There are as many ways to suck as there are to rock. There are bands like Akoma and Starkill that make watered down, lowest common denominator crap. There are can’t-be-arsed bands like Green Bastard that sound uninterested in their own music. And there are the inept enthusiasts, of which newcomers Dusius might be the patron saint. This band clearly love what they do, but most of it is truly, genuinely bad. And let me tell you, reviewing a band like this is like kicking a puppy for being bad at chess, so it’s with a heavy heart that I strap on my steel-toed boots and line up for the shot.
Dusius sail the same waters as Eluveitie and Ensiferum, so expect folk-laden melodic death metal with a mixture of screeching, growling and some sort of clean singing. The harsh vocals are not too shabby, although they sound consistently out of breath, especially the black metal shriek. The full-bodied growl leers with one eye at Amon Amarth and is one of the strongest aspects of the album. The trouble begins whenever the clean vocals come in and hit the right notes the way a blind quadriplegic hits a piñata. The tone is supposed to be grand and epic but instead, it sounds more like a drunk larper playing a bard.
This is exacerbated by the worst language skills I’ve heard on record so far. I can forgive some clumsy phrasing, but here it gets creative with ways to spoil the music. For starters, even Gloryhammer couldn’t come up with lyrics so poorly written and lethally cheesy1, and they did it on purpose. Furthermore, the lingual problem completely destroys the meter of most sentences, which causes the the vocals to awkwardly hobble beside the music instead of riding it. “Having sentences that fit the music” doesn’t come up in most reviews because, usually, that would be the equivalent of advertising oxygen as good for your health. And as if all that is not enough, the band uses spoken word as well, even devoting an entire song to it (“Dead End Cave”), which is so toe-curlingly cringe-worthy I now have ingrown toenails in my heel.
In a just and balanced universe, this would be offset by amazing songwriting. On the bright side, bonus points for enthusiasm and variety, both of which the band possesses in spades. In fact, a lot of the music sounds downright manic. The album jerks from one riff to the next, rarely lingering for long, and you may hear four different vocal styles in 20 seconds time. Most of the riffs are grade level, but the sheer quantity sometimes hits a solid tune, like the high-speed slugfest that is “Dear Elle.” Special commendations go out to the drummer, who is easily the most talented band member, with fast and precise drumming that sounds like it belongs in a better band.
However, the universe is not just, it is a cruel, empty and endless void where hope and balance have no meaning. The folk instrumentation ranges from unnecessary to embarrassing and ruins even the tunes that are otherwise agreeable. I’d try to focus on the guitar-work or vocals, but like medieval hecklers, a combination of bagpipes, flutes and a hurdy-gurdy take turns constantly besieging the music. All of them sound off-key and the arrangements are even more basic than the guitars. It’s at least half the nails in the coffin, and boy there’s a lot of nails to be found.
The production is not much better. The mastering is loud, which is not surprising. The mix is only not surprising in the context of an amateurish piece of ADHD-suffering folk metal because it’s less consistent than Nicolas Cage’s acting career. The instruments constantly crowd each other for attention. The folk arrangements go from front to back to front without any rhyme or reason, sometimes blaring in your ear and sometimes so quiet it makes you wonder whether it was left in by mistake. The latter is actually an option considering “Coldsong” starts by replaying the last second of the previous song, like the engineer cut the album in all the time it took to heat a Hot Pocket.
All these doubtful ingredients come together into the funniest album I’ve heard since Weird Al Yankovic’s Mandatory Fun. I chuckled at the random drunken “lalalalala” in “Desecrate,” I almost fell off my bike laughing when “The Betrayal” went from promising riff to off-key singing and shitty flutes at the drop of a hat, and I positively guffawed at “Coldsong” when a choir of layered growls thundered “I’m very tired/REALLY TIRED!” Memory of a Man is a terrible album, and I wholeheartedly recommend it whenever you feel sad or inadequate. It will solve either in a hitch.