Mnemic are among industrial metal’s elite few that can rank with genre originators Fear Factory in terms of musicality and staying power. When they burst onto the scene with 2003’s Mechanical Spin Phenomena, fans and critics had high hopes for the band. 2004’s The Audio Injected Soul only raised expectations, as the band appeared poised for a huge breakout. However, after the departure of original vocalist Michael Bøgballe and the introduction of his replacement, Guillaume Bideau, on 2007’s Passenger, a split emerged among fans. Some claimed that Mnemic were becoming a sellout band and were transitioning towards playing metalcore, while others praised Bideau for helping the band to grow and keep their sound fresh. In the end, two groups emerged: those who aligned themselves with the old sound of the first two albums, and those who chose the new sound of Passenger. However, Mnemic should be able to bridge the divide between these groups with their newest album, Sons of the System, which brings together the disparate elements of their previous work and creates a cohesive, intense sound.
This album shows a lot of vocal advancement on the part of Bideau. His singing is much more focused than it was on Passenger, and his screams reach Bøgballe’s level of rawness while maintaining clarity. The lyrics on this album still deal with Mnemic’s standard topics of the human mind, evolution, and futuristic themes, but the delivery is stronger with Bideau’s new and improved technique. Musically, this album succeeds because the band shows significant growth and expansion in their sound and influences. The most noticeable and best-fitting growth is in the addition of strong groove metal elements to the band’s sound. Tracks like “The Erasing” and “Hero(in)” showcase these elements best. The post-chorus riff on “The Erasing” is incredibly catchy and makes the whole song more interesting. “Hero(in)” uses the groove of its lead line to offset the irregular beat of the song, making the song more atmospheric without getting lost in its own arrangement.
Many tracks also utilize the catchy chorus style of Passenger paired with intricate, technical verse riffs like those found on Mechanical Spin Phenomena. The title track is the best example of this, coupling a fast, thrashy verse riff with a chorus designed for a sing-along. “Mnightmare”, “Fate”, and “Within” also accomplish this feat, contrasting nicely with the songs that rely more heavily on groove to keep the album engaging for listeners. And while Sons of the System does have some forgettable moments (such as the dragging ending on “March of the Tripods”), the vast majority of the album is high-quality industrial metal at its finest.
Mnemic have definitely re-established themselves in fine form with this album, and hopefully both old and new fans will find this album to be enjoyable. Sons of the System proves that when Mnemic are good, they’re at the top of the heap, and even when they’re not so good, they still have a lot going for them. The growth of their sound also indicates that the band is ready to expand into even bigger creative territory, and this trend will hopefully continue on future albums.
// Notes from the Road
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