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Unconventional visions - 80%

colin040, June 26th, 2020

It’s been a while since death metal has risen from the grave again and we’ve been bombed with bands aping Entombed, Dismember, Death and so on; something I’m definitely not very fond of (why listen to those if you can spin the classics instead?). Given the huge amount death metal bands that have popped up it’s easy to lose track of what’s worth hearing and whatnot, but at last Mefitis are a very refreshing band. They undeniably fall in the ‘’retro’’ category, but not in the ways you’d most likely expect.

If you can picture a blend of the labyrinthine direction of early At The Gates with some satanic overtones of Necrophobic and an unorthodox Finnish death metal flavor put on top, then Mefitis should very much be your thing. The result goes beyond the typical death metal worship through a massive amount of tremolo riffs that are as windy as they are physically dominant. For some quick examples, ‘’Grieving the Gestalt’’ should immediately recall Slumber of the Forgotten Eyes thanks to that dominant opening riff-attack and ‘’Heretical Heir’’ might have been a lost Necrophobic track, although it’s played with such an intensity that has more in common with Sentenced’s North from Here than anything else.

Since Emberdawn doesn’t benefit from a production that makes the riffs sound larger than they actually are, it all comes down to the interplay between the two musicians that matters. You can bet that these are two talented folks - they manage to connect riffs of different auras to each other with surprisingly good results. The title track evokes the same claustrophobic madness that was present on The Red in the Sky is Ours as it undergoes several tempo changes through a series of twisted riffs while some of the eeriest howls even bring to mind Lindberg’s tortured wails. If that’s not worth certain amount of praise then I don’t know what is – to sum things up: Emberdawn doesn’t just draw influences from the right kind of bands but it’s played with such conviction that I cannot possibly doubt the passion that Mefitis possess.

The tales of Emberdawn get expressed through a different series of vocals; ranging from thin shrieks to dominant shouts and aggressive growls. Obviously this tactic prevents any one dimensional effects to occur in the vocal department, but I do feel that the vocal lines are somewhat too experimental at this point. While the shouts and growls sound more convincing than the shrieks, I hope the band will figure out more what will work best on a next record…whenever that will be. If anything I was surprised by the two chanted compositions that were devoid of any riff-driven mayhem and interrupted the flow of this record. This isn't too much of an issue, but obviously worth to point out.

For years I had trouble putting into words what I was hoping for regarding new death metal bands aping the styles of old, yet Mefitis have delivered what I was somehow hoping for. Refreshing, yet familiar and riff-driven, yet song-oriented, Mefitis are definitely a band worth keeping an eye on.

This review was originally written for antichristmagazine.com

…Before the ravenous horde. - 100%

GrizzlyButts, February 9th, 2020
Written based on this version: 2019, Digital, Independent (Bandcamp)

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.

Attribution: https://grizzlybutts.com/2019/09/19/mefitis-emberdawn-2019-review/

A gasp in a timeless void - 93%

tomcat_ha, January 28th, 2020

As we know metal like the rest of popular music has become pretty cyclical since the internet emerged. Old sounds are brought back all the time. First rethrash, then all the caverncore bands worshipping Incantation and most recently bands that take their mustard from early 90’s Finland. I first thought Emberdawn would be another piece of neo-Finndeath because the cover art was done by Rantanen himself. What actually is present on this record is I never expected.

Emberdawn throws a curve ball by playing a complex strain of black/death metal that takes its spice from early At the Gates, early Sentenced and Demigod. The layered tremolo picked riffs clearly take from the first AtG album and the first 2 Sentenced albums. While the Demigod influence exhibits itself in the dissonant turn the melodies take. How the guitars interweave also points towards the early Finnish scene. The black metal side of this record is more of a general 2nd wave approach to guitar playing. The strummed arpeggios recall the Swedes a bit and some of the At the Gates like riffs are played like how Immortal might have played them. The repetitive nature of the drum patterns are another clear example in how the black metal influence manifests itself. Based on this description one could easily get the idea that Emberdawn is not very black metal but this is definitely not the case. It is just that the outright black metal parts like the Enslavedesque lead guitar riff in track 3 are just not as common as the riffs that are like early melodic death metal transformed into dissonant black metal.

The finishing touch of this album is the production. The best way I could describe it is as a modernized take on North From Here but at the same time pushing that sound into a more black metal direction. While the bass is clearly present there is a lot of space sonically speaking here. This means that this record has a very cold feel to it. I would say it does sound a bit more alien and space-like than wintery. Not many records out there sound like this.

Emberdawn really caught me off guard. While I am a big fan of this bands primary influences I never expected a record like this to come out. This band does what is increasingly rare as heavy metal the music genre gets older and older. This album does not contain just a new combination of previously uncombined ideas but actually pushes the envelope and unlike quite a few records actually succeeds at what is more important than pushing the envelope. They succeeded at making a record of a stunningly high level.

Dark metal reinvented - 93%

Belisario533, December 1st, 2019
Written based on this version: 2019, Digital, Independent (Bandcamp)

It hasn’t been until halfway through the year that quality metal releases have begun to appear in great number, exceeding the most optimistic expectations. Among them, perhaps the most prominent and surprising is the debut by the American act Mefitis. They are not to be confused with the supposedly Chinese band of the same name, who have garnered some attention more so for their geographical location than for their alleged musical merit. The Mefitis that interests us instead is based in California, another environment no less atypical for underground metal of interest. This entity has existed for more than a decade, yet their career has had ups and downs that have delayed the publication of full-length material until very recently. Although in the past they featured a larger line-up, currently the band operates as a duo, whose members share the duties of guitars and bass, solely dividing up the roles of vocals and drums. They also assume the task of recording and mixing, thus controlling almost all phases of production. Despite being a somewhat trite praise, it is no exaggeration to assert that their sound is completely different from any other band, exhibiting a style of their own so systematic and characteristic, applied to compositions so polished and realized, that it seems almost unbelievable to hear something with such a level of perfection.

Pendath and Vatha, the band members, define their music as "dark metal", which is probably the best possible description, given its original and unclassifiable mix of extreme metal genres. Traditionally that label has been assigned to bands that follow the path of Bethlehem and their heirs, combining death and black metal, and adding a languid and introspective touch that could be designated as “gothic”, in the post-punk sense of the word. Mefitis combines the aforementioned paradigm with melodic influences from European death metal, and black metal's capacity to build sonic landscapes by overlapping many interwoven layers. The fact that they do not stick to one particular influence or sub-genre gives them a lot of breadth and flexibility, which they use to create their own language and explore all the possibilities it has offer. In it we hear echoes of the affinity for melody and atmosphere in a slower and denser format, particular of the Finnish school led by Demigod and Adramelech, but also of the fluidity and organizational capacity of early At the Gates, along with the passion of Norwegian black metal classics, with incredibly emotional outbursts of melody in an environment of stark dynamism.

Throughout the songs on Emberdawn, it appears as if there are many things developing at the same time, which might elude the listener upon first play-through. This is strengthened by the fact that musical motives are rarely reiterated, barring the title track, which is the longest and most homogeneous, and actually the only one offering enough space for repetition. There are so many ideas put into practice, that in the hands of a less skilled and clairvoyant band, this album would have ended up being a confusing and indistinguishable hodgepodge. Mefitis seems fearful of repetition, and for that reason they create music where everything is designed and carefully measured, turning variation and constant change into an almost religious doctrine. Each riff has its counterpoint, simultaneously or delayed in time, which ties each of them into a larger, unified work. Different elements are also implemented with exquisite containment and strategic vision, such as acoustic guitars, keyboards, strange screams that resemble the sagarit of Arab women, and most notably, the fascinating choir, which repeats the same vowel in different tones. These accessories provide the songs with a colorful palette, and generate a sense of towering premonition. Everything is so well armed and integrated that one cannot find weak points in this impressive sonic monument.

The album is structured in two distinct sides: the first half containing four songs with a similar duration at slightly over five minutes each, and the second half introducing five more songs (two of which are interludes) that contextualize the central statement, Emberdawn. All the tracks go through numerous moods, in which we find melancholy, despair and withered beauty, reflections of a world in inexorable decay and self-destruction like the one that appears on the cover art painted by Turkka Rantanen. The choice to commission Turkka further aligns this album with the traditions of Finnish death metal. Between different phases, unexpected jumps occur, surprising the listener with boldness and skill, and ensuring sustained attention. However, the best asset of this band is undoubtedly their stylistic coherence, carefully crafting a compact set of techniques into a unified vision that guarantees variety and interest. In that sense, Mefitis emulates the classics, with their unique fusion of vision and form to achieve transcendence through singularity. Emberdawn is a record so polished, refined and well-rounded, that it can be heard dozens of times without running dry. Accordingly, it is not rash to conclude that we are beholding one of the best metal records of any genre of the last decade.

Originally published in Spanish at www.elnegrometal.es

The red in the sky is (almost) theirs - 88%

robotiq, October 4th, 2019

The period between 1992 and 1995 is vital in extreme metal history. Until this point you could argue that things progressed by getting heavier, nastier and/or more brutal. After this point, progression becomes more about experimentation through melody, composition and atmosphere. Look beyond arbitrary sub-genre classifications of the time (death metal, black metal) and consider the similarities between certain records; “The Red in the Sky is Ours” (1992), “Symphonaire Infernus et Spera Empyrium” (1992), “Nespithe” (1993), “The Nocturnal Silence” (1993), “Vikingligr Veldi” (1994), “In the Nightside Eclipse” (1994), “Storm of the Light's Bane” (1995). Few of these records are as 'heavy' as genre-defining albums from 1990-91. Nonetheless this is a darker form of music, more twisted and ambitious, classical influences are more obvious and lyrics are more esoteric and philosophical. All these records are extreme and (most) enhance their extremity through strings or keyboards. This stuff is far removed from the watered down melodic death metal or keyboard-laden black metal that followed.

If making extreme metal relevant in 1992 required rethinking extremity, then making it relevant in 2019 requires a miracle. Mefitis have dared to dream by harking back to that era with "Emberdawn". The style is an evolved blend of melodic death/black metal, heavily influenced by the first At the Gates album, but embracing the progressive elements of the debut Enslaved and Emperor albums. Unlike the old days, Mefitis know they cannot merely fall into some cool local scene and tape trade their way to relevancy, all the big ideas have been done, every sub-genre has been pushed and stretched into oblivion. The only option available is to explore the uninhabited crevices of their chosen field and use whatever creative space remains, then execute it perfectly.

Mefitis succeed through persistence and talent. Death metal influences predominate (complex songs, lots of riffs), but pure black metal is never far away (such as the first half of "Obliterating 'I'"). Ultimately, every ethereal moment of black metal riffing is pounded to the ground by a death metal bludgeon. The instrumental "Kolossos Pt. II" is the starting point for grasping the essence of the album. It starts with some open black metal chords over some double kick drums, before disappearing into a tunnel of melodic tremolo riffs. The song-structure is dizzying, there are countless riffs, most of them lasting a few seconds before flowing into the next. The sound is familiar but never generic, At the Gates could have easily gone in this direction in a parallel universe (and if you’re not singing "Kingdom...Fucking...Gone" over the riff at 2:18 then you need to have words with yourself).

"Heretical Heir" is one of my favourites here, perhaps the prime example of how Mefitis keep the listener guessing. The opening riff speeds up slightly (so subtle it is deceiving), before blasting into full-on melodic black metal. A maze of riffs fly past, then at 2:53 there is a riff that sets you up to expect some lame Gothenburg-style melody, but the melody lasts seconds before being wrenched into a savage Demilich turn. Most audacious of all, the lurch at 5:00 is one of the most memorable bits of the album and Mefitis chose to fade the song out with it. Mefitis are relentless in presenting you with ideas, then evolving them into something else before you can absorb them. I never get bored listening to this. None of the twists and turns are ever jarring because the playing and composition are so good. You can listen to this over and over and try to piece together what you're hearing, but it never detracts from the bigger picture.

The musicianship is exemplary throughout. The guitar playing is fluid and thoughtful but never showy. The drumming is awesome, my main comparison would be Adrian Erlandsson. You get a similar range of playing, the same snappy fills and punishing (never overpowering) double kick, a bit of tasteful blasting when the need arises. The fact that the drumming, guitar and composing are all handled by two people is probably why it sounds so tight. I guess it's easier to design riffs and drum patterns for yourself and a close collaborator (assuming you’re talented enough to play the instruments to this standard). The bass sound is surprisingly aggressive which is another unexpected bonus, you can hear a twang at certain points and it is always welcome. I like the choral vocals and Burzum-esque keyboard 'plonks' which surface at strategic points throughout. The production is flawless and avoids all the problems of the digital age.

Minor niggles? The final instrumental "Skoria" doesn't add much, why not leave it off and keep the album under 40 minutes? I've pressure-tested this album by playing it back-to-back with many of the classics mentioned above. It holds up well, but perhaps doesn't quite have the ‘motive’ as those records. This is a consequence of times rather than a criticism, those bands were challenging the extreme metal universe, Mefitis are merely challenging themselves.

Blistering blackened death metal, worthy of anyone's time - 100%

Mailman__, September 17th, 2019

Blackened death metal is known for its menacing compositions and sinister riffs. Enter Mefitis, the band that blends death metal and black metal to make it seem natural. Dubbing themselves as “dark metal”, the band released their debut full-length, “Emberdawn”, on Aug. 13, 2019.

Starting with the 2018 single “Widdrim Hymn”, it is very clear that this duo is very capable when it comes to songwriting. With a thematic riff that journeys through multiple phases within the first minute, the song boasts incredible flow and ridiculously good progression. Each second of the song within the first minute is providing the listener with something new to bite off.

This music is devastating. It reaches into your mind, wraps around it and explodes with pure fury and cerebral beauty. With the dark, blackened riffing comes Dissection-like melody and even peaceful, atmospheric passages. The title track is most notable for atmosphere, being seven minutes of chaotic, bitter riffing balanced out by peaceful atmosphere all while maintaining flow.

Progressive elements are seen throughout the album as well. “Obliterating ‘I’”, my personal favorite, features the first glimpse at what this band can do in the field of progressive metal, showing off very heavy riffs reminiscent of Cynic. More progressive themes are seen when riffs and other motifs are repeated throughout multiple tracks. The more atmospheric sections, when listening with a careful ear, portray this the most, giving the album a Pink Floyd vibe.

I was actually contacted by Pendath, one of the two members of the band. He told me about how all of the choral passages on the album are not from a keyboard but are instead Vatha and Pendath’s voices layered over one another. The choral sections are most exhibited on the first part of “Kolossos”. This aspect alone gives a great deal of respect to not only the album but also the band.

To add to the many layers of this album, the songwriting shines above all. The first track is a perfect example of this, as I mentioned, but even in the simplest riff on this record there is a second guitar part for it. There is not one riff that doesn’t have some sort of “counter riff”. At least, I didn’t find any sections with just one riff. In other words, this album is what I like to call “riff city certified”. There are more riffs on here than most records, and they even repeated a few in multiple tracks.

I cannot emphasize how complex this record is. It is unorthodox in the most orthodox way, staying true to traditional black and death metal but building upon the genres as much as possible. I have heard some very flexible albums this year, and this one goes right alongside them. This is an essential release for anyone who enjoys extreme metal in the slightest.

Originally written for metal-temple.com

A complex sonic tapestry - 97%

we hope you die, August 26th, 2019

Hot off the press, Mefitis’ new LP ‘Emberdawn’ released in August this year boasts an intimidating amount of music to unpack. This is one of those rare albums that can truly claim to have transcended the death/black metal framework into something that doesn’t have a name yet. There are so many ideas within each track that in lesser hands this frantic, restless extreme metal would devolve into a mess. But Mefitis never lose focus, and never place a surplus idea where it’s not required. Like a richly complex tapestry, one can admire each segment for its beauty and technical prowess, and then step back and behold its role in contributing to the final work.

There are a number of different components to pull together, so let’s start with the guitars. The first thing to note is that this is music composed for two guitars. Whilst this is nothing new, there are few albums out there that commit to counterpoint in quite the same way. One has to reach for albums in a league of their own for worthy comparisons; ‘The Red in the Sky is Ours’ and ‘Nespithe’ spring to mind. Whilst ‘Emberdawn’ sounds distinct from these classics, the methodology and intricacy of the music is comparable.

Each and every riff has at least two components played simultaneously. Not only is the sheer volume of their quality mesmerising, but each one breaks apart and restructures the music in novel and unexpected ways. Every trick in the book is utilised (and exemplified), from polyrythm to atonality to dissonance and much more.

Rhythm is a key element to ‘Emberdawn’. This is largely determined by the direction of the riffs, as is the tempo. This allows the drums to take their own journey. They will sometimes link up with the guitars to emphasise their percussive tendencies, sometimes the drums will peal away from the other instruments with unexpected fills and breakdowns. The riffs will announce the end of one passage and the beginning of the next. The drums taken on their own are tight and engaging, but they exist to serve the course set by the guitars, and offer a subtle balance of technical competency whilst granting the music space to breath. A subtle layer of depth that would be hard to achieve with a drummer preoccupied with showcasing their skillset over servicing the compositions.

As frantic as this music is, it slows down at the midpoint with centrepiece Kolossos Pt. I and II. This is an eerie ambient passage that feeds into a perfectly poised instrumental piece. Similar flares are used sparingly throughout the album, cleanly sung chants, acoustic guitars, scant keyboards. These surface level textures are applied at key turning points within the album that signal the next movement.

Many of these musical components are fairly common to extreme metal. So what makes ‘Emberdawn’ so successful where others would fail? The answer lies in the amount of care Mefitis have taken to place these riffs within a larger structure. One can admire each one for its novelty, its precision, the complexity behind its construction. But this is to admire one brick in a vast and intricate structure. And this is ultimately the difference between ‘Emberdawn’ and an album that uses similar techniques but ends up being a random directionless mess. If things continue on their present course, this is a contender for album of the year.

Originally published at Hate Meditations