without Internet Explorer,
in 1280 x 960 resolution
I stumbled across One Machine searching for music similar to that of Seattle's legendary Nevermore. Thirsting for more of the Americans' patented versatile mix of progressive groove and thrash, I was assured One Machine was the answer to my prayers. And yes, One Machine's music resembles in many ways that of Nevermore, but do they plat in the same league as their Seattle based genre fellows? No, not even by a long shot. “The Distortion of Lies and the Overdriven Truth” is in fact inferior to every single Nevermore release by miles.
Starting with the main problem – the vocals. No one can deny that Mikkel Sandanger is a competent singer, but after this release one can also conclude that he simply does not know his limits. It amazes me how One Machine's skilled line-up has failed to notice that much of Sandanger's vocal endeavors on these tunes are far from up to par with what one can expect from a band at this level. On the album, Sandanger uses a variate of vocal styles, most of which he simply can't handle. The harsh grunting semi-growls are ridiculously forced and truly uneasy to listen to, the high pitch falsetto vocals are even worse as their squeaky sourness distorts everything in their way, and don't get me started on the horrible modernistic nu metal rapping thing Sandanger's got going on. Horrible! The clean vocals, which we know and love from Sandanger's Mercenary years, are, however, absolutely awesome at times. Especially in choruses, like on “Crossed Over” and “One Machine”, which pops beautifully with solidly produced layered clean vocals. Apart from the choruses, the clean vocals are sadly not that good, as they for the most part sounds forced, nasal and borderline whiny. I'm guessing this vocal debacle is either due to the fact that Sandanger has troubles adjusting his voice to the complex music that's accompanying him or that he simply placed the bar too high this time and took a long fall. Or both, since the former would explain why he shines in straight forward simplistic and melodic choruses, but fails in the more versatile parts, and the latter would explain why he totally wrecks even the simple songs, like the horrific ballad, “Last Stars Alights”.
Apart from the vocals, One Machine shows a lot of promise as the music itself is intriguing in its complexity. Especially the guitars is inspiring with galloping rhythmic riffing and dexterous lead and solo work. There's also some solid drumming on the album with Brazilian, Raphael Saini, showing that he handles everything from blasting grinds in “Evict the Enemy” to pompous lush beats in named, still horrific, “Last Stars Alights”. The songwriting comes of as extremely pretentious though as it seems the main goal is to sound progressive and experimental rather than creating good music. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy bands exploring new progressive ways of expression which challenges the common song structures as much as the next guy, but not just for the sake of it. One Machine, in this sense, is like a hang-around doing so much to fit in with the cool kids it's obvious it's just for show. Take, for example, “Kill the Hope Inside” which contains every trick in the progressive metalist's handbook – Pace, beat and rhythm are fluid, the guitars thugs, sweeps and space it up with wicked overtunes and extremely technical lead play, the vocals vary from high to low and from soft to harsh and the drumming is insanely versatile. Listen to everything separately and it's genius, with the vocals as a big exception, but put them all together and you get a musical vomit.
“The Distortion of Lies and the Overdriven Truth” is pretentious and flawed, but would have been a decent album with decent vocals. Luckily, Mikkel Sandanger has been replaced since the recording of the album and I hope new vocalist, Chris Hawkins, will be able to deliver something better. With better vocals I'm hoping everything else will fall to place as well. Thus, I choose to regard this album as an iffy debut which is with no doubt extremely inadequate but which also leaves me intrigued. With some adjustments One Machine might be a force to be reckoned with in the future.
“Experimentation” is a quite controversial term, especially in the metal crowd. There always will be an eternal diatribe between the “purist” crowd, obsessed with staying stuck to heavy metal’s original roots, and the “progressivist” crowd, more open-minded towards experiments, new subgenres and tending to ignore the so-called “true metal canons”. Personally, I’m totally in favor of experiments when they give good results (the 90s are a good example of it). But what happens when a band decides to “mix things” just for the sake of it, without a precise musical idea in mind? Maybe, staying stuck to the roots would’ve been a better choice.
One Machine is a recent progressive metal supergroup; the debut “The Distortion of Lies and the Overdriven Truth” came out this year, supported by a strong promotion. I’m not a huge fan of this kind of things, but when I saw that Steve Smyth, a guitarist who played with Vicious Rumors, Forbidden, Testament and Nevermore, was featured in this project, I decided to check the album out.
“The Distortion of Lies and the Overdriven Truth” (a quite overlong title, huh?) is another proof that, when a band decides to make something “experimental” without a precise focus, we can’t expect great things. I don’t know well the musicians involved in this album, but from what I understood, they’re all pretty well known in the modern metal scene. Now, the idea of a “supergroup” between musicians with different musical backgrounds sounds already pretty forced to me. The fact that this attempt at “experimentation” sounds even more forced isn’t a big surprise.
One Machine makes a sort of weird mix between elements of thrash metal, power/prog metal and, yeah, even groove/nu metal. Surely, it’s pretty ambitious, but unfortunately the band doesn’t live up to the expectations. The music lacks consistence and cohesion, and shows some very notable flaws. First of all, the vocals: I never had the (mis)chance to discover Mikkel Sandager before, but I have a question for all his fans: does he always sing like this? If so, HOW THE FUCK can you stand it? His vocals are irritating and, very often, he sounds like a homosexual being violently anally raped. I’m sorry, I’m not the kind of guy who makes this kind of statements (“haha fucking gay” and shit like that), but this time I wasn’t able to resist. If I make this kind of comparisons, it means that those vocals are REALLY that bad.
Sometimes, during the refrains, Sandager changes his approach and turns into a stereotyped parody of James LaBrie, and in fact most refrains are very reminiscent of Dream Theater. Sometimes they sound decent (“Kill the Hope Inside”, “Armchair Warriors”, “Into Nothing”), but everything sounds pretty much like a fucking mess of “DT-style prog” cliches if you ask me. But the worst is on “Evict the Enemy”, a sort of weird fusion between prog metal, extreme metal and... rap metal? Yup, rap metal. Sandager tries to “rap”, but he sounds like a fucking strangulated hen. I can hear right now the guys of Biohazard and Rage Against the Machine making the biggest facepalm of their existence. This stuff makes Fred Durst sound like a serious rapper, in comparison.
Instrumentally... this isn’t offensive music. It’s just pretty mediocre and often quite disjointed, trying too hard to sound “experimental”. Still talking about “Evict the Enemy”... I said right now that it’s a weird fusion between rap metal, prog metal and extreme metal, and let’s see how the various elements are blended: after the horrible rap metal verses I discussed before, a fast simil-death metal riff comes in, but over it, you hear a disjointed melodic “dreamtheateresque” chorus. Does it sound “experimental” or “weird” in an interesting sense? I think not. The rest of the songs are mostly composed of power/thrash and groove/nu riffs, all blended together, but most of this stuff is totally anonymous and emotionless. It’s just your typical 2014’s “prog” metal, cold and withered, that tries just to imitate Dream Theater and Nevermore, obviously in vain.
And, guess what... like every fake prog album on Earth, we have to fill the songs of useless displays of technicality, because the average metal fan is impressed by solos even if they’re nothing but free wankery. However, you will find some fine solos on the title track, “Armchair Warriors”, “One Machine” and “Freedom and Pain”. Sometimes, forced technicality is even used to connect different parts of the songs (like on “Crossed Over”) with embarrassing results, and very often the pretentiousness of these musicians ruin even the good ideas. There’s an interesting riff on “One Machine”, but some useless alterations that try to sound “prog” just butcher it, adding nothing relevant. The only song where everything is good is the ballad “Last Star Alights”. Wow, a metal album where the ballad is the best track, not a great thing. Well, this is actually a very good and touching ballad, and at the end of the track, there is a beautiful solo that blows you away. Why do some musicians care about “giving emotions” just when they write ballads and don’t give a shit about the rest? There was clearly some potential, but they chose to waste it.
I wonder why a lot of famous or “semi-famous” figures of the metal scene often decide to start supergroups and side-projects if they have nothing special to offer. Do you have something to demonstrate to anyone? I don’t think so. Especially a guitarist like Steve Smyth, who played with a great prog band like Nevermore and also with awesome heavy/thrash bands like Vicious Rumors, Forbidden and Testament... it’s already a good career, isn’t it? Why are you spitting on your career producing uninspired, senseless and pretentious pseudo-prog music? But the biggest and most important question is: does someone really need an album like “The Distortion of Lies and the Overdriven Truth”? Posterity will judge.