posted on 6/2007 By:
Though hardly a secret, Sweden’s ability to continuously spawn young, talented metal bands constantly impresses me. As though a dominant spot in the history of extreme metal weren’t enough, the country to this day churns out talented acts who push the boundaries of style and execution. Though they haven’t quite managed greatness yet, Kristinehamn’s Memfis are already generating quite a buzz and look poised to become the nation’s next popular export. It’s for good reason, too; The Wind Up is a taut and surprisingly mature debut that will appeal strongly to fans of forward-thinking modern heaviness.
As far as I’ve seen, Memfis have been most often compared to latter-day Opeth,and while Akerfeldt and co.’s influence is definitely present, it’s also not the whole story. I’ve also seen a number of comparisons to American acts like Mastodon and even The Dillinger Escape Plan, mostly due to Memfis’ frequent use of progressive time signatures and frantic changes, but these strike me as a little inaccurate. The songs are labyrinthine and busy, sure, but they also bear an icy Swedish metallic sheen and a sense of emotional build-and-climax that reminds me most of their countrymen Burst. Carl Johan-Lindblad’s excellent scattershot drumming and the vocal tag team of guitarists Mattias Engstrom and Daniel Grahn heighten the comparison, especially the latter’s frequent reliance on mid-ranged howls. Also like Burst and Opeth, one or both guitarist/singers occasionally foray into angelic melodic singing and occasional Akerfeldtian prog harmonies. This is where the band’s otherwise incredible performance falters most obviously; though the clean vox are all on key and fairly well sung, they also sound furtive and tend to hide behind the instrumental arrangements. A slightly diminished place for the clean vocals in the otherwise-egalitarian production gives them a nice ephemeral feel, but they are still the low point in Memfis’ sound.
Fortunately, complaints like this seem piddling in the face of all this band has to offer, which most importantly includes an arsenal of truly awesome riffs. Opener “Breathless,” the title track, “Eternal Failure,” “The Judgment,” and closer “Breed the Disorder” all feature instantly memorable, furiously melodic rhythm playing that comes at you in short, rakish bursts before settling into loping, angular, and fiendishly catchy verses and choruses—sometimes with an almost Enslaved-ish despondency. Most tracks are tricked out with plenty of bridges, prechoruses, intros and all of that racket despite their brief run times, and only Engstrom and Grahn’s inventive licks and chords allow Memfis to be at all digestible at first listen. Detailing the whole stock of masterful riffs available here would be pointless—just know that they exist.
Though I can’t honestly say that The Wind Up is a wildly inventive album, it’s just different enough to stand out, and they make up with style what they lose from lack of innovation. It’s very rare to see a young band put out a debut that clicks so nicely in virtually every department, and I mean it when I say that this band has the potential to blow up—not the way Opeth has, perhaps, but they’ll make waves in the metal world at the least. Not required listening, but a lot of you will dig the fuck out of this album; check it out.
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