Memoriam – Requiem For Mankind (Nuclear Blast)

They’ve said it themselves. Requiem For Mankind is the ‘definitive’ Memoriam album. And you can’t argue with that statement.

The quartet – born from the ashes of Bolt Thrower – set the death metal world ablaze with their 2017 debut, For The Fallen. And they quickly fired off another round last year with The Silent Vigil.

Memoriam, who also have Benediction on their collective CV, have already gifted us some of the finest UK death metal created since ‘Thrower stopped recording. Songs like Drone Strike, Resistance and Weaponised Fear were the work of men who’ve lived and breathed the underground, who know how to mould the extremities of metal and punk into searing, unforgettable anthems.

So why does Requiem For Mankind deserve a loftier billing than its predecessors? Well, the songcraft is significantly sharper from the off (explosive opener Shell Shock sets the tone magnificently) and more than ever before, Memoriam recreate the old BT/Benediction vibe while simultaneously ensuring their feet are planted firmly in the present. Refuse To Be Lead is a prime example: it’s as majestic and intelligent as it is gritty and defiant, and is delivered with a passion few could match.

Then there’s guitarist Scott Fairfax. According to frontman Karl Willets, the guy has a ‘million dollar riff vault’ at his fingertips – and he’s pulled some shining nuggets from it this time out, with his infectious fretwork spreading like wildfire across the album. His talent is everywhere, but you’ll find some particularly juicy examples of his prowess on Never The Victim, Fixed Bayonets and the title track.

Willetts, too, has excelled himself. He has never shied away from facing up to 21st century reality in the band’s previous work, but he’s particularly angry here, with Austerity Kills and The Veteran chillingly poignant. While many of his contemporaries are still growling and grunting about the occult and serial killers, Bolt Thrower’s former vocalist is highlighting the anguish of PTSD and the plight of Britain’s poor and forgotten. He pulls no punches.

Memoriam have also benefited from a production upgrade, thanks to Russ Russell’s guiding hand. By being a little too raw, The Silent Vigil lost some of its potency, but there are no such concerns this time around. Muscular definition, bowel rupturing bottom end, a savage edge to the axework… Russell has built an immense sonic temple around the band’s molten core and once again proved why he’s a go-to producer for extreme metal’s finest.

Labelling Memoriam as ‘old school death metal’, simply does this act a disservice. Requiem For Mankind is lightyears away from dull HM-2 worship and re-hashed ’91 riffs. It’s vibrant and vital, a fearsome record fit for 2019 – and one which brings the horror of our troubled times to the fore.