Interview: Mnemic’s Guillaume Bideau talks about “Sons of the System”

The members of Denmark’s Mnemic are in the middle of a big year.

In January, the band released “Sons of the System,” a precise, punishing and shockingly melodic piece of staccato, mechanized Orwellian art, which is also the band’s first album in three years.

In addition to a summer of playing festivals in Europe, the band will travel behind the bamboo curtain for three shows in Beijing China in early May. Plans for a U.S. tour are also in the works.

Over the years, the band has garnered accolades from Meshuggah and Metallica’s Rob Trujillo. Vocalist Guillaume Bideau recently answered a few e-mail questions from Noise Pollution about the genesis of “Sons of the System,” the three year hiatus and the band’s dystopian worldview.

There was about a three-year gap between “Passenger” and “Sons of the System.” What was happening with the band in the time between albums? Was there a deliberate decision by the band to step back after “Passenger” and not try to rush a new album?

Guillaume Bideau: We’ve been touring so much for Passenger that we wanted to take a small break to record a new album. Of course 3 years is pretty much a lot but we had to take this time to be ready to give the best out of us once again.. We also had to grab back the musical inspiration because we were really dried out after so much intensive touring.. It took some times but we are today really proud of this new album so we think this break we took was a benefit for the integrity of the band.

This is your second album with the band. How do you and (guitarist and songwriter) Mircea (Eftemie) work together on lyrics and lyrical concepts?

GB: We never write lyrics together but when he submits me some lyrics I decide if I use / sing them or not. Then if I use them I do minor changes and that’s it. I try to fully respect the theme of the thing he tried to express. But it’s about our own vision of the world. The system…

Personally I describe the society as it is today through my eyes and own sensibility. But most of the times in a very subjective way. I like people to be able to suggest different visions of the lyrics I write. Mircea does pretty much the same in a less subjective way but this is more his vision of the future in 50 or 100 years for example. It’s about some revolt against a greater evil in a way.

Your vocal style calls for both harsh roars and soaring melodies. Is it difficult to perform such versatile songs live?

GB: Sometimes it’s not that easy of course, especially when you have more than 10 gigs in a row without a single day off. It happened and it was hard.

The life on the road is special. Both cool and stressful. But I like it this way. It not that easy to alternate clean vocals and screams but it’s my job so I try to do it as good as I can. Some days are better than others but I don’t complain.
You worked again with Tue Madsen. How does Tue influence the band’s sound? What does Tue bring to the process?

GB: Tue is pretty much the 6th member of the band. He’s been more or less with the band on every albums so he’s the one who knows Mnemic the best. Plus we wanted to experiment way more different things for Sons of the system. But he didn’t really influenced our sound. We explained to him what we wanted and then we shared opinions until we found a common sound direction – a sound direction where he and us would be 100% satisfied.

The choruses on “Sons of the System” are very melodic, which is quite a contrast to the brutality of the verses and music. Was that juxtaposition deliberate? What has been the reaction of fans?


GB: We tried to give this album a lot of relief and this contrast between aggressivity and melody was totally deliberate for me. Music is relief and music is all about emotion contrasting. I don’t really know what the fans think about it and personally I don’t really care. As long as I’m proud of our work it’s all that matters.

Is there a “concept” or theme for the album? It’s not a concept album in the traditional sense, but are there themes that tie the songs together?

GB: As you say, this album is not as conceptual as the previous albums could have been. We are different persons today and we write about more personal things. Personally I describe the society as it is today through my eyes and own sensibility. But most of the times in a very subjective way.

I like people to be able to suggest different visions of the lyrics I write. Mircea does pretty much the same in a less subjective way but this is more his vision of the future in 50 or 100 years for example. It’s about some revolt against a greater evil in a way.

What are the band’s touring plans for the coming year? Also, are you planning a U.S. tour?

GB: Yes, the U.S. is in our plans but we wait for a good band to tour with out there. We just came back from Russia and it was great times once again.. Then we’ll go to Spain, China and other cool countries. We really love playing our new songs live on stage so we hope to visit as many countries as possible once again to give the fans as much pleasure as we can!

For songs from Mnemic’s “Sons of the System” and other albums, visit the band’s MySpace page here.

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Rest In Peace, Peter Steele

I read the news today, oh boy …

I logged on to Metalsucks this morning and was immediately hit with truly terrible news. Peter Steele, the wry-but-gloomy bassist and frontman for the wonderful Type O Negative, had died Wednesday of heart failure. Steele was 48.

Damn, what can I say? I first started listening to Type O Negative when they released “October Rust”; I found a copy of the album at a Target store, of all the unlikely places, and bought it on a whim. I was hooked from “Love You To Death” and played that album constantly for months. Then, I went back and picked up “Bloody Kisses” and “The Origin of the Feces.”

I’ve been a fan ever since. “Bloody Kisses,” “October Rust” and the searing “World Coming Down” were some of the most stylish metal albums I’ve ever heard. I don’t mean “stylish” as in fashionable, because Type O was anything but fashionable in a trendy way. But listening to those songs, it was obvious Steele and the band had sweated over ever last note, tone, feedback wail and sound effect. Nothing was left to chance, and it took repeated listens to take in everything the songs had to offer. “Life Is Killing Me” wasn’t immediately as mesmerizing for me, but the disc has grown on me over time.

I’ve seen Type O three times in concert over the years (it should have been four, but I missed the “World Coming Down” show in Cinci because of a wedding, damnit) and they were excellent every time. The band was on even when Steele himself was reeling from illness, like at the end of the “Dead Again” tour in Louisville, when Steele played part of the show sitting down.

The loss seems especially tragic, because the band itself had risen from the dead in 2007 and released the best album of its career. After getting booted from Roadrunner Records, it seemed TON was finished. Instead, they came back with “Dead Again,” their most innovative and intelligent album. Steele seemed to have found himself with “Dead Again;” Steele had confronted his years of substance abuse and apparently had found some solace in Christianity (not that his faith blunted his dry, acerbic sense of humor). “Dead Again” contained a fire the band hadn’t displayed in years – and the live shows on the tour were great. One of my big hopes for 2010 was a new disc of TON music.

Instead, we have this – the premature death of a man who had his demons, but had a musical genius that was undeniable. It’s a terrible loss.

The three times I saw TON live, Steele ended each show by telling the crowd: “Without you, we’re nothing.” I don’t know what the metal world will be without Steele, but it’s certainly less now.

Goodbye Peter. We’ll miss you.

Essential Albums: Nine Inch Nails, “Year Zero”

Today is the first of several “essential album” reviews that might be controversial. Some of my picks might not seem to fit the normal metal mode, might not be considered “metal” enough by some – and one or two might not appear to fit the “metal” category at all. But I’ll argue that each is indeed metal, even if they tend to break the rules and throw conventions aside.

To kick this off, I couldn’t think of a better first choice than the most metal-non-metal I’ve heard in the last four years – Nine Inch Nail’s mesmerizing 2007 release, “Year Zero.”

NIN auteur Trent Reznor has always skirted the line between metal, industrial, alternative and pop. Often, Reznor mixes elements of all (with beats that seem occasionally inspired by hip-hop) into a genre-defying roar that can be violent and frightening at times and danceable a few minutes later.

Lyrically, Reznor’s music was often intensely personal, although he did begin venturing into politics on “Year Zero’s” immediate predecessor, “With Teeth.” But “Year Zero” went beyond the debates of its time and plunged fully into a dystopian nightmare of religious fanaticism, unending war, environmental collapse, mass disillusion (and, perhaps, mass hallucination) and world-ending apocalypse.

The very nature of the work probably turned off a lot of people. “Year Zero” is a political broadside against then President George W. Bush, whose policies post Sept 11, 2001 led the United States into two wars. The tax cuts of the Bush years and the administration’s rejection of the Kyoto climate treaty (which Bush had indicated he would sign when he was a candidate first running for president) are also addressed – although not as current events. Instead, Reznor sets “Year Zero” in 2020, postulating what the world would be like if the Bush policies were continued and the “Religious Right,” which was certainly a large part of Bush’s political base, became the dominant political force in American life.

“HYPERPOWER!” the brief intro, sets the tone for what’s to come. A military drum starts the march and a heavily fuzzed guitar layers on a wall of electronic-distortion noise. Voices (chants, screams) are interlaced with half-hidden gunshots, falling bombs, terrified shrieks and explosions. It’s a nasty, jarring 50 seconds.

“The Beginning of the End” opens with an almost undistorted guitar over a simple beat. “Down on your knees/you’ll be Left Behind,” Reznor’s speaker intones, later turning the supposedly Christian tenant of charity on its head with “You wait your turn, you’ll be last in line/Get out the way, cuz I’m getting mine … God helps the ones that can help themselves.” The song is one of compromised beliefs and ideals rejected for political expediency and comfort, but the speaker is not unaware that what has really been given away is both the planet and his soul: “We think we’ve come so far, on all our lies we depend/We see our consequence, this is the beginning of the end.” A “solo” of raw noise blasts through before the roar cuts out and the drums march to a close.

“Survivalism” is the sound of society coming apart in the face of environmental collapse. The earth is exhausted, the speaker knows it, but it’s too late for anything more than passing regret. “You see your world on fire/don’t try to act surprised,” the speaker says. Musically, the songs a head stomp of dark noise rumbles juxtaposed against a chanted chorus and a wall-of-sonic-hell riff that leads the song to the disintegration point.

“The Good Soldier” is a change in tone. While the first three tracks were unabashedly heavy, “The Good Soldier” is slower and less musically jarring. While not exactly a pop song, the track is content to groove, with a hip-hop beat, mildly distorted guitar and a vibraphone at the chorus. Lyrically, the song is about losing faith in all the things that once were thought important. “Blood hardens in the sand, cold metal in my hand,” the solider says, “… There’s nowhere left to hide, cuz God is on our side/I keep telling myself.”

“Vessel” is another lumbering march, with a “riff” of pure electro-noise and a chanted chorus. The layers of noise overwhelm the ears pretty quickly, fitting well with the predictions of collapse. “Me, I’m Not” is a creeping, insidious track, with the lyrics half-whispered at moments and a slow bump for a beat. Everything is lost and all that’s really left is false denial and regret; “I define myself by how well I hide,” the speaker says. “I feel it coming apart but at least I tried … If I could take it all back, some way, somehow/If I’d known back then what I know right now.”

“Capital G,” however, arrives with a very different point of view. The speaker is a supporter of both the endless American wars, the decisions that led the planet to ruin and the president who started the descent. “I pushed a button and elected him to office/He pushed a button and he dropped a bomb/You pushed a button and could watch it on the television/Those mother f*ckers didn’t last too long …” The compromise has been made (“traded in my god for this one, he signs his name with a capital G … I used to stand for something, forgot what that could be.”) and the only option available is to grab everything that’s left. Musically, “Capital G” is practically a dance track – it’s not hard to visualize oblivious frat boys and their dates – completely unaware of the lyrics – grinding on the club dance floor.

“My Violent Heart” is again another change in perspective – this time to the “have nots” dismissed by the speaker in “Capital G.” They’re threatening to explode and the music mimics the growing dissent, with an opening rumble swelling into a bellow for the chorus.

“The Warning” takes the story to another level, with a heavy bass line and a tale of either a mass hallucination or a revelation of things to come if people can’t (or won’t) change. “‘It said it was up to us, up to us to decide … ‘you will change your ways and you will make amends, or we’ll wipe this place clean/Your time is tick, tick, ticking away.”

“God Given” is Fox News Christianity taken to its logical extreme, where salvation is only for the “right” people. While “The Warning” contained heavy distorted guitar,” God Given” is again nearly a dance track. There’s a certainly black humor here, as Reznor blasts the self-important religiosity of the radical right: “How hard is it to see/Put your faith in me/I sure wouldn’t want to be/Praying to the wrong piece of wood.”

“Meet Your Master” takes the holier-than-though attitude of “God Given” and transfers it to the military and CIA torture chambers, where “terrorists” are all who don’t conform to the beliefs of the ruling class. The song is bass heavy during the verses with a chaotic chorus and a noise wave that threatens to wash away all in its wake. “Meet Your Master” bleeds immediately into “The Greater Good” a frighteningly minimalist chant about control – both physical control and mind control. It’s Orwellian and technodystopian – a nightmare set to computer noise.

“The Great Destroyer” is half-song, half wail of industrial rage. After the first two choruses, the song devolves into a blast of piercing noise, so shrill it’s hard to listen to all the way through. Fortunately, the “song” quickly gives way to “Another Version of the Truth,” a piano line played over an increasing groan of static until the fuzz subsides and a piano melody, filled with loss and nostalgia for all that’s gone, takes over. It’s a rare moment of beauty in the world of despair Reznor has created.

“In This Twilight” is the approach of the end. The world, with either a whimper of bang, is nearing its stopping place. There’s sadness to be sure, but also a moment of hope (perhaps irrational) that something better will follow when humanity physically ceases to exist.

The final track “Zero Sum” is the best of the disc. A slow, meandering song about the end, as the speaker holds tight to those around him, watching the darkness descend. “I guess I just wanted to tell you/As the light starts to fade/That you are the reason/I am not afraid/And I guess I wanted to mention/As the heavens will fall/We’ll be together soon if we be anything at all.” But the song is also one of loss – lost opportunities, misguided or greedy decisions and numerless failures to act, all of which  led to this moment. “Shame on us … God have mercy on our dirty little hearts.”

“Year Zero” is, musically at least, not “metal” through and through. The “metal” is often interlaced with songs that otherwise have a very unmetal feel (the guitar in “Capital G,” for example, or the obliterating noise of “The Great Destroyer” are very “metal,” I’d say). While not following any metal formula, “Year Zero” is heavy enough stylistically to qualify as metal, and lyrically and musically dense and challenging enough to be required listening.

Happy April Fool’s Day

I hope my readers, both of you, enjoyed my little April Fool’s joke. I don’t think “Tiffany,” “Amber” and “Travis T.” will be writing many more articles for Noise Pollution … but then again, you never know.

I have some things coming up in the near future, including an interview with the boys of Mnemic and a review of High on Fire’s “Snakes For The Divine.” I also have an essential album pick that more than a few readers might dislike.

Anyway, April Fool’s Day is over, so it’s time to kick the fictional nerds out and get back to business. Here we go.

Tiffany’s complete history of heavy metal

So, I totally got a book from the library yesterday about the history of metal called “Sound of the Beast: The Complete, Headbanging History of Heavy Metal” by a guy named Ian Christe.

Well, I only had to skim the book jacket to know Mr. Christe is totally wrong about everything concerning metal. So, in the interest of really educating the public, I present the trve history of heavy metal. Pastor Archie, the youth minister at my church, helped with the details as well. In your face, Ian Christe!

1970? – Tony Iommi cuts part of his fingers off, which really makes him mad. He vents his rage with weird riffs, thus inventing heavy metal. Pastor Archie says Jesus wept.

1970-78 – Black Sabbath, with lead vocalist Ozzie Osborn, releases several “heavy metal” albums. Ozzie actually coined the term “heavy metal” in the song, “Born To Be Wild,” when he sings, “I like smoking lighting, heavy metal Hummer!” Others try to take credit. Eventually, Ozzie’s habit of drug-consumption, combined with Satan’s influence, lead to him being kicked out of the band. He’s replaced by Ronny James Dio, who is short and scary.

1979 – The “New Wave of British Heavy Metal” begins, when The Knack releases “My Sharona,” which is like the first use of distortion on guitar. Another influential NWOBHM artist was Devo, who invented the power ballad. Oh yeah, other bands in the movement were Iron Maiden and Judas Priest, but Pastor Archie says they were both spawned by the Devil and will likely burn in Hell.

1982 – Motely Crew released “Shout At The Devil,” the first Christian Metal album of all time. What a great message! When the Devil tries to get you down, just shout at that Devil!

1983 – “Hair Metal” becomes a big deal, as dirty, sex-obsessed bands like Ratt, Poison and Hanoi Rocks get famous by shaking their spandex-covered butts on MTV (which stand for “Malefic Televised Viewing”). Pastor Archie says the entire city of Los Angeles will burn in Hell.

1983 – Metallica releases “Load,” which I’m told is the biggest metal album ever but Pastor Archie says is The Work Of The Devil. Rumor has it band members Larz Ulrik and James Hatfield sold their souls to the Devil and tried to back out later, which led to the death of bassist Cliff Button. Don’t mess with the Devil! It’s more dangerous than you know!

1984-88 – Hair metal bands tour extensively across the world, thanks to exposure from MTV. Shares of condom company stock shoot through the roof. Past Archie says condom makers will burn in Hell.

1990 – The Florida band, Groove Crotch, leaves the vocal recording for their debut album inside their van. The tapes warp in the hot sun, making the vocals sound all growly and distorted. In a desperate attempt to salvage the recording, the band changes its name to “Cannibal Corpse,” rewrites all the song titles to sound evil and sinister and claims that they meant the vocals to sound that bad. Surprisingly, the ploy works, making the band multi-gagillionaires and spawning countless imitators. The sound is called “death metal,” which Pastor Archie says is not very life-affirming.

1991 – Nirvana, a Seattle band, releases “Never Mind,” which is full of angry punk metal and warbling. Nirvana’s video for “Smells Like Teen Frustration” goes straight to the top on MTV. Suddenly, bands like Winger and Warrant can’t get a gig anymore, except at Denny’s playing the back room for wedding receptions. Pastor Archie says Winger and Warrant got what they deserved because they sold their souls to the Devil.

1994-1999 – Rappers and metallers create “New Metal,” which is pretty awesome, except that it’s not Christian. All of the singers are mad at their fathers – but if they’d just reach out to the Heavenly Father, He would make everything all right. Lincoln Park and Limp Biscuit are the best New Metal bands. 

1989-1994 – Crazy Norwegians sell their souls to the Devil and He rewards them by creating “Black Metal.” The power of the Devil, however, drives the Norwegians crazy – making them think they’re trolls and characters from Satanic novels like “The Lord of the Rings.” They kill each other off and the Heavenly Father sends them all to Hell.

2000 – “New Metal” gives way to “old metal” which is really just “death metal” or rehashed “NWOBHM.” It’s sad, really; why would anyone listen to Mega Death when they could bask in the joy-filled music of Nickel Back? I don’t get it …

2010 – Heavy Metal gets a new lease on life from Miley Cyrus, who publically wears shirts from bands like The Iron Maiden. Cyrus’ fashion statement, combined with her wholesome demeanor, makes heavy metal safe for the public at last. Pastor Archie says Miley surely won’t burn in Hell, so most people won’t either if they listen to metal … as long as they continue to repent and tithe every Sunday.

 The End.

Tiffany and Amber dish on who’s the Most Metal of them all

Tiffany: The world’s soo fully of poseurs who think they’re all “metal.”

Amber: Totally.

T: I’m mean, I was at the Hot Topic Saturday? And this guy in front of me in line is buying a Dark Funeral T-shirt and I was like, “oh please, get out. You have the stupidest haircut I’ve ever seen and your shoes couldn’t have cost more than $13. You Are So Not Metal.”

A: What’s worse are all these “bands” that act all metal or whatever when they obviously suck! Like, my brother’s always listening to that band from Switzerland, Opest? And all of their songs are soooo long! Like, more than four minutes! I’m like, “get to the emo chorus, already!” God! There are just So Many Poseurs!

T: But we know who’s true metal.

A: That’s right, yo. So now let’s show the world. Check this out, peeps:

T: Wow, Miley’s soo trve metal! She’s so metal, she doesn’t even care that her hat looks stupid.

A: She’s so metal, she even rocks to Iron Maiden, whose members are old enough to be her dad’s dad or something.

T: Too cool for school!

A: You said it, beotch!

T: Miley’s trve kvlt metal, for sure. She even did a song with that guy who sings in Poison. I only heard about 30 seconds of the song, but it was something about him wanting to give her a backstage pass and blossom her into a woman or whatev.

A: Ewww, gross. He’s like really old.

T: Over 30, to be sure. I’d say, “step back grampa! Keep that Viagra prescription to yourself, you dirty old man!”

But if you wanna see serious metal, check this out:

A: OMG! That’s the most metal I’ve ever seen.

T: For real. I don’t know who this old broad is, but I think she dated that little alien who made Steven Spielberg famous back in the 80s. E.T. or E.R. or something.

A: Oh, you can practically smell her from here. That’s trve metal.

T: But wait, yo. We’ve saved the best for last. Check out the metal cred on this one:

A: OMG! OMG! OMG!

T: OMG! OMG! OMG!

A: The beard stubble! The uncombed hair! The dazed look! It all screams “METAL!”

T: So true. Now all you poseurs out there know what metal really is.

A: Yeah! It has nothing to do with music.

T: Music?

Travis T’s Essential Album: Poison, “Look What The Cat Dragged In”

YO! What up? Travis T. here – that’s T as in “totally awesome Noise Pollution intern Travis!” Woot! Ain’t no party like a Travis party, cuz a Travis party don’t stop!

I got this job cuz I’m totally down with the metal. And to prove it, I’m gonna hit you up with the Greatest Metal Album of All Time, yo! Poison’s “Look What The Cat Dragged In!”

First off, just look at these hot babes on the cover!

I mean, woot! Man, that babe in the lower right (that’s the drummer, Rikki), is smokkin’, smokkin’! And lookit the hott mama at the top left – oooh, yea, that’s singer, Brett Michaels. I guess this album came out in 1986 or something? I wasn’t even born yet! I’ll bet all of these babes are probably like grandmas now. Yowza! Woot!

And these chicks can rock! I mean, check out the guitar riff on “Cry Tough!” Guitarist CC Deville is awesome, man! She’s totally sweep picking! I can’t sweep pick, and I’ve been playing guitar since I was 14 (I’m 16 now – ready to drive, Ma … although I hope she doesn’t read this, LOL). And those lyrics, WHOA! “You gotta Cry Tough, out on the streets, to make your dreams happen.” Or, “Sometimes a rainbow baby is better than a pot of gold.” I mean, gawd! That’s poetry. And CC must have made her fingers bleed on that guitar solo! Blazing! Woot!

I admit I’m a bit confused by “I Want Action.” From the lyrics, Brett Michaels is obviously singing about meeting girls. “Long legs and short skirts, these girls hit me where it hurts.” Uhhh, are the girls in Poison lesbians, or just playing a joke? Anyway, Rikki and bassist Bobbie Doll (ain’t she, though! Meow!) really rock, and CC SHREDS again. It’s totally awesome.

“I Won’t Forget You” is soooo moving! It’s all about missing a girl (or a man, if they were kidding on “I Want Action”). I can totally relate – I remember in 8th Grade when I was totally crushing on Becky Luundegaard and every time I had to go to P.E. and she went to biology I was sooo heart broken 😦  I won’t forget you, Becky! Even if you didn’t ask me to Santa Switch or Spring Fling or never responded to any of my e-mails or texts or notes I passed and even though you tore up all the pictures of me I pasted all over your locker! I know the only reason you took out that EPO is because your dad, mom and all the teachers at school told you to! Gawd, this song makes me cry!

But the album a rocker, not a weeper! “Talk Dirty To Me” has got this off-the-hook, phat riff and drumming that is exactly on time. Drummer Rikki knows how to beat her drums! This song’s all about the somthin’ somthin’, if you know what I mean. I’ll bet guys were lined up around the block at Poison shows! I wish I had a time machine! And oh gawd, that guitar solo at the end! CC can totally play a major scale!

All the other songs are great, too. “Play Dirty” is about how dangerous these Poison girls can be. They’ll cut ya with a blade, dude! “Want Some Need Some” is about … well, I don’t know, really. Want Some what? Anyway, “Look What The Cat Dragged In” is totally about partying and waking up late for school because you drank four Red Bulls during the all-night World Of Warcraft battle royale the night before. Whoa, been there, done that! I’m down, I can party and Warcraft with the best of them. Woot!

“Let Me Go To The Show” is total punk rock, with Rikki beating the H-E-L-L out of her drums while CC gets rifftastic and Brett sings her lungs out about stealing cars to go to the rock show. Man, I can’t wait until I’m 17, so I can go see great bands like Poison (if they’re not all in walkers and using artificial hips and whatnot).

Anyway, you GOTTA get “Look What The Cat Dragged In”! It’s awesome, so much better than the other crappy bands this site used to promote. Go out and buy two copies today! Woot Woot!