Originally written by Rae Amitay
There’s definitely a tried-and-true formula to melancholic metal, but Oklahoma’s Memory Driven manages to breathe new life into exhausted melodic concepts. Their last release, Relative Obscurity, was an impressive and emotional album that explored grunge, progressive, and doom territories without fully committing to a specific genre. The end result was a hybrid with fantastic sonic potential, and Memory Driven has delivered on this promise with Animus. Drawing from influences like Alice in Chains and Kyuss, there is a pure rock pulse throughout the entire record, and singer/guitarist Dennis Cornelius is a formidable force behind this.
The album opens with lovely and subdued guitar with minimal accompaniment before dirtying things up with sludgy riffs and rock-solid drumming on “Empty Gesture”. The production is particularly noteworthy, with a crystal clear drum sound and enviable guitar tone. “These Aren’t The Chords You’re Looking For” is a blistering instrumental with cascading waves of sound coupled with softer interludes. Cornelius’ vocals are in fine form, especially on “A Tempt”, and his voice is smooth and evocative with just enough grit to make the listener feel every word.
“Unveiled” is the album closer, and it simultaneously soothes and captivates with Middle Eastern percussion and a gentle vocal melody. This continues for about three minutes before soaring guitar kicks in, and drummer Tim Mansfield offers an incredibly tasteful backing groove. The track is masterful, as is the preceding material. Animus is a beautiful work that will appeal to devotees of doom as well as those testing the waters. Their unique approach to metal and refusal to sit idly in one particular categorization is downright inspiring, and Memory Driven has created something stunningly original, without using alienating and senseless compositional tactics.
The complete sound is progressive and brilliantly layered without being overly complex, and the atmosphere established on Relative Obscurity has evolved into something even more mature and sincere on this second full-length. This is doom done right, and I’d go so far as to call it one of this year’s must-have albums.