#FOR FANS OF: Black Metal
Blasting out of the gate with some shameless Immortal worship in “Souls Reborn in Hate”, it is clear enough that Grimtone promises to make up for its lacking inventiveness with aggression. Sure, Michael Lang has an aptitude for his instruments and plenty of stamina to hold down his blast beats, however it seems that the music as a whole would benefit from more input and outside ideas to push the instrumentation past its satisfactory simplicity into a more interesting dimension. While Linus Carlstedt provides vocals, it seems very likely that Lang is the main contributor to the band with control over every instrument, leading to a bottleneck of creativity. There are some good tremolo hooks throughout this album like in “The Blood of the Dead” and “Armageddon (Rise from Hell)”. Sadly, they end up reeled in by a constant background black metal blast. Between sparse cymbal breaks and blast beating, there is not much more going on in the lower register throughout the majority of 'Memento Mori', just an endless grim tumble of flat and atonal aggression that blends itself into a vanilla paste thick enough to paint a face and fill an average mold with the bare minimum.
I keep wondering, where is the shriek, where is the fear, where is the evil that I so desire between shrill and nearly inescapable riffs that sound as fearsome as they are destruction in the ears? Yet this band has nothing but a pathetic personae to push rather than a true sense of horror to isolate and explore. If you blast this album, you hear the same as you do when listening to it on a lower volume. There is nothing but a base system of banality driving this music that, while keeping a drum stamina, doesn't grab a church by the steeple and feed it to Satan's fire. If this band wanted to portray the oldschool, it simply kindergartens it and that is what makes this album so utterly inane and commercial an attempt.
Most disappointing is that the title track ends up sounding more like an 8-bit Bowser battle than a bombastic black metal offering and the guitars, held deeply in the background, sound exactly like the guitars in each verse of “Fields of Pale Limbs”. This production is perplexing. Either the band doesn't understand how the limitations of lo-fi recording equipment contributed to the releases of early black metal and its sound, namely the necessity for personality and definition through its minimalism, or the band just doesn't care because this album was clearly recorded on nice equipment and then mixed to sound awful, doing the music a disservice and simply coming off as contrived. Throughout six main songs, there is an average of one riff at best per song, not counting incessant repeating ideas that end up hammered into dullness by a damnable one-trick drum kit.
The biggest change in drumming comes in “Witch's Lair” where the percussion is allowed to build from a slow and sharp cymbal and snare combination to steadily rise in intensity. Where the majority of this album was hammering to the kvlt, Michael Lang does stretch out a bit on this track to help distract from the vocals and let a cymbal tap the tip of the tremolo. Bass and echo come in waves, falling with the guitars in a very literal and linear sound that yearns to take a next step into some sort of counterpoint. Grimtone is almost there in “Witch's Lair” but, to its own detriment, is unwilling to embark on that journey as they band plays it as safe as possible. Black metal is not a safe sort of music and I think Grimtone forgot that fact while trying to appeal to that same audience.
“Empress of Black Light” lines a riff right back up with the canon created by the title track, rounding out the majority of this album with its quick sawing that has become an all-too-familiar and unearned encore throughout these thirty-one minutes. In spite of a nice second riff that swings past the lead in a far more pleasing fashion, Grimtone fails to impress with too little too late. Like the actual style of memento mori, images taken of the dead during the days when photography was prohibitively expensive and most families' only pictures of their loved ones would be of corpses propped up after death for the occasion of a funeral, Grimtone may as well have left the old school to its own era and tried to do something slightly new. Sadly, 'Memento Mori' is another average and unnecessary underground attempt at homage without personality. Stiffness and mysterious minimalism do not always equate to grimness. Such a flat and unimpressive album merely shows this pair's own atonality and trite creativity in a realm so accustomed to innovation. Grimtone is likely to dwell among the likes of Framferd and Runespell. In a hall lined with identical statues and where the haunting echoes of 'who?. . . who?' glide past rafters upon which no owls care to perch.