Memory of a Dream
2/22/2008 - Review by: Etiam
Even at the extremes, its mood remains even-keeled and ultimately flat
Memory of a Dream
Company: Go-Kart Records
Transmission 0 was yet another young group seeking success in atmospheric metal with post-rock influences in the vein of Isis, Cult of Luna, et al. After this record was released they disbanded, which seems to have been a good decision, since most fans will agree that this sub-genre has reached critical mass, and critics seem to be approaching these bands nowadays with the same resignment once reserved for metalcore. Whether it's called sludge, soundscaping, or post-metal, though, this genre does have some life and credibility to it yet, so once more into the fray we go.
'Memory of a Dream' starts off on the right foot, wasting no time on ambient intros and heading quickly into a staggered, rumbling rhythm. Much like its oceanic art themes, 'Memory of a Dream' is an expansive, weighty affair that quickly wraps its audience up in atmosphere as heavy as seaborne air. Alas, its momentum quickly flags when it becomes apparent that the type of riffing heard at the outset will persist throughout the album with few respites. So much for idealism and a fair shake. To succeed in this genre, a band must find the careful balance between hypnotizing drone and dramatic dynamics; Transmission 0, however well-intentioned, can't maintain that equilibrium here, and after struggling with themselves for a time come wind up on the side of drudgery.
Aside from the music itself, the Cult of Luna comparison is furthered by Transmission 0's vocals, which are alternately burly shouts and quiet, amateur croons. The guitar-work is also similar at times, heavily favoring straight 8th note strumming and blocky chord progressions. At other times, it is more reminiscent of heavy rockers Tool, particularly with respect to the intertwined guitars and bass, and how they lurch along in semi-technical patterns that loop seamlessly (and arbitrarily, it sometimes seems).
Certainly, though, some songs do succeed in their own right. If nothing else, 'Memory of a Dream' is a fully realized album, and aside from the clean vocals is very soundly performed and produced. Portions of 'Paracas' are effective, particularly its introductory riff and eventual climax, as is the consistent 'Fragments', both of which deftly employ striking sonic textures and harmonic tension more thoroughly than other, rather monotonous tracks.
And in this case, the term 'monotony' takes on more than a figurative meaning, and is the unfortunate final impression of 'Memory of a Dream'. Even at the extremes--bleary melodic subtexts or pounding drums and crashing waves of distortion--Transmission 0's mood remains even-keeled and ultimately flat. Like the story with a predetermined end, whose protagonist is assured survival, 'Memory of a Dream' fails to stir our emotions or surprise us along the way, since its end was telegraphed from the first minute of play.