Memoriam – Rise to Power Review

U.K. death metal “supergroup” Memoriam are considered by some to be the spiritual successor to the legendary Bolt Thrower. With Thrower’s former vocalist Karl Willetts at the helm and backed by Frank Healy of death luminaries Benediction, the pedigree is notable and the style they traffic in has clear similarities to Willett’s renowned former outfit. Despite the talent involved, I’ve never been awed by Memoriam’s output. I’ve sampled their wares several times, shrugged and moved on. I grabbed fifth album, Rise to Power hoping for their style to finally break through and connect, since on paper they should be dead center in my wheelhouse. I’m sad to report that once again their product failed to click or hold my attention for any appreciable length of time. Who knows? Maybe it’s a me problem. Let’s work through it all together.

Opener “Never Forget, Never Again (6 Million Dead)” is the ideal case study of the Memoriam sound. It bears a resemblance to Bolt Thrower, being by and large mid-tempo, groove-heavy old school death with doom elements in its DNA. That recipe is a solid foundation to build on and the core of the song is fine with some lively riffs and heavy moments, but at over 6 minutes, things just wander around the block too many times with too little going on. By minute 4 I’ve totally checked out and want to move on but it just keeps going and going. Bloat is a systemic issue across the entire album with almost every track running 1-2 minutes past prime time and creating a real sense of tedium. “I Am the Enemy” is the worst offender as it strives for a dark gothy mood and stays stuck in neutral for all of its 5-plus minutes. It sounds like something from Cemetary’s Black Vanity opus but way less effective and interesting. I simply cannot pay attention to this one from start to finish without a Herculean effort.

Even more aggressive cuts like “Total War” and “Annihilation’s Dawn” fail to rev up the death engines, feeling rote, restrained, and flat. I can’t see these being useful on a lifting playlist even though the Bolt Thrower influences are fairly obvious. There isn’t one song here that shakes my tree and makes me want to devolve into an ape-like savage, and that’s a savage shame. Hell, some of this stuff could fairly be called melodeath rather than straight-up death metal and its overly tame style does little to excite and stimulate my primal jelly. At just shy of 45 minutes, Rise to Power feels considerably longer than that and nearly every song causes my eyes to glaze over at some point along the Boregon Trail. There’s just something about their approach that feels really stale and overly restrained and the bleed-over from song to song makes matters worse.

Karl Willetts sounds fine, his death bellow still convincing and animated enough to get the job done if given better material. Scott Fairfax is a competent guitarist and manages some heavy grooves and midly interesting flourishes, but there’s a great deal of nondescript, chuggy-wuggy riffing too, while the overall pacing and intensity of the tracks rarely allow him to make a bigger impact. I find myself paying more rapt attention to what Spikey T. Smith is doing on the kit than anything else as he tries his best to spice up the sleepy material with fills and rolls. Ultimately, it’s a lost cause in the end.

Considering the individuals involved, it remains a mystery to me why Memoriam’s material isn’t more engaging and ass-kicking. It’s like background death metal for when you need something kinda heavy but nondescript because you don’t plan on actually paying attention. Getting through this release multiple times was one of the most arduous trials I’ve endured since Therion’s triple album of opera-soaked sadism. I do know I shant be returning to this again, so there’s some elusive clarity in that at least.

Rating: 2.0/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Reaper Entertainment
Websites: | |
Releases Worldwide: February 3rd, 2023

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