(Andy Synn reviews the new album by the Swedish band Memfis, which was released through all digital platforms on November 30.)
Exactly one week from today I plan to commence my annual Year End Round Up, kicking off with my traditional three-day binge of “Disappointing”, “Good”, and “Great” albums, which will primarily serve as a way for our readers to catch up on, or to reassess, various things they may have (dis)missed over the course of the last twelve months, followed by the publication of my highly-anticipated (by me, anyway) “Critical” and “Personal” Top Ten lists at the end of the week.
That doesn’t mean I’m done writing/reviewing just yet though. In fact I plan to spend the rest of this week highlighting a couple of new (or, at least, new-ish) albums, and will be following up next week’s listrionics with a few articles aimed at giving certain hand-picked artists some extra, post-list coverage.
So, without further ado, allow me to (re)introduce you to proggy metalloids Memfis, and their brand new album Imperium.
That the Swedish quartet (returning to the scene after an almost five-year absence) have become proggier and less aggressively metallic on Imperium should be no real surprise to anyone who has followed their career trajectory over the course of the last decade-and-a-bit (and if you’re one of our readers who aren’t familiar with them then here is a good place to get started).
After all, while their early work(s) frequently found them being tagged with an awkward “Progressive/Melodic Death Metal” identity (and not necessarily without reason), it didn’t take long for the group to demonstrate that their core sound had just as much (if not more) in common with such emotive and atmospheric acts as Burst and The Ocean as they did with some of the more Death Metal-oriented bands (Opeth, Dark Tranquillity) who they so often found themselves associated with.
Lyrically and thematically inspired by The Fate of Empires (Sir John Glubb) and described by the band themselves as sounding something like “…a 70’s Prog Rock band composing soundtracks for dystopian 80’s Sci-Fi movies…”, tracks like “Hubris”, “Bread and Circuses”, and “Ouroboros” definitely push these influences further than ever before, extending their antennae out into the progosphere in search of new sonic signals, while punchier cuts like energetic opener “Outburst”, “The Climb”, and the riveting title-track, double-down on those earlier Burst comparisons through a mix of meaty, Mastodon-esque riffery and moody, Extol-inspired melody, all interlinked by an undercurrent of swirling synths and the odd moment of unexpected saxophone swing.
The pinnacle of the record’s unorthodox brilliance however is the climactic “The Resistance”, which is six and a half minutes of looming, city-sized guitars, brooding atmospherics, and mesmerising, multi-faceted vocals, all punctuated by a gleaming, melodic lead-guitar refrain, that’s so good it could go toe-to-toe with anything that The Ocean or Cult of Luna have put out in recent years and be guaranteed to at least go the distance.
True, while the record’s oddly truncated length (at just over thirty-four-and-a-half minutes, it sometimes feels like an all-too-brief window into an otherwise vividly realised musical world) means that Imperium ultimately falls ever-so-slightly short of true greatness, the material on offer here is never anything less than immersive, to the point where one listen to the album quickly turns into two, then three… before you suddenly realise that you’ve spent a significant amount of time listening to the same nine songs, and still want more.
Which, I’m sure you’ll all agree, is always a good sign.