Tired of being unable to contribute creatively to the “band,” Justin Stewart Cotta and Steve Clark gave up a comfortable life as supporting musicians and left Jon Crosby’s Vast to form Memento. Along the way, we’re told, they recruited two other Australian dudes so prolific they needed only a first name (“Lats” and “Space”), hooked up with a famous producer and mixer team (Toby Wright and Brendan O’Brien) and put out a debut album for Columbia.
The result of this journey, Beginnings, kicks off with “Nothing Sacred,” a fairly standard issue contemporary metal affair. It’s an incredibly solid track and a killer first radio single for the band, but it’s also a song that casual listeners will likely immediately dismiss as a Disturbed or Tool knockoff. After rocking out with what’s sure to be the band’s contribution to this decade’s one hit wonders list, things get twisted up a little. “Saviour” and “Beginnings” tone the metal down a little in favor of a softer, more introspective sound, and simultaneously turn the spiritualism knob to overload with heaping spoonfuls of Christian imagery.
The album continues to segue back and forth between these two sounds: the hard stuff is largely uninspired and simplistic but ultimately pretty listenable; the softer material, on the other hand, might be a little difficult to swallow if you caught the band during their stint on Ozzfest. The only tracks, other than their single, that really leave much of an impression are the piano-based “Reflections” and the album closers “Stare” and “Figure 8.” These latter songs succeed where the rest of the album falls flat. “Figure 8,” in particular, does a great job of marrying the two sides of Memento’s sound, winding them into something that feels both tremendously epic and sincere.
Despite its failings, Beginnings is a decent melodic rock album that will win over fans of Disturbed, Earshot and Saliva, as long as they’re not too irritated by the religious rhetoric. For me though, the midsection of the album weighs it down too much. Songs like “Abyss” and “Coming” are as predictable as they are artificial, complete with angry clich•d lyrics (albeit with a quasi-wholesome religious spin) and droning nu-metal repetitiveness. I give Memento credit for trying, and for having the ambition to break away from their established studio musician history to give birth to their own creative brainchild, but only the last few tracks reveal anything the least bit unique about it. Hopefully, as the child they’ve birthed here matures, its adolescence will prove to be somewhat more interesting than its beginnings.