People associate Stockholm quintet, Forgetting the Memories, with metalcore. That may be accurate to describe their 2016 album, Monophobia, and enough to turn metalheads away who think this is just another emo-tinged boyband with breakdowns riffs. But that would be a disservice to the artistic integrity of the band. They’ve always had a hard edge of down-tuned grooves and technical guitar fills with enough staccato pounding to warrant a support slot with Vildhjarta. Only this time, they’re no longer interested in crafting melodies and want to make the most hostile and aggressive music imaginable. Vemod’s experimental mix of the much lampooned ‘thall’ micro-genre with progressive metal and blackened death metal is a bizarre decision and a recipe for confusion.
In many ways, we should be thankful that Forgetting the Memories have no taste for the predictable chugs and kisses of the good cop/bad cop metalcore approach that is so sterile these days. But on the other hand, any form of conventional song structure would also be welcome. Opener, ‘Beneath the Creek’, is more of a headscratcher than a headbanger. Spasmodic blast beats and tuneless eight-string binary riffs compete with a ferocious dual vocal attack that appears to have no direction. It’s safe to say this is not metalcore, but what is it? Maybe their fellow countrymen in Humanity’s Last Breath hold the answer. A couple of listens to ‘The Solstice Rebirth’ will keep you in a constant state of perplexity. The best way to describe this is a Meshuggah jam session messing about with a typical Architects chorus. It’s not even four minutes in length, but the only thing you’ll remember is the incongruity of the clean chorus among the low-end brutality.
In all fairness, nothing about Vemod is dull or predictable. But that’s because the songs have no discernible structure. ‘The Lake’ and ‘A Voice in the Static’ showcase a ferocious heaviness but spoil the chaos with two weak choruses. These do not work in the unforgiving context of the sonic madness on offer, but the inclusion of female choir harmonies on the excellent ‘From Soot’ is much better. One cannot overstate the extremity of this album – blackened death metal does not do justice to ‘Cursed Earth’. Think Lorna Shore covering the latest Reflections album, and you’re still not close to the abyss. ‘Mask ov Lies’ dares to tease you with a Carnifex detour from deathcore to black metal but diverts via a strange Deftones interlude. By this time, you’ve probably abandoned any pretence of understanding or rationalising what they’re doing. It’s a stretch to call it prog metal. You can call it… erm, God knows.
There’s no shame if you find comfort in the conventional groove metal intro to ‘Cowards Tongue’ as one of the few passages you can understand. The guitar polyrhythms towards the end use the 4/4 drumbeats with great efficacy to create the illusion of an off meter mindfuck. Vocalists, Bastian Kempe and Lukas Löken Olsson, give you even less room to breathe. Sometimes, they sound like they’re ready to vomit; other times they imitate the brutal death metal genre. Vemod aims to bludgeon but ends up baffling. You get the impression the band want to force a melody through the hostile distortion of the guitars, but their reliance on the bottom two strings of their instruments makes this nigh on impossible.
Those who thought the new Jinjer album complex and unmelodious will think again when they hear this record. Like Humanity’s Last Breath, the Swedish quintet are on to something unique, but it’s not clear if they understand it yet. This reviewer must admit that he doesn’t get it, but he doesn’t dislike it, either.
Release Date: 24/09/2021
Record Label: Long Branch Records
Standout tracks: Beneath the Creek, Mask ov Lies, From Soot
Suggested Further Listening: Humanity’s Last Breath – Välde (2021), Vildhjarta – Måsstaden (2011), Reflections – Willow (2020)