Something strange, exciting, and wonderful has been happening to me in the past year or so. I am being challenged, and instead of hiding inside of what I’m comfortable with, I am taking said challenges head on. The result: I am growing, changing, and becoming a more dynamic fan of music in general. A perfect example of this is Italian prog/psychedelic metal band Memento Waltz. Within a few seconds of listening, I was sold. My chips were on the table, and I was in this thing no matter what. By the end of that first tune, I felt as if my brains had been scrambled in the most awesome of ways. There was a very special blend of extreme musical skill, creative-outside the box type writing, and a ballsy type of daring experimentation that pushes their first full length release, Division by Zero, into a very special realm.
The origins of Memento Waltz go back to 1994 in Sardinia, Italy, where drummer Gabriele Maciocco, bassist Guissepe Deiana, and guitarist Livio Poier set out into the musical realms as a heavy metal outfit. These gentlemen were more than willing to grow, and especially experiment. They threw all sorts of influences into the mix: psychedelic melodies, dark atmosphere, insanely complex rhythms, ethereal lyrical themes, and even drew from realms outside of rock and metal, most notably a great deal from the jazz arena. By 2005 they had released their debut EP Overcoming, and in 2006 added vocalist Marco Pui to the band. In 2010 their promo CD Antithesis of Time was put out, and they unleashed some fury onto the world at ProgPower Europe in 2011. Finally they were ready to unleash their first full length CD, Division by Zero.
Now, the term division by zero has been a long running joke about utter annihilation, and the music of the album has much of the same feel. From the opening seconds, you just know that something is coming that you feel totally ill-equipped for. The opening track Omicron starts with a single orchestral strum, a little hazy atmospheric noise, and then Maciocco beats the crap out of his drums for a few seconds before the other gents join in. Then the discordant chords jump in, and their unique sound is immediately prevalent. A breakdown of what they bring is important here, the deeply raunchy chords and brutally intricate instrumental work is the merging of the three instrumental aspects paired with Pui’s vocals. The drums are frantic yet structured, and all over the place in a wonderful fashion. Guitars? Poier pulls so many insane sounds out, it’s impossible to keep up. The bass? Deiana is a bourgeoning master of his instrument, bringing a unique sound that really shocked me and opened my eyes. I can honestly say I haven’t been so impressed by a bass player and his impact on the band’s music since Les Claypool and Primus came out, he is that damn good. Pui’s vocals are a wonderful match up to the music. Though not the perfection of vocal delivery, he more than makes up for it with unbelievable power and intense emotion.
Together, these four guys drop an unbelievable amount of sound, seven tracks, each one leaving me breathless. A good example of what they do is in the second track, Opus Alchemicum. After a few minutes of their normal insane delivery, they drop into some really deep fucking chords. These suckers hurt man. An instant of silence, then softer guitars and some stellar drum rolling take over as Pui dumps his heart into the mic. From there Deiana takes over in one of the many bass solos, each and every one mind-blowing. Most people groan at the thought of a bass solo, he makes it not just acceptable, but a necessary ingredient to the overall sound. The rest of the musicians slide into his solo, taking on the schizophrenic pace to finish the song in a climactic moment of biblical proportions. I could go on and on, detailing every intricacy and turn of a hat they drop, but that would be an endless review. I will just highlight one more song, and leave the rest to the reader to discover on their own.
My personal favorite track, Mechdreamer, opens with a flurry of the bass and drums, rhythm unleashed into madness. Then they really take off as Pui really pours it on thick. They spend a minute or so in something resembling a really hard but relatively normal song, then they literally run into a wall of sound and go full psychedelic. The distortion effects are on high here, notes falling like rain on a distant planet. It’s soothing, almost bringing us to a point of relaxation, until in the background Pui’s voice starts crawling in, setting the stage for something truly special. The drums step out of the haze, a solid beat building in intensity, each element of the music adding on to it, almost challenging each other. It’s one of those rare times where a bunch of solos are coordinated into a complete sound, merging to a stunning finish. Damn man, nice work guys.
There is so much here to appreciate, from the individual performances, to the songwriting, to the solid production, and especially to the new ground that they so successfully tread. As to any thematic element to the album, come back to me in a year, it will take that long to fully digest. Exaggeration you say? Listen to the album, than get back to me. The only thing holding them back from perfection was my limitations as a listener, and I credit them with moving me forward in that as well.