With countless pangs of grief bubbling to the surface and a hundred nights of near sleeplessness resultant an uncertain insanity would creep from veins to organs and failure therein if not for the great allocation of fortitude provided by extreme metallic catharses. Deranged by the complex nature of darkening thoughts running with abandon the ‘soul’ and/or the ‘spirit’ of the achieved self would yet be a dissolved question marked upon the apathetic bystander if not for the great gift of otherworldly music to capture and compound that yearning into fortification. To view composition, atmosphere and statement as a barrier between the mind and that which’d never mattered is defiantly cynical in the most pleasurable way possible yet, this is no common feat and the temples capable of such grand spheres of greatness are separated by vast deserts of illusory meaning and perfunctory nauseate. Lo and afire without regard for stifling forces does arise a new construction of old and distended brick, a wondrous form of the highest-brain adhesions between deaths morbid deadpan and the sneering dark of the blackness within; A brightly colored scraping of the institutional muck of the ‘old school’ form and the prodigious expansion of the youthfully dark mind would fuse and arise as ‘Emberdawn’, the debut full-length from melodic black/death metal band Mefitis. Their brilliant “dark” metal vision arrives divined and resuscitated with over a decade’s worth of lessons learned.
There is some expectation that the fan of any one thing should and often does age alongside the artists they’d most appreciate and connect with. This unwritten rule of normative damnation divides folks into idiotic paradigms that appear inescapable and dire to those who’d not educate and dig for what they’d otherwise remain ignorant to. I’ve long sought to avoid becoming mired within the muddy classicism of the 80’s and 90’s modus despite a great and enduring fascination with those classic ‘old school’ forms. To be sure there is, and has been, a new guard alight with an enlightened grip upon the past and its futuristic possibilities, particularly within inclusive (or, cherry-picked) classic death metal scenes and the reversion therapy felt within a return to early 90’s black metal attack. What then, does one do when faced with an austere appreciation of the righteous convergences of the two? Of 1991 toward 1993 where Scandinavian death metal self-consciously saw the gloomy horizon beyond ‘Red in the Sky is Ours’ and pounced upon the coming storm of blackened death metal regalia. There lies the modus of Mefitis, originally a full collaborative band of newly teenaged prodigious youths playing a roughshod blackened death/doom hybridization complete with symphonic keyboards once they’d realized the second version of their 2008 demo tape. The journey towards Timeghoul and Demilich evolutionary projections within Fabricant beyond the break-up of Mefitis in 2010 saw lessons learned and some greater need for progress-minded evolution. Reunited in 2014 and now older, wiser and focused on their craft in unifying chaos musos Pendath and Vatha set upon Mefitis with all seriousness towards this point of debut.
Sharing most all guitar, bass, and songwriting duties since reforming the distinction between the two halves of the duo points to Pendath for the drums and Vatha for vocals though the chorales and harmonization comes from collaborative performances. Turkka Rantanen‘s dystopic artwork and a scrawled logo provide an inkling of Mefitis‘ aesthetic and specificity with regard for the old ways of pan-European extreme metal in the late 80’s and early 90’s but the contents of ‘Emberdawn’ aren’t akin to the brutal beatings of Funebre or Adramelech in any obvious sense. Opener “Widdrim Hymn” is a razor to behold, slashing away at melodic black/death metal standards set by groups like Decameron, Sarcasm, and Cardinal Sin and this old standard soon shifts towards the deeper melodicism of Loudblast‘s ‘Sublime Dementia’ complete with an uncannily achieved swagger on the drums that quickly had me red in the face and staring into the awe of this first strike. Had these Oakland, California area twenty somethings really found the point of meeting between Dawn‘s ‘Nær sólen gar niþer for evogher’ and At the Gates‘ under-loved ‘With Fear I Kiss the Burning Darkness’ and well, improved upon that dynamic with modern atmospheric death metal touches a la Stench‘s ‘Venture’ (alternately, Morbus Chron‘s exodus)? Yes, they’d done it and arguably proceed to do it better with each song as the album advances mercilessly stuffed to the hilt with a blend of melodic black metal and the pre-1992 death metal of Scandinavian descent. The result should sound like The Chasm‘s ‘The Spell of Retribution’ on paper but I’d almost argue that the level of musicianship here is often more impressive and varied.
A great love for Decameron‘s ‘My Shadow’, certain recordings from Absu, and the aforementioned final Stench album (‘Venture’) has predispositioned me for a very specific bout of love for ‘Emberdawn’ which employs similarly hooked songwriting and tightly performed, beautifully complex craftsmanship. The choirs employed (“Widdrim Hymn”, “Obliterating, I”, “Kolossos Pt. I”) add immensely to the atmosphere of the pieces and provide foreshadowing melodic devices that inform the patterning of their respective whole compositions. This is something Stench employed to a meaningful degree back in 2014 before the choice was made to focus on.. uh, amping up the goth side of Tribulation. It had been sorely missed and now it is a truly effecting element of ‘Emberdawn’ that works very well with the classic melodic black/death feeling of the album. The level of ambition is perhaps even bigger than the resulting compositions but all for the sake of creating impactful music and not just a flurry of confounding ideas. There is this limbo felt between the melodic and the technical that I greatly appreciate as it all growls about in an organic fashion unhindered by any modern tropes or too-experimental follies. I wouldn’t intend to suggest my admiration for Mefitis‘ gifts entirely stems from old associations but it is clear they are operating on the level of detail and craft as some true masters of the dark arts, reaching higher and ultimately grasping a golden standard.
Although I’d seen some praise for this release when it found its way to Bandcamp mid-August it wasn’t until I’d received it (alongside Sarcasm‘s latest) and discovered it by my own will that I’d begin to consider ‘Emberdawn’ one of the finest releases of the year. I’ve distinctly identified the same feeling I’d gotten when discovering Ghastly‘s ‘Death Velour’ last year where a considerable multiplication of investment and accumulating value persists with each listen. The first four tracks, and “Grieving the Gestalt” in particular, all operate on such a high level of detail and movement that I’d actually begun to feel the movements beyond anticipatory gratification. The feral nature of the vocals, the blisteringly slick guitar riffs, and the sheer entertainment their interactions provides is uncannily and enormously achieved. Of course I am heading down the path of a ‘highest’ recommendation, this is prime and evolved inspiration from exacting and intelligent musicians who are not only independent but supremely tasteful in every choice made. Unquestionably essential listening for 2019 and beyond. For preview purposes I’d suggest “Widdrim Hymn” is too striking a piece to delay and then “Heretical Heir” for impressive lightning-needled intricacies.
…Before the ravenous horde. 5.0/5.0
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