Okay, I am going to be honest. This is my first taste of Memoriam, albeit the release that is purportedly their best; according to the internet at least. Things start well, on the riffing front at least. 'Shell Shock' motors like a fucking tank, being driven with precision through its destructive and relentless path. Similiarly, 'Undefeated' with it's groovy as fuck riff and chopping rhythm continues in a full on attack of the senses. The sophistication and poise both come up a couple of notches with 'Never The Victim', with its defiant mood and melancholic melody. By this point my initial concerns about the vocals being too buried in the mix appear to be just confined to the first track as they sit perfectly well by this stage.
The politically charged 'Austerity Kills' takes things off on a crusty/hardcore slant with the visceral hatred for the subject matter barked out by Willetts in an almost matter-of-fact way. It feels relevant, modern and appealing to listen to, whilst at the same time the echoes of Bolt Thrower still ring in distant chambers somewhere behind. The more melodic start to 'In the Midst of Desolation' soon builds into a chunky riff monster whilst maintaining a brooding sense of looming danger throughout.
The experience and ability is obvious here. Whale's drumming is on point from start to finish here. Willett's vocals are as strong as ever and the performance of Fairfax on guitars is nothing short of superb. Healy, meanwhile is a bit drowned in the mix which is not necessarily a bad thing that detracts from the sound in any way, it is just obvious.
As we get towards the final third of the record things show no sign of calming down. I will have the scathing riffs of 'Refuse to Be Led' on my brain for the rest of my time on this mortal coil for sure. There's no obvious drop in quality, energy or pace it is pleasing to note. The toying delivery of 'The Veteran' just marauds and mauls the listener's ears into submission. The title track just cements the foundations of what has been built over the seven tracks prior to it. Washing over the listener with wave after wave of brooding tremolo riffs. As the band launches into the defiantly titled 'Fixed Bayonets' with the gusto of a quickly forming infantry, those heady days of Bolt Thrower at their very best are inevitably rekindled. This is the only track that sounds like a Bolt Thrower b-side. Don't get me wrong there's hints throughout but on this track it is much more obvious. As the band closes proceedings with the instrumental 'Interment' there's a real sense of justice to the victorious, soaring guitars on show as end to end this album is a complete triumph.