Written by: The Administrator
Ah, nu-metal. Occasionally umlauted, frequently maligned.
My own affair with nu-metal was lustful but exceedingly brief. The tail end of the genre's heyday represented the first time I got to introduce music to my dad rather than the other way around. While my fascination with the seemingly unmatchable aggression of Slipknot or outspoken edge and jubilant oddity of System of a Down didn't exactly translate, we did spend several months exploring and enjoying Korn's discography together. That phase passed pretty quickly in favor of my era of angsty grunge revivalism, and nu-metal ceased to have any impact in my life or listening patterns beyond the occasional nostalgia trip. For myself, and, I can only imagine, many others, it was high time for something new that could capture the same swagger and violence and unbridled magic. And thus, the prolific Garry Brents' announcement of a forthcoming nu-metal project felt like a harbinger: a nu wave of nu-metal was inevitable.
Quickly, some background. If you're unfamiliar, please note that Garry has made quite the name for himself over the past few years by benefit of a collection of monikers including Gonemage, Sallow Moth, Homeskin, and Cara Neir. Besides a common creative driving force, these projects share a certain unwillingness to abide by genre convention. Instead, his work seemed to attack expectations, using familiar sounds and motifs but subjecting them to a distinct subversion. Also of note is frequency, as Garry releases new music at a pace that is frankly intimidating. Multiple projects, multiple releases, one remarkably consistent ethos.
This is all to say that I fully trust Garry to deliver good shit. This debut album from Memorrhage blew away all my expectations. Sorry to spoil, but this is one of my favorite albums of the year, full stop. Let's jumpdafuck into it, shall we?
Sonically, Memorrhage lands on the heavier end of the nu-metal spectrum, combining the untamed and untested explosiveness of Slipknot's self-titled debut with Spineshank's knack for finding the balance between sneering aggression and hooky melodicism. The resulting frenzy is bouncy, crushing, screeching, gnarly, and at times almost overwhelmingly bombastic. The guitar operates like a power hammer directly on the eardrum, utilized as a blunt force instrument to deliver riffage with a borderline industrial intensity. But somehow, it never feels mechanical--there's a grindy urgency and an erratic mathy element at play as well, lending the whole project a very human sense of impatience and unpredictability. There is always something working hard to catch your attention. Take the frantic pace and start-stop riff on "Finesse," the muffled rap running through closer "Ex-sprite," the electronic percussive momentum that lends "Exit" a breakneck energy. "Lunge," perhaps my favorite track herein, incorporates a notable Korn-esque element--one section recalls Jonathan Davis' rapid-fire scatting, assuming Davis were a rabid werewolf 90% of the way through violent metamorphosis. The track, like many here, utilizes a dangerously catchy chorus, and altogether walks that razor's edge between earworm hookiness and zealous muscular violence.
The vocals, which are primarily harsh, are often barked with a caustic throat-shredding aggression--think Corey Taylor at his most blatantly vitriolic. With that said, in true nu fashion there's a cacophony of filtered croons, eerie shrieks, and primal whines across the tracklist. A sizable selection of guest appearances helps to provide even more variety--I'm a particular fan of the cleans provided by Ilya Mirosh on both "Utility" and the aforementioned "Lunge." Bottom line: this shit bludgeons, but it does so with an insistence and a complexity that doesn't merely mirror nu-metal's greatest hits. Because of the overt muscularity alongside the plethora of the other sonic elements--grimy breakbeats, squealing harmonics, funky bass, haunting sustain, scattered bleeps and bloops, and the near-omnipresent DJ scratch FX--Memorrhage often feels more cluttered than the majority of its influences. This, I hasten to add, is not meant in a disparaging sense. I feel like the soul of nu-metal is proudly dependent upon a sense of excess, and Garry capitalizes extraordinarily well. Memorrhage is an inherently indulgent album. It is far from sparse.
Thematically, Memorrhage diverges from many of its musical influences in terms of subject matter. Rather than the classic isolationistic lyrical focus on pain, this album eschews melodrama by presenting a fleshed out sci-fi world where cybernetics and time travel meet grotesque body horror. Take the bombastic opener "Memory Leak," which tells the tale of a sentient entity that causes a data leak in a video game, the repercussions of which impact multiple realities. This is in-depth stuff. The album acts as an omnibus of sorts, and each track feels grounded in its own narrative. The existence of a larger world lends a sense of grandeur to the whole project, and as a sucker for concept albums and worldbuilding, I'm excited by the premise of stories and characters that exist beyond the scope of the album's runtime.
Let the record show that I have never psyched myself up to headbutt a cinderblock. That said, should I ever find myself in a situation where headbutting a cinderblock feels necessary, Memorrhage's brass-knuckled brand of Chimaira-but-more-mammothian riffage is perhaps the only appropriate soundtrack. With "Memory Leak," or the brutal "Brain Wield," or the gnarly-as-fuck breakdown that graces "Knurl" in my earbuds, I'd happily fight a cybernetic monstrosity with full knowledge that the only possible outcome is my own immediate dismemberment. This is fight music, but does not rely on on the tough-guy lyricism of many a nu-metal classic. Rather, many of the tracks here are imbued with a kinetic energy that feels violent and volatile by default.
Upon release, it was fun to see the renewed interest in nu-metal that Memorrhage had seemingly singlehandedly spawned. The buildup and release of Memorrhage serves as a certified crazy-ass moment in nu metal history. No matter how you feel about the final product, the chatter this album generated is impressive on its own merit. I hope that interest in the genre's revitalization is sustained moving forward, especially in the context of projects that move nu-metal away from the less-than-desirable association with misogynist bros. I also hope to see other artists approach neglected genres in a similar way: embracing nostalgia with a fierce passion, but placing high-quality songwriting above all else.
I love this album, and I'm very excited to witness the project's inevitable evolution. As if there were any doubt: Memorrhage comes highly recommended. Find it here!
Memorrhage - Memorrhage was released Jiune 16th, 2023 via Big Money Cybergrind
We provide thoughtful reviews of music that wakes us from slumber. Written by a highfalutin peasantry.