DMU song contest #3 winners Mefitis return with their glorious debut album Emberdawn. “Kolossos Pt II” which was featured in the song contest gave us a glimpse into some of the incredible ideas that this band has shown. Mefitis has existed for over twelve years and had been plagued by various problems before being put on hiatus for a few years until remaining members Vatha and Pendath who had always been the core duo behind the band managed to reform and eventually release the excellent Widdrim Hymn. A powerful bond marked by shared philosophy has allowed this duo to craft what can easily be referred to as this decade’s greatest metal album. Combining the twin guitar approach of early At the Gates with the melodic sense of Demigod and then layered in the Norwegian Black metal style. Where these approaches have produced a dead end and hordes of imitators, for Mefitis they have opened up new methods for their brand of Dark metal.
The compositions were recorded and mixed by the band themselves before being sent off to a mastering engineer. The guitars sound powerful and maintain their distinct tones by being confined to one side each, double tracking each guitar with their respective amps there is no digital manipulation of the tone as Pendath and Vatha use some high end amps that produce beautiful harmonics that enrich their respective sounds. Drums sound full and stay clear from tiggering while working with entirely organic sounds that hearken back to the thick crashes of Hellhammer’s style but with a lot more clarity and the tom is often reminiscent of Craig Smilowski on Here in After. In regards to the bass, Mefitis adopt a much more modern approach by squeezing it into the pocket between the drums and the guitars and seeks to thicken the overall sound as it follows the flow of the guitars but with more rhythmic flair and at times arpeggiates the notes in the main melody. Clean guitars frequently flow on top of certain adding to the intrigue and mainly existing to highlight some of these great sombre ideas as can be seen just before the conclusion “Heretical Heir”. The duo also utilize tonal singing in a choral style in what could be described as “mouth synths performed by real singers”. Multiple layers of a tenor and baritone tessituras that avoid incorporating lyrics in favour of the “ah” syllable in order to emphasize the melodic nature of the “choir”.”Timeward Tribulations” uses this choir to introduce the song’s main motif at the beginning by keeping to the chord progression. Throughout this album the choirs and clean guitars never impose themselves for far too long and are glad to disappear at the end of a riff cycle. The main vocals are expelled with power and from the top of the palette with control. Ranging from high pitched rasps to deep growls while retaining the same timbre and avoiding the Schizophrenic tendencies that Death metal vocals have taken. The vocals follow the flow of the song and though they lack the instant memorability of bands like Obituary and Deicide but they guide the listener in the emotions evoked within each passage through the delivery. Of note are the rare apparitions of Burzum like keyboards on some of the pieces that emphasize certain notes within the melody. Aesthetically the duo have taken ideas that are genuinely seen as being gimmicks and have worked those ideas into the core of their sound pefectly. Even the weird scream in “Obliterating “I”” works perfectly here. The choir and clean guitar have finally been integrated into the repertoire of Death metal techniques effectively.
The note selection is taken from the Demigod school of thought as the band play with the “Finnish scale” which consists of the minor pentatonic but with added chromatic notes. The other scale that is commonly used here is the harmonic minor with flourishes from the melodic minor scale taken from The Chasm. Sometimes the band will end each melody a semitone away from the root note to create tension that will only be resolved on the subsequent melody. The chord progressions follow the Black metal tradition of being much longer than in other styles. These chord progressions start from a place of mystery and gradually transform throughout the whole song until being resolved at the end with much more stable notes. The length of the chord progressions allows the band to form motifs by splitting them at certain points and making melodies from those motifs. As there is little to no repetition of previous ideas, Mefitis make sure not to introduce sudden changes and to work within these defined parameters to move each composition forwards without disrupting the overall flow and falling into riff salad arrangements. These motifs and chord progressions are reused within a song but sometimes across the album in completely different contexts as seen on “Obliterating “I”” and “Timeward Tribulations” that both utilize a melody that bears similar motifs but in completely different contexts. A conscious decision from the band to work within an expanded musical language but never allowing themselves to stray away from it which forces the band to push the limits of their musics and to maintain their unique sound without losing focus and drifting off to unrelated territory. The major shock is the early At the Gates guitar attack where both guitars eschew lead/rhythm roles for a layered approach where both guitars will play with the same motifs upon different registers of the guitar neck. Mefitis take this method and making it their main form of composition, using non parallel harmonisation and counterpoint to make each guitar function with the other. The relationship between both guitars is very complex and deserves countless listens just their interaction which go beyond the scope of this article. What sets Mefitis apart from their peers is the ability to reconcile Death metal melody with Black metal layering as the clean guitars float on top in conjunction with the keyboard or the choirs vocals. On “Grieving the Gestalt” before the conclusion, the distorted guitars will play a Death metal riff while the clean guitars opts for a hypnotic set of arpeggios in the Darkthrone style. This works due to both melodies sharing some of the same motifs and uniting together to lead to the conclusion in unison. Mefitis through the Dark metal style have completely reconciled both Death and Black metal into one genre that merges both into one whole.
The riff types used are standard for both Black and Death metal but the band avoids the rhythmic American riffs for the more fluid European styles that consist of long streams of tremolo picked notes in almost legato fashion that is complemented with single notes played at high speeds and sometimes pedal point riffs that are played against power chords and other diatonic chords and lastly the aforementioned hypnotizing arpeggios. The arrangements move through long iterations that generally start by initially building up towards the primary melody, cementing its place within the composition and then developing it by slowly mutating the motifs that form the basis of the primary melody and then adding or subtracting layers to create tension that will genuinely resolve into a much more consonant riff that concludes each journey or in the case of “Widdrim Hymn” a furious short solo that bursts towards the end. “Emberdawn” builds its way up towards its main melody and goes through a long series of events before quietly concluding on a resolved form of that melody that has transitioned from a state of conflict towards a state of stability before ending on gently with feedback and a sample. Beyond the arrangement of each piece is the arrangement of the album which lasts a standard forty-two minutes and due to the recycling of ideas could even be treated as one continuous piece that uses both “Kolossos” compositions as brief interludes before continuing the assault and then ending on “Skoria” which tones down the more typical metal elements in focus of conjuring the end of the Journey with a beautiful lead melody that is almost crying due to the truth of human nature. Each composition does work within the melodic narrative but each segment is well within the Death metal riff maze. The riff pairs played both guitarists lead alternate with other ideas in groups of two or three which can be summed into a sub section of the overall melodic narrative that conveys the images of this album in the most lucid of ways.
“The crafting of “Emberdawn” began as a contemplation of man’s fleeting presence upon the ever shifting and subsiding earth. As the album took more substantial form, this theme grew to explore how we would be culpable for our eventual destruction. Such parables emerged as the progeny of empire unmaking their forebears’ labor. This is a world whose denizens turn to ritual sacrifice and mysticism in order to abate their ceaseless torments. A potent symbol was found in the California wildfires which raged as we recorded the title track. All of our devices face an inexorable wave of destruction, yet we rebuild while denying this basic reality.
So, we as Mefitis endeavor to construct something of greatness now, even as the foundations crumble beneath. This is not our mere refuge from the deluge of modernity, but rather the bulwark which abets our retaliation. We have sought inwardly for the truest expression of our will, and made it manifest through these songs. To be clear, “Emberdawn” is not an attempt at representational art, it is dark metal that reveals itself through a labyrinth of riffs. Without exaggeration, I declare that each riff on this album has been constructed and contemplated to near insanity.”
Mefitis have made the best metal album in of this decade and it possesses an innumerable number of secrets waiting to be explored while still being direct enough to reveal a sufficient part of itself on initial listens. Vatha and Pendath took from the great classics in our beloved genre and used all the unexplored recesses to push their own vision all the while importing other aesthetics that still aren’t well used in metal and creating their unique and developed sound from there. This album comes as a shock in a time where metal may as well be dead and originality is just an afterthought based on a quick gimmick. Emberdawn pumps new life into metal and though it is too early to compare it to the greats of yesteryear, it is an essential buy for any Hessian seeking metal that will give the same goosebumps that discovering the classics did.
EMBERDAWN WILL BE RELEASED ON THE 13TH OF AUGUST!