Review: Memorrhage – S/T
Tales of crazed, frayed circuitry and Jnco jeans. Songs of post-human despair and wallet chains. A record where Baudrillard violently collides with Woodstock ’99. The self-titled debut record from Memorrhage is as much a piece of speculative fiction as it is a loveletter to nü-metal, industrial metal and cybergrind. A stylistically cold, inhuman monument to atomization, as well as one of the best records you’ll hear this year.
Despite nü-metal seeing such a massive resurgence in relevance this decade, few new projects have managed to put out a record that truly stamps an identity on what the genre represents in 2023. Enter Garry Brents.
Before Memorrhage, Garry’s most prominent musical project was his work in Cara Neir, who came to prominence with their 2013 record Portals To A Better, Dead World. His disparate musical influences were portrayed near the end of that decade when Part III / Part IV dropped and eschewed the blackened crust sound for something more emotive, closer to classic emoviolence than their earlier records. Rather than signalling a new, clear path for the project’s dynamic trajectory, it proved instead to be a short diversion.
The 2020s would see Cara Neir again change radically—introducing chiptune and nintendocore instrumentals alongside legitimately ripping guitar riffage. Between Phase Out in 2021 and Phantasmal in 2022—with a deviation into more conventional grind material in 2021’s Pain Gel Of Purification—Cara Neir stood out as a project that bared its influences proudly, combining retro aesthetics with solid production and modern delivery while setting the stage for Garry’s newest musical project, one that would also bridge the gap between new and old.
Memorrhage’s debut has an oddly hauntological air about it, sounding like a record that exists in a fractured timeline, a lost future of what nü-metal could have been on a wider scale. It’s a record that bridges the gap between the commercial bubble burst of nü-metal and now. A record that could have come between the unsung cult nü-metal releases from bands like Headplate and Shovel, and the cybergrind of Agoraphobic Nosebleed and Gridlink. With a strong influence from industrial metal, it also retains the DNA of jungle and breakbeat, the spirit of EBM and Neu Deutsch Harde, all swirling in the same musical ecosystem Memorrhage draws from.
The spirit of late ’90s and early 2000s hardcore is also felt throughout. The intersection of dystopian, machinic imagery, turn-of-the-millennium-era guitar sensibilities, and a combination of harsh and emotive vocal deliveries brings to mind the title track off of Joshua Fit For Battles‘ To Bring Our Own End, or the eschatological, holy terror hardcore of Integrity. Apocalyptic hellsong rites and rituals pounded out one track at a time.
The project is described as a “nostalgic tribute” to the music Garry grew up with. Nostalgia-baiting music can often be nauseous and disingenuous, often snarky and dealing in parody. There’s instead a musical maturity present that’s refreshing—for all its reverence to the classics of the genre, it’s a genuinely progressive record in the style.
The guitarwork of a band like Spineshank or Coal Chamber is a clear influence, with an interplay between muted power chords and scratchy high-string harmonising. Rather than tapping into the revival of groups like Deftones, Memhorage embodies the spirit of Slipknot and Snot. A track like “Reek” has this great little triplet guitar run that plays throughout, sounding off like a submachine gun spraying its magazine in bursts.
For all the gruffness throughout the record, Garry also gets to flex his melodic muscles quite a bit. A track like “Lunge” in particular is a triumph; it has a chorus that embodies the melodic spirit of the genre’s biggest crossover hits while retaining harsh, guttural vocals throughout the rest of the track.
Music that so deliberately harkens back to a specific period and style is often so damn disingenuous, relying on nostalgia and vague evocations of better musical ideas. But it’s a struggle to call Memorrhage’s debut record nostalgic or backwards. Take a track like “Old Wave”—with its lyrics dealing ostensibly with an outdated android coming to terms with newer models outclassing it, it isn’t some overwhelming laudation of the past.
“Just a relic of the past tryna blend in.“
It’s a line that articulates the spirit of Memorrhage’s debut.
Making a nü-metal record—a genre which until recently has been maybe the single biggest musical punching bag in existence—that is so open, unflinching and raw in 2023, where ironic, online detachment reigns and any earnest expression risks mockery, isn’t an enviable job. Memorrhage manages to do just that—a testament to genre fandom, wrapped in an emotive cyberpunk aesthetic. An album that uses speculative tales of the future to elucidate personal truths of the present, like all great science fiction does. One of this year’s best.