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“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.