Artist: I AM
Album: Memento Mori – EP
Too often, we as a race take our lives for granted–we get so busy living that we forget to truly cherish what it means to live. For a species so afraid of death, rarely do we really reflect on the nature of our mortality and the vain nature of earthly living. We hustle and bustle to and fro without giving a second thought (or any thought, for that matter) to our impact on the world and the universe.
For that, we are certain to pay.
As a consequence for our indignation, the cosmic forces have responded with Texan Titans I AM. This destructive combination of death metal and beatdown hardcore from Dallas Fort Worth are here to extract revenge for ever instance of ignorance existence we as a species have polluted this world with–and they do it carefully constructed cruelty in the form of their sophomore EP, Memento Mori. Elegantly named, yet evil to the core, Memento Mori is a murderously heavy lesson in bare-knuckle beatdown with a deathcore twist. Punishing slams, scathing riffs and visceral vocals make this quartet among the most lethal of not just the Texan heavy music scene–but the heavy music scene on a global scale.
I AM simply don’t know the definition of the word ambient, nor do they acknowledge the listener’s pleas for rest or reprieve–as Memento Mori is relentless and raunchy from beginning to end, a juggernaut hellbent on pulverizing the listener from the first second of its title track. At the heart of I AM’s gruesome Goliath is percussionist Ian Scott. Scott pounds and pummels away at the listener with enormous looming tom patterns and slices at the listener’s eardrums with splashy, crisp cymbals. From the very first explosive smack of the kick drum in “Memento Mori,” Scott beats with the candor of a Clydesdale’s heart, oscillating from hyper-speed blast beats to portions of jaw-busting beatdown. “Mama” sees Scott at his most dynamic, leading the charge with the track’s frenzied opening portion, but relegating himself to a structural role in the track’s background as guitarist Ryan Knobel and bassist Austin Loughmiller take center stage. Loughmiller is a constant source of saucy, lurid bass grooves that coat Scott’s sinister percussion with a thick layer of filth. The closing breakdown to “7154” is especially evident of this, as Loughmiller’s low plunking and Scott’s meaty kick drum seem to be the only things anchoring Knobel’s roaming, dissonant guitar to the track. Often, Knobel switches from portions of dissonant, open-note atmosphere to tediously technical riffs at the drop of a hat–as in the introduction to “Mama,” where a miniature solo quickly drops into a bass-heavy beatdown that will leave the listener’s head spinning and jaw broken. Even during the most sudden transitions, I AM’s instrumentalists keep everything incredibly tight and marvelously fluid, meaning that even if the listener is knocked unconscious, they are still being dragged along for the ride.
Despite the incredible dynamism of Memento Mori‘s marvelous musicianship, the listener will still find themselves completely enamored with I AM’s diverse vocal element. Frontman Andrew Hileman is a true force to be reckoned with, as he aligns himself with Storm Strope of The Last Ten Seconds of Life as one of the genre’s most unique and engaging vocalists. During “My Temple,” Hileman is simply perfect, hitting every pitch and tone imaginable, dropping from a screeching scream to a ghastly growl without skipping a syllable. “My Temple” also sees Hileman backing away from harsh screams and shouts to unleash a nuanced nu-metallic yell upon the listener. However, it would be folly for the listener to mistake the stand-out track that is “My Temple” as a freak occurrence of Hileman’s excellence–his performance here is archetypical of his prowess throughout the entirety of Memento Mori, as he is truly a rising star in the hierarchy of heavy music vocalists, with a unique style and voracious appetite that is certain to crown him king sooner rather than later.
Memento Mori is a masterpiece, plain and simple. Imagine someone put The Last Ten Seconds of Life in a blender, added extra aggression, a hint of barbaric aggression a la Bodysnatcher or Beacons, drizzled some of Dealey Plaza’s technicality atop it all, and mixed it at high speed. Heat it with a liberal, even application of hellfire and serve–then maybe you would have something approaching I AM’s acrid intensity. A backbone of bold, classic death metal with a meaty musculature of disastrous Deathcore and punchy hardcore, Memento Mori doesn’t go down smoothly: it infects like a poison, taking over the listener’s mind with no intention of relinquishing it. “Mama” is a testament to the band’s trashy tendencies, while “My Temple” and “7154” both are evidence of the band’s proclivity for sucker-punch beatdown. In a time where truly unique styles of heaviness are a veritable rarity, the listener owe it to themselves to give I AM a try.
The listener will suffer–for every instance of blind arrogance and belligerent selfishness–and they will do so at the hands of I AM. Memento Mori is a magnificent testament not just to mankind’s ignorance, but also to marvelous, heavy music across the country and around the world. All of this serving to make I AM a household name in the homes of heavy music fanatics to boot.
For Fans Of: Dealey Plaza, The Last Ten Seconds of Life, 2X4, Oceano, Misanthropy, Drowning
By: Connor Welsh