Claw reviewed by Alex and quoted 83 / 100
Madder Mortem - Eight Ways reviewed by Charles and quoted 82 / 100
Madder Mortem - Desiderata reviewed by Alex and quoted 82 / 100
Madder Mortem - Deadlands reviewed by Alex and quoted 69 / 100
Madder Mortem - All Flesh Is Grass reviewed by Danny and quoted 62 / 100
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