Creativity is the hellish gift of conjuring dreams into reality. It’s a battle with demons, but luckily we survive in reasonable condition… most of the time. Most creative types are well aware of this feeling: the divine inspiration is here today and gone tomorrow, leaving us with only a few intangible traces of something spectacular that’s hard to turn into anything real – but it’s enough to induce hunger and determination to embark on that biggest wild goose chase known to man, to catch the Moby Dick, to hunt down the whitest of white elephants, just to get to feel that distinct sense of proud relief stealing over us after a job well done. While the act of creation may be more akin to the agonies of labor, the outcome is most likely a just cause for a bit of carnival. This pretty much sums up my first impression of the new MEMOIRA album, “Carnival of Creation,” due out on September 25th, 2020, via Inverse Records.
This album marks the end of a 4-year hiatus for the band, thus charging the title with connotations such as the above. Ever since the band’s formation in 2001 under the name SERENE, they have gone through a number of line-up changes and label hassles. On account of these disruptions, I guess it’s safe to say that life has required its fair share of ingenuity and novel workarounds to reach the stage where they are now: all dolled-up and ready to claim lineage to the pantheon of symphonic metal greats. While the new album is not exactly a revolutionary take on the genre’s conventions, it delivers to the specs rather beautifully. Why fix it, if it isn’t broken?
In addition to the previously released singles, ”Dawn of Time” and ”Queen Element,” the recent release of two more video singles, ”Carnival of Creation” and ”Shooting Star,” have served as welcome auguries heralding the release of an album full of all-new material. With two albums in the back catalog – the eponymous debut released in 2009 and “Memories, Tragedies, Masquerades” in 2012 – MEMOIRA has become known for its delicious blend of Gothic melancholy, power-riffs, and symphonic atmosphere adorned with beautiful elfin vocals. By turns exploring the cinematic spheres of NIGHTWISH and the symphonic power of bands such as WITHIN TEMPTATION, DELAIN, and SIRENIA, there is also a certain ring of pop sensibility to MEMOIRAa. As the band members are all seasoned metal veterans from bands such as DARK TONE COMPANY, RANDY RECKLESS, BLOWTORCH, CONCRETE WORDS ANOMALY, and RORSCHACH, it is no wonder that the execution and songcraft are flawless. In a perfect world, this should be enough to pave the way for a hefty amount of radio play. The chorus in ”Shooting Star,” for example, could be from any BON JOVI blockbuster hit from the era when the band still sounded good, before the unfortunate falling into the trap of AOR. The band comments on the title track, ”Carnival of Creation,” that it feels like one of the most epic songs they’ve ever written – and I’m not disposed to argue here.
In accordance with the tenets of the genre, “Carnival of Creation” is abound with fantasy imagery, ethereal synth textures, robust guitar riffs paired with frantic double bass drum rolls, and celestial piano melodies, atop which the elfin siren, Annika Jalkanen, sings her heart out. The single cut, ”Dawn of Time,” opens the album with upbeat power-riffage that’s layered with atmospheric synths and the follow-up track bearing the album’s title is a nod towards the cinematic spheres of NIGHTWISH and DARK SARAH. It’s all pretty tradition-savvy, but there seems to be a certain kind of alchemy involved here too. Finnish metal outfits of the symphonic kind, such as MEMOIRA, seem to hold the key to the mysteries of adjusting haunting clusters of notes together with ease. Maybe they’re just following the melancholic dictates of their true Slavic nature. The emotional pendulum swings from the inward spiral of desire in ”Hunter’s Moon” to the sting of departure in ”Shooting Star” and the plaintive ruminations about the corroding effects of time in ”Dark Passenger.” The album follows the conventions of symphonic metal pretty meticulously, all down to the mandatory piano-driven ballad, ”Snowglobe.”
It’s highly unlikely that the stereotypical adrenaline junkie, for whom the non-stop onslaught of cheap crossover gimmicks is the musical stimulant of choice, will find “Carnival of Creation” pleasing in the slightest. Foulmouthed AD/HD music lovers might even become suspicious about the album title being true to its intrinsic meaning. Can playing it safe count as being creative? I think, yes. MEMOIRA is a band with an excellent sense of melody and their new album is filled with a good bunch of metal rhapsodies manifesting this virtue. In a way, “Carnival of Creation” echoes the melody-driven metal aesthetics of the 1990s, making it old-fashioned, sort of… if you can say that about a genre that’s barely closing in on its 30th anniversary. Then again, a good album never gets old. The last 2 minutes on the closing track, “Crimson Bride Symphony,” are easily among some of the most haunting musical seconds I’ve been exposed to recently – it should speak loud enough for the album.
Written by Jani Lehtinen
- Dawn of Time
- Carnival of Creation
- Queen Element
- Hunter’s Moon
- Dark Passenger
- Shooting Star
- Crimson Bride Symphony
Annika Jalkanen – vocals
Jani Puusa – guitars
Hannu Lindholm – guitars
Lassi Nuolivaara – synths
Niko Laaksonen – bass
Matti Virtanen – drums
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