What do you get when the length of time between a band’s demo and their first full-length debut is longer than the entire life of the guy writing about it? This review, that’s what. Next, what do you name your record when you release it sixteen years after we all drained our bathtubs because Y2K ended up not shutting down the municipal water supply? 220.127.116.11, if you’re kvlt Swedish band Mefisto. Now, what do you get when a band isn’t terribly good at playing death metal so they unconvincingly add prog-jazz to spice things up? Cynic’s Focus. Finally, what does Mefisto’s 18.104.22.168 get on the hallowed AMG rating scale? You’ll have to read on and see.
Apparently existing in another bizarre alternate universe besides Sweden, Mefisto sound like what would happen if Megadeth’s Dave Mustaine and Exodus’s Gary Holt decided to make the …And Justice for All/Rust in Peace equivalent such a union would produce, minus the Melanchollica balladry. Mustaine lost his voice, so because both guitarists clearly enjoyed Rigor Mortis they decided to hire Bruce Corbitt for the gig. In order to make things more groovy, bouncy, and kinetic, a whole lot of Pantera’s vintage chugging segments were also incorporated. With that, just like adding 1.4.9 to 22.214.171.124, we get 126.96.36.199.
Perhaps the best thing about 188.8.131.52 is just how nice of a snapshot it is of that time in history when American thrash bands decided to write longer songs, change the tempo more and step outside the box a bit. Naturally, “Deathrace” can’t help but open the record with a misleading acoustic intro that goes into a smattering of pummeling riffs made all the more catchy by a good vocal performance. The short and to the point “Act Dead” takes a nice detour through Germany with Destruction acting as its guide, and is energetic, catchy, and the token straightforward pummeling tune with zero embellishments. The Megadexodus riffing of “The Puzzle” is combined nicely with a nifty melodic Metallexodus solo section and a chugging Pantera chorus that’s almost annoyingly catchy.
With the goodness of an era generally comes the folly as well, and Mefisto is not immune from this. “Hate Consumes Me” uses the annoying Pantera device of speaking in an odd voice over a riff before going into a chorus filled with yelling (think “No Good – Attack the Radical”), and it meanders for a little over four minutes and fails to make a lasting impression. “Heads in the Sand” can’t figure out whether its chorus is supposed to be anthemic or melancholy and winds up sounding awkward and unsure of itself, surrounded by some of the most nonchalant material 184.108.40.206 has to offer. The problem is that the whole thing comes off as good regardless of how many flashes of greatness may lurk through the songs. The title track is a good example of this, as the ending solo is great and the chugging that precedes it is good and chunky, but the preceding parts sound like a combination of stuff Metallica rejected from “The Call of Cthulhu.”
220.127.116.11 is an okay record and probably worth hearing a few times. The production is pleasingly rough and not too polished, and everything can generally be heard at all times. The vocals sometimes sound a bit overpowering, but that’s neither here nor there really. Perhaps the biggest issue with Mefisto’s debut is that it’s a sorta good record that consistently recalls a moment in time where great and/or seminal records many of us love were being released. If this were released between 1989 and 1993, it would’ve had a limited run where all of the copies got sold, subsequently been buried by time and dust for years, discussed on forums sometimes, and then re-released with a bonus disc of the demos and a book full of interviews and rare photos. There would be fans, and some contrarian types might even claim it to be the best thing that came out in that time because relatively few people know about it.
I’m left feeling alright about 18.104.22.168, but truth be told the narrative of an old Swedish band finally getting around to releasing their first record after thirty years is by and large more interesting than the music that came of it. Divorced from the story, Mefisto have put out a record that’s pretty tolerable but sounds like an also-ran from somewhere between 1989 and 1993. Ultimately it’s fine, but we only have so much time to devote to music that hovers largely around the “okay” mark.