Given that seven years have passed since Madder Mortem last released an album, any momentum that the Norwegians may have built up prior to their disappearance could easily have evaporated by now. What is instantly apparent, as Blood On The Sand’s driving riffs and elegantly complex arrangement kick-start the band’s seventh full-length, is that absence has only heightened their monstrous powers.
Red In Tooth And Claw is also a perfect entry point for newcomers; never have this band sounded so focused and ferocious, as exemplified by vocalist Agnete M Kirkevaag’s frequently breathtaking performance. Right now, very few vocalists of either gender come close. A riot of churning, hair-raising melodrama, oddball riffs and occasional moments of sweet respite, marauding prog metal nightmares like Returning To The End Of The World and Pitfalls are both audaciously heavy and weirdly accessible. As Agnete switches from beatific warble to unhinged roar, the whole thing sounds irrevocably possessed by heavy music’s liberated spirit. A stunning return and a triumph for persistence and eccentricity.