By Kevin Page. I always find that reviewing an album by one of my favorite bands is a double edged sword. On one hand I'm more than willing to give it the time to sink in and appreciate it, Yet on the other hand I go in with a lot of preconceived desires and tend to expect more from it than another band. So hopefully at the end of the day both of these things cancel either other outBy Kevin Page.
|Cover art by Christian Ruud.|
I always find that reviewing an album by one of my favorite bands is a double edged sword. On one hand I'm more than willing to give it the time to sink in and appreciate it, Yet on the other hand I go in with a lot of preconceived desires and tend to expect more from it than another band. So hopefully at the end of the day both of these things cancel either other out and I am realistic about the matter at hand.
Madder Mortem's Red in Tooth and Claw is the first new material by the band in 7 years. The album was written and recorded well prior to it's release back in October 2016 (while they searched for a record label and then determined a release date). So to say I was anxious to hear it would be an understatement.
For anyone familiar with their prior material, Red in Tooth and Claw is more akin to a collection of songs this time around. There is no unifying plot or specific vision/purpose like on All Flesh is Grass, Deadlands, and Desiderata. The prior album, Eight Ways, somewhat broke that mindset, so the band has taken that idea to its ultimate conclusion. Red in Tooth in Claw is the perfect jumping in point for new fans of the band. You get a taste of the many styles and emotions the band is so good at delivering. They jump around from heavy groove riffs to controlled chaos to tenderness, back to rock and roll and progressive jazz (that almost feels danceable, as weird as that sounds). While this may sound like the band has a case of musical tourette's, it never comes across as disjointed or an attempt to simply smash a bunch of things together for the sake of being different. If anything, the band excels at simply being who they are and sounding genuine, something I prefer in my music which only adds to their cachet.
Of course I'd be remiss if I failed to mention vocalist Agnete M. Kirkevaag. I make no secret that I feel she has no equal (male/female/etc.) regardless of the music genre. I could listen to her read the phone book, sing me a lullaby or scream at me as a drill Sergeant. Once again she puts in an expected tour de force performance. No matter where the music takes you, she's there to give you chills. Highs, lows, in betweens, oozing with power and emotion.
When it comes to bands I really adore, I no longer try to judge each release under the guise of is this their best album or where does it fall in order of best/worst. I simply want an enjoyable album to listen and something that I find repeatable. This is exactly what Red in Tooth and Claw is.