Heavily indebted to the abrasive, progressive strains of Fear Factory, Strapping Young Lad and Soilwork, Danish five-piece Mnemic are fully intent on taking contemporary metal further forward. By fusing the tuned-down chords of nu-metal with choruses that resemble screamo, passages that bear a strong hardcore influence, and the tight execution of Meshuggah, presented in a package with impeccable production, this is one band intent on doing everything they can to set themselves apart from the rest of the metal herd. All too often, young bands try so hard to impress, that they wind up shooting themselves in the foot, but in the case of Mnemic, though they're still experiencing the odd growing pains, their great ambition is matched by the confident execution of their music.
So just how ambitious is their new album, The Audio Injected Soul? Well, on the record, they've employed a new, unique mixing technique called "AM3D Positional Headphone Technology", which is described as, "Using binaural techniques the sound is processed to localize a single sound to a specific location in three-dimension space around the listener." Heady stuff, but let me assure you, dear reader, the dude in Denmark who invented this is definitely on to something, because this album sounds absolutely fantastic. With the exception of Lamb of God's great Ashes of the Wake, this writer has not heard a better sounding metal album in 2004; guitars sound extremely crisp, bass and drums rumble, ambient sounds swirl around in the background, and vocalist Michael Bøgballe has fun with the setup, his schizophrenic howls and sneers appearing are all over the mix. Needless to say, this album is best experienced with headphones.
The whole Fear factory influence is immediately heard on opening track "Dreamstate Emergency", with its ultra-low, sustained notes that rattle your teeth, but the song takes off into a melodic chorus that less capable hands, would have sounded tacked on, but Mnemic make it work well. The same can be said for "Door 2.12" and "Illuminate", both of which plowing along at a furious metalcore pace before a great vocal hook kicks in. As good as the first few songs are, though, the real fun kicks in the further along you go.
Boasting the kind of studio audacity that Queensryche displayed on their underrated 1986 gem Rage For Order, Mnemic use the crystalline production to their advantage midway through the album, inserting some highly effective psychodrama scenarios, starting with "Deathbox", which has Bøgballe doing his own version of Alice Cooper's "Ballad of Dwight Fry". "Sane vs. Normal", however, is an all-out riot, a wild combination of Meshuggah style syncopation with a deliciously outlandish performance by Bøgballe, who takes on the character of a serial killer, growling, "I made the mistakes I couldn't afford to make/Hell, they even knocked on my door because they found a dead girl in the lake," as guitarists Mircea G. Eftemie and Rune Stigart go into a break of maniacally screeching daggers of feedback. The personae just keep coming, as "Jack Vegas" takes the whole multiple personality thing to another level, Bøgballe holding a dialogue with himself, altering vocal styles with every line, as the song, as the exceptional "The Silver Drop" does later on, features the strongest combination of aggression and melody on the record.
The Audio Injected Soul overshoots its target just a bit on "Mindsaver" and "Overdose in the Hall of Fame", but any mistakes are forgiven, thanks to the closing track, a cover of Duran Duran's notoriously pretentious William Burroughs homage "Wild Boys". Easily one of the ballsiest metal covers in recent memory, the band take the laughably bombastic original arrangement and crank up the intensity and theatricality, and the end result proves how a song like this is vastly improved when performed by an equally bombastic metal band. It's a silly, but highly enjoyable conclusion to a very pleasing album, one that's bursting at the seams with creativity.