(We present Andy Synn’s installment of THE SYNN REPORT for May, gathering together reviews of the discography of the Swedish band Memfis — who are on Facebook here.)
Recommended for fans of: Burst, Intronaut, Extol
Much like last month’s edition of The Synn Report, today’s post is a day late (and a dollar short) due to, well, me being busy living my life and enjoying myself. That’s right, I do in fact have a life outside of NCS sometimes. Who would have thought?
Still, I’m back in the game, and back in the saddle, now, so how about some “new” music for you all, in the shape of Prog-Metal epicurists Memfis?
The Swedish quartet made some small, but stylish, waves with the release of their debut album The Wind-Up way back in 2006, offering an intriguing and characterful conglomeration of progressive melody, metallic energy, and occasionally outlandish technicality, all topped off with a healthy helping of heartfelt, Hardcore-tinged emotion.
Unfortunately, legal complications ended up interfering with and delaying the release of their second album, meaning that the band were unable to capitalize on the burgeoning momentum gathered by their debut, and have been in something of a liminal state ever since – with the five-track Silva EP in 2013 being the only subsequent sign to date that things are still ticking away in the background.
Now, apparently the group are currently hard at work on album number three – and have been for some time, in fact – but there’s still no title or release date announced, so we’ll all just have to wait and see how things unfold.
Thankfully though, the two albums, and one EP, featured here should serve to whet your appetite in the meantime!
THE WIND-UP – 2006
“Breathless” gets the party started with a series of stabbing, staccato riffs, angst-ridden vocals, and pulse-pounding, nerve-jangling drums, all intermingled with some surprisingly sombre splashes of melodic colour and prog-tinged instrumentation, while the title track goes for a groovier, hookier approach altogether – albeit one still brimming with energy and urgency and ethereal melody.
With “Forever Discounted” the band lean in even harder on the proggy permutations and atmospheric elements of their sound, counterbalanced as always by an impressively technical and intricate performance by drummer Carl-Johan Lindblad, ultimately leading smoothly into the light-and-shade proggery of the Extol-esque “Eternal Failure”, a short, sharp, and sweet little blast of deceptively complex (yet decidedly catchy) guitar work and cleverly juxtaposed clean/harsh vocals.
Guitarists Mattias Engström and Johan Boqvist channel their inner-Opeth a fair bit on “The Judgement”, the track’s slinky riffage and moody melodic undercurrents (not to mention the use of dramatic, Akerfeldt-ish clean vocals in the second half), pulling things in a much darker direction, one which is only reaffirmed by the shadowy riffage and grim growls of “Cover It Up” – though this track also finds room for multiple digressions into poignant melody and proggy grandiosity along the way too.
With “Dead Ends” we see a return of some of the more off-kilter, techy-yet-melodic, vibes from earlier on in the record, as well as some great interplay between the quiet intensity of the guitars and the eloquent, overarching atmosphere provided by the subtle use of synths and keys, which help provide added depth and texture to the band’s multi-layered metallic melange.
Of course the importance and effectiveness of the vocals (provided in tandem by Engström and Boqvist) shouldn’t be overlooked either, particularly when the interaction between soothing cleans and jagged howls on tracks like “The Game” and the surprisingly aggressive “Stop Those Waves” demonstrates just how vital they are to the group’s overall sound.
Concluding with the powerful pairing of “Save The Day” – a one minute, twenty-eight second burst of cryptic Prog-Core – and “Breed the Disorder” – five minutes of precise, high-fidelity riffage, nimble bass work, and simmering, progressive melody – it’s safe to say that The Wind-Up remains one hell of an opening statement by a band who really should be more well-known (and more widely appreciated) than they are!
VERTIGO – 2011
Despite the legal woes which delayed its release until 2011, Vertigo is still very much a fantastic follow-up to the band’s obscenely underrated debut, kicking off with the brooding melody, slithering grooves, and chaotic complexity of “Serpent”, which immediately demonstrates that the band are heavier, sharper, and more eccentric/energetic than ever!
The title track is three minutes of hook-filled technicality and effortlessly intriguing melody that strongly recalls Synergy/Blueprint Dives-era Extol… as does the catchy crunch ‘n’ chug of “Enigma”, which switches back and forth seamlessly between elaborate, exotic riff work, and shimmering melodic proggery, all while Engström and newbie Daniel Götstedt trade off heart-rending howls and seductively smooth cleans with impressive aplomb.
The opening riff to “The Great Escape” is a thing of absolute beauty, catching the listener by the ear immediately and refusing to let go even as the song shimmies and sways through multiple movements of knowingly knotty Prog-Metal, after which “A Path With Heart” picks up the baton and runs with it down an even more complex and convoluted (but, somehow, still catchy) path.
The first half of instrumental interlude “Versus” showcases a very different, and far more minimalist, side of the band, built as it is around a core of crystalline synth notes and soft, rippling percussion, although it eventually builds into something a lot more fulsome and expressive overall, eventually leading into the swaying, hip-shaking grooves and viscerally cathartic vocals of “The Burden”, which has a touch of both Leprous and the aforementioned Extol to it.
By contrast, “In Chase of Death” gives the whole album a 666-volt shock of pure metallic electricity, assaulting the listener with a barrage of hard-hitting, hard-edged, Prog-Thrash riffs, and punishing blastbeats, all topped off by a howling maelstrom of furious, raging growls and savage shrieks courtesy of Engström/ Götstedt.
As well as being another heavier and more intense number overall, it’s the intelligent interplay between stuttery, gravelly guitars and limber bass-lines on “Phlow” which really brings the song to life, with drummer Carl-Johan Lindblad guiding the song through a multitude of sinuous twists and turns, by moments heavier or more melodic or more progressive in tone, leading into the similarly dynamic, proggily metallic strains of “I, Sentinel”.
Penultimate track “Hiatus” provides a nicely nuanced instrumental diversion before the eclectic, electric “Breakthrough” brings the album to a close in a stunning display of virtuoso Prog-Metal madness, all propulsive, impulsive riffs, phenomenally fluid drum work, and multi-layered harsh/clean vocal harmonies.
SILVA – 2013
Concise, compact, and captivating, at only five tracks Silva certainly doesn’t outstay its welcome, but it does allow the band to really focus their talents and ambitions in a whole new way.
Take opener “Cordyceps” for example – it’s a slow-burning piece of jazzy, atmospheric Post-Rock/Post-Metal that ebbs and flows, swells and subsides, in an almost stream-of-consciousness fashion for four oddly compelling minutes, that’s quite notably different (though not completely removed) from the band’s previous albums, and yet which doesn’t feel like the work of an entirely different band.
“King Bolete” brings in a more Mastodonic lurch and lumber to the proceedings, taking the EP in a bolder, heavier (though not necessarily more metallic) direction, with a strong undercurrent of old-school Progressive weirdness bubbling away just beneath the surface, culminating in a beautifully atmospheric, hauntingly ambient finale, after which the edgy, hooky riffery and twitchy, convulsive drum work of “Flight of the White Moose” provide a scintillating backdrop for the unusual, expressive vocals of Engström and Götstedt.
The title track is a moody and melodramatic piece of proggy ambience that works as a nice palette cleanser before the fuzz-filled bass, gritty, pseudo-melodic vocals, and booming, High On Fire-esque riffs of “The March” wraps the EP up with its mix of sublime, ’70s-influenced melody and modern metallic methodology.