Though this is only their second album, the experience of Memoriam runs right through The Silent Vigil. Containing veterans of the UK death metal scene – including members of Bolt Thrower and Benediction – Memoriam is a band that move forward with a confidence and driven nature that is admirable. In addition, the anti-war, anti-prejudice, anti-fascist tendencies of UK death metal that have always been present since the scene formed in the 80's have been brought to the fore on The Silent Vigil. All of this combines to make the album more consistent and powerful than the debut For The Fallen, whilst maintaining the sense of focus and character that has helped ensured the group has stood out since their inception.
It’s important to note that Memoriam was formed following the death of former Bolt Thrower drummer Martin Kearns, initially as a tribute to their departed friend. There's a sense of loss and mourning present in most of Memoriam's songs that is given added poignancy by this background; even when the band are singing about the horrors of war and families being shattered by violence, there’s still a very personal feel to The Silent Vigil.
Yet, despite this feeling of loss, Memoriam never sound defeated, and that’s even more true on The Silent Vigil than it was on For The Fallen. The largely mid-tempo stomp of the music is inherently powerful, moving with all the subtlety of a battle tank and feeling just as crushing. Combined with vocalist Karl Willett's bark, The Silent Vigil can’t help but come across as an exemplar of British death metal – strong, full of storming riffs, and with the kind of force that practically demands head-banging. The song-writing feels tighter and stronger than on the debut, too; whilst For The Fallen had a tendency to jump between ideas and styles in a way that made it a slightly uneven listen, The Silent Vigil better integrates the band’s blend of crust and death metal. The result is an album that has much better flow and structure, with the textures and contrasts being more nuanced. The album is still dominated by songs moving at a medium tempo, but when they do shift gears – whether going faster, as on “The New Dark Ages”, or slower, like during “No Known Grave” – they do so in ways that are more effective than on For The Fallen.
If anything could define The Silent Vigil, it wouldn’t so much be that mid-tempo stomp, but the sense of defiance and resilience that the music conveys, regardless of its speed or focus. Whilst UK death metal has often addressed the horrors of war (most notably by Bolt Thrower), there’s a more overt political focus to The Silent Vigil, that doesn’t just say “war is horrid”, but also “and here’s why war comes about, and why we should defy it.” This is most notable in lead single “Bleed The Same” partnering its lyrics about unity and the stupidity of racism with samples from Martin Luther King speeches, emphasising our fundamental similarities regardless of skin colour, nationality, or culture (“We are as one / We bleed the same”). It’s hardly the only example though, with “The New Dark Ages” contrasting the effects of the recent rise in fascism and corporate control across the world to the horrors of those bleak times, and the corrosive effects of hatred.
The hype around The Silent Vigil, and Memoriam as a whole, has been considerable (and inevitable, really, considering the pedigree of all those involved). And sure, whilst it may be an older, slightly slower take on UK death metal than some other bands might record, it is still a mighty album, that is sure to please fans either of Memoriam’s previous effort, or of the members’ former bands. Ultimately, The Silent Vigil feels like an album made by veterans who have absolutely nothing to prove to anyone, but still feel they have something to say and offer – and on the strength of The Silent Vigil, it’s hard to disagree with that feeling.
The Silent Vigil Track Listing:
01. Soulless Parasite
02. Nothing Remains
03. From the Flames
04. The Silent Vigil
05. Bleed the Same
06. As Bridges Burn
07. The New Dark Ages
80. No Known Grave
09. Weaponised Fear
Run Time: 49:26
Release Date: March 23, 2018
Record Label: Nuclear Blast
Watch the official lyric video for the group’s single “Bleed The Same” here.