Madder Mortem Eight Ways

After three years of near-silence, Madder Mortem have resurfaced with a complex collage of an album, their second for Peaceville. Genre-wise, Eight Ways is all over the place: jazzy one moment, groove metal another, alt rock elsewhere, there's a ballad - I could go on. Every transition, and there are many, makes complete musical sense, whether it's gradually easing into a restrained serenade, shifting into jagged syncopation or exploding into chaotic intensity. As ever, Agnete Kirkevaag's Grace Slick-like voice is one of Madder Mortem's distinctive features, overpowering even the titanic sludge of the rhythm guitars and bass. But combined with some questionable mixing, her wail is also Eight Ways' Achilles' heel. One of the album's most memorable tracks, "Different Kind of Hell" is also the most painful to listen to, with Agnete's overwrought vocal performance at the front of the mix, handled this time around by guitarist BP Kirkevaag. It's not enough to sabotage Eight Ways' intricate listening pleasures but it is a reason to turn down the volume - the utterly wrong reaction to something that should beg to be cranked. (Peaceville)