Self-described as “future fusion metal,” Danish band Mnemic have indeed had an impressive blend of heavy genres to boast in their near twelve years of activity. The group has done a great job of juggling death metal breaks and metalcore structures against their industrial backdrop, and after how cleverly they weaved a somewhat progressive element into 2007′s Passenger, Mnemic didn’t seem too far from putting out an album that was going to floor everyone. After three years, their fourth album Sons of the System is finally here… but unfortunately, it just doesn’t stand up to their older material. The same basic elements are in place more or less, but it seems that the attempt to implement a bit more melody has not only sacrificed some of the aggression in their attack, but suffers a good amount itself, because melodicism requires an at least passable knack for writing hooks, which Mnemic really doesn’t have.
“Let’s just say it has become more theatrical, more electronic, and just more catchy,” the band said of their latest release. “We have put all our focus on writing good songs and not being afraid of experimenting.” While this may have been their intent, it doesn’t take many listens to the album to dispute this. For one, the band sounds more streamlined than ever; their choruses now feel as if striving for power rather than actually displaying it, particularly in the opening title track’s attempt at an anthemic chorus which falls extremely short (the cheesy outro of “Will we rise? Will we fall?” doesn’t help, either). The Erasing is another example of this; the swirling synths come out of nowhere for the chorus, and it completely mismatches with the rest of the song. It also brings the lackluster production to mind, namely in how the synths and keyboards often sound buried in the mix, and not for sake of deliberate layering either; they simply get too hard to hear in places, and frankly don’t reward the effort made in searching for them.
There are many points in Sons that do work very well, though, and they’re mostly in the album’s second half. Fate and Hero(In) have the older trademarks of more complicated time signatures and better matched choruses. Elongated Sporadic Bursts resembles a slightly electronic, more accessible Meshuggah (in style as well as title), with a great groove that keeps strong throughout. Orbiting, while not the best closer per se, still manages to end things on a good note. The song takes a number of metal clichés, like timed cymbal grabs and fading out with an extended chorus, and makes them sound a bit fresh. Still, while these songs do stand out positively, it’s really only when compared to the rather generic majority; nothing here is as good as anything they’ve done on their previous discs.
Sons of the System certainly isn’t without its moments, but as a follow up to their interesting body of work, it’s a huge disappointment. Too many of the songs sound watered down and uninspired, and even the best tracks can’t compare to older songs; for instance, there is nothing here with the fury of Deathbox or the complexities of The Eye on Your Back. Nothing is really that bad either, but as far as being especially memorable, Sons doesn’t have a whole lot to offer. Try Passenger, or The Audio Injected Soul, for a better representation of their sound.