I think it’s fair to say that no-one expected Karl Willetts to journey too far outside his musical safe zone. That Memoriam bear more than a passing similarity to Bolt Thrower is so obvious that pointing it out feels like bad journalism, but it’s worth noting because the very factor that makes The Silent Vigil (Nuclear Blast) so worthwhile is how masterfully it captures its chosen style.
All Memoriam are interested in is punishing, mid-paced Death Doom with lead-bottomed riffs and mournfully melodic solos, but they’re so good at it that the single-mindedness is a blessing.
It’s probably equally uncontroversial to assert that Willetts’ vocals are one of the big draws here. Still one of the most recognisable voices in Death Metal, his combination of aggression and perfect clarity sets him apart from his peers to an extent that he almost seems in a different category. It’s as if he’s not really a Death Metal vocalist at all – his roots as arguably buried in Punk and Crust – but a singer with a very specific voice who’s found himself associated with the music it best fits. His sharp intonation also gives The Silent Vigil a quality almost unique in Death Metal – the lyrics actually matter and being an SJW libtard traitor cuck who’s normally forced to ignore the politics of my favourite music, hearing Willetts barking his socially aware, unashamedly left-leaning and anti-fascist lyrics over righteous thunderers like ‘Bleed The Same’ and ‘The New Dark Ages’ are immensely satisfying.
Like any album that defines its parameters so clearly, its limitations are all entirely deliberate, and so whether or not they count as weaknesses is a matter of personal judgement. The almost unbroken mid-pace can get a little gruelling to those used to more variety, and the length of the songs can sometimes stretch to the point where they start to test the endurance, but that’s what they WANT to do, and they do it with a consistent quality and power throughout.
To steal from the mighty Greg Whalen in a very long forgotten issue of Terrorizer, sometimes meat and potatoes can be delicious.