There is always something appetising about releases which make you work and really listen to their intensive offering before truly reaping the rewards their exploits offer. Ashes Of Joy the new album from French metallers Memories Of A Dead Man is one such impressive encounter. An exhausting venture into thick emotive climates and exhaustive imposing soundscapes, the twelve track journey challenges and intrudes upon senses and imagination respectively for a continually emerging and enriching experience. Certainly a release which needs extensive time to devour fully, though it makes a more than compelling first impression, Ashes Of Joy is a masterful confrontation which gets better and better across its length and to even greater effect over each traverse of its riveting body.
Formed in 2006, Memories Of A Dead Man has evolved their sound over time into a thoroughly absorbing and enveloping persuasion, their albums Beyond the Legend and V.I.T.R.I.O.L. drawing strong and acclaimed responses, but with Ashes of Joy the band has reached a new height in songwriting maturity, provocative presence, and intensive imagination. The melancholic breath which envelops from within the dark shadows and imposing structures of the songs borders on suffocation at times but only in their soaking of every twist and shift of the narratives, musically and lyrically, within the demanding and inciting provocation which in turn intensifies the oppressive intensity and emotive atmospheres brought to bear. Crafted by a new line-up which has been in place from 2012, Ashes Of Joy is an exacting and simultaneously compelling adventure, not one for the faint hearted but certainly one for all those who like to sink their teeth into an incendiary slab of extreme invention and passion.
The opening Prélude (Solemn Requiem) immediately encases ears in a fiery sonic embrace, the guitars of Ben Debrun and Tony Garcia casting a scorching initial smoulder of melodic enticement which calls on the imagination with its evocative lure straight away. Heavier stalking riffs follow thumping beats in joining the molten coaxing as the track increases its intensity and stature; all the time the irresistible grizzled tones of the bass and bear like vocals intimidating and taking thoughts into the darkest menacing corners in preparation for the impending drama.
That dramatic experience is soon upon ears and emotions with the following Aurora, the track a tempestuous testing of the senses with rampaging rhythms from drummer Jef Ertle powerfully badgering the senses as the guitars squall imposingly around them as vocalist Pierre Duneau ravages syllables and air. With the bass of Herve Osmont similarly enslaving attention, the song evolves in gait and attack throughout, the demanding onslaught at the start drifting into an emotive and thickly atmospheric consumption driven by a more hardcore rapaciousness from Duneau. The twists never relent in their potent and aggressive immersion of the imagination, every second and note a new adventure to fear and equally devour. This variation and that of the vocals is a thrilling and increasingly addictive proposition in what is already a thoroughly intensive and demanding but excitingly rewarding entrance.
The following The Fall Of doG – Maelstrom Involution swoops in on a tide of voracious riffery and sonic enterprise around firm rhythms to instantly seduce the appetite. The again diverse and expressive vocals add to the already captivating and savage sounds throwing their creative and passionate weight against ears. It is a more immediate track than its predecessor but no less involving and steeled in startling textures, and with once more that hardcore causticity to the two toned vocal delivery, it simply ignites senses and passions. The turbulent antagonism and contagiously enterprising confrontation of the track makes way for the shadow grasping emotional beauty of Melancholia. The song floats in on a dark poetic breeze of melodies and a shimmering resonance which drifts from the classically structured and emotively sculpted canvas of the encounter. Two minutes in and the song erupts with a fire of passion and angst coated hunger which drives both music and vocals across the senses like a ferociously lapping tide. Not far short of ten minutes in length, the track is a tumultuous toxin raging and surging through the veins of itself and the thoughts of it’s intended.
The raw and assertively vociferous Touched With Pensiveness steps in next to inflame the passions, inventiveness and unpredictable rabidity to the evolving intent of the track exhilarating. The track did not impress as others first time around but as with the whole album given plenty of time and attention emerges as one intriguing and impossibly enthralling pleasure, the soaring sirenesque female vocal lures just some of the clawing rocks to get willingly snagged upon. Its rich glory though is small in comparison to the triumph of Wounded Knee, a blistering tsunami of crippling rhythms and bestial riffs led by the animalistic predation of the bass. If that was not enough to fire up the passions, a virulently seducing groove ensures the track catches every passing thought and emotion, taking them on a towering severe ride to which ardour is the willingly given price. It is hard to pick out any predominate specifics which make the songs so successful across the album, but certainly here the mix of vocals, the barbarous stride of the rhythms, and that ever belligerent bass sound stirs up a lustful attention.
The short evocative instrumental From Mud To Heaven leads into the acidically flavoured and sonically crusading La Nausée, its breathless emotional pressure and dramatically powered presence holding a strong essence of bands such as Tool and Porcupine Tree to its throbbing breast. The track is a transfixing furnace of emotion and oppressive strength which enthrals with its adventure and ideation, the same that can be said of the distinctly different yet similarly sculpted Draft Of The Second and Going Out With The Whore’s Saliva. Though the first never manages to reach the heights of those before, its grunge/Nirvana like impassioned fervour and coarse imaginative temptation still leaves a greedy appetite in place to be fed by its outstanding successor. Leaden stomping rhythms and scarring riffs steer the menacing intensity and vocal demands of the track whilst caustic flames of melodic abrasiveness and scathing vocals incite thoughts and emotions for another continually gripping peak within the album.
Ashes Of Joy is concluded by stoner fleshed uncompromising intimidation of The Fall of doG – Erase My Eyes and the extensive explosive landscape of The Swan’s March, both tracks employing scything melodic swipes within primal turbulent atmospheres and permeating ambient causticity respectively. They are both immense provocations to match the exhausting and scintillating weighty persuasion of the album. Ashes Of Joy takes no prisoners but feeds them with the most scintillating and potently demanding emotional investigations. As said Memories Of A Dead Man make you work with their album but pays you back with one of the best encounters this year so far.
Ashes of Joy is out on April 14 via Send The Wood Music/Season Of Mist
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