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As Memory Dies - "Transmutate" (CD)

As Memory Dies - "Transmutate" CD cover image

"Transmutate" track listing:

1. Eyeway To Identity
2. Fifth Day, Leviathan
3. A Season Of Failures
4. Distress In A Velvet Room
5. The Tragical History Of Doctor Faustus - Act I
6. The Tragical History Of Doctor Faustus - Act II
7. The Tragical History Of Doctor Faustus - Act III

Reviewed by on March 18, 2010

"With 'Transmutate,' As Memory Dies melds the epic feel of prog-rock with the ferocity of death metal to excellent effect."

What is it with Italy and melodic death metal bands? First, it was Disarmonia Mundi shredding my speakers, and now As Memory Dies has shown up to finish the job with their mostly excellent "Transmutate."

Ever since I discovered Led Zeppelin, I've admired bands who could play "tight-but-loose," with some notes hitting in odd spots, but never going off the rails melodically or rhythmically. Compare that with the sterility that sometimes occurs with an intense dedication to technical perfection in which each note occurs "as it should." I mention this because this band plays with an appealing looseness, especially on the guitar front. Granted, this is death metal, so it's hardly the randomness of the "Heartbreaker" solo, but guitarists Cristian Barocco and Valerio Beninati deserve a lot of credit for creating a sense of life in the melodies.

That tendency is on full display on "Fifth Day, Leviathan" — particularly in the bridge, but also in the way the lead guitar snakes its way through the vocals. Of course, credit for keeping all this together has to go to drummer Nicola Costantini, whose drumming helps ease the listener through the several speed changes in the song. It's rare that a song clocking in at over nine minutes doesn't leave a listener looking at his watch, but As Memory Dies pulls it off here. I was also taken by the muscular riffing on "A Season Of Failures," which has an excellent guitar breakdown that's almost reminiscent of something you'd hear on an Iron Maiden album.

The gorgeous instrumental "Distress In A Velvet Room" is one of the highlights of the album. It features beautiful piano and orchestration by Barocco, who wrote most of the music on the disc. It's haunting and sparse with an acoustic guitar fade-out that leads right into the next track, which is the first part of "The Tragical History Of Doctor Faustus."

"The Tragical History Of Doctor Faustus" is a three-track epic that takes its name and lyrics from the 13th scene of the play by Christopher Marlowe — written in 1604. Yes, folks, we've entered prog-rock territory — especially considering that the first track of the three is over nine minutes long. You needn't worry about the song losing heaviness though, at least not until the last minute-and-a-half, which turns into a beautiful acoustic piece reminiscent of its opening, complete with synth orchestration and Caruso engaging in a rare foray into clean vocals.

The third part of the arc is my favorite, with an acoustic lead-in that reminds me of something Black Sabbath might do in a quieter moment. You'll especially get the Sabbath feel when its reprised — electrically — at the end.

Overall, the record is excellent, though occasionally Caruso's death screams do get a bit monotonous. What makes it especially maddening is that, in the couple of times he sings cleanly, he's so good at it that you'll want to hear more of those vocals.

Production-wise, the album is mostly excellent. A little more bass could have made things pop just a bit more (but hey, this is death metal). Additionally, there are a few moments where the vocals are simply overwhelmed by everything going on around them.

Still, if you're looking for death metal that alternates between savage and beautiful, you can't go wrong with this one. With "Transmutate," As Memory Dies melds the epic feel of prog-rock with the ferocity of death metal to excellent effect.

Highs: "Fifth Day, Leviathan," "Distress In A Velvet Room" and the three-part epic "The Tragical Life Of Doctor Faustus."

Lows: Minor quibbles with the production; some more clean vocals would've added variety.

Bottom line: An appealing mix of progressive and death metal styles.

Rated 4 out of 5 skulls
4 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)