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Spoil Engine, originally described as 'New Wave of Belgian Heavy Metal' in response to the New Wave of American Heavy Metal. This never really meant a lot, except for a marketing gimmick. On Skinnerbox v.07 they pretty much sounded like a mix of Machine Head, Trivium and even some Pantera. I said sounded - past tense yes - because on 2009's Antimatter, the follow-up to their 2007's debut, they shifted style drastically. Yes, it was Spoil Engine, but the raw power got traded for a more clean sound with more groove and hooks, as well musically as vocally. It needed some getting used to (especially the so called 'intelligent' lyrics), but it turned out to be quite alright. Yet, I was hoping that on their next release they'd manage to combine the heavy rawness of Skinnerbox v.07 with the groove and melody of Antimatter.
Now, 3 years and a line-up change later, they're back. The album's title - The Art Of Imperfection - sounds ironic to me, because that pretty much described the raw sound of the debut and not what they displayed on Antimatter. Was this a promise that they'd return to that rawness? The cover artwork follows the concept of this title. It has a Panamarenko piece of art on it, which perfectly fits this concept of imperfection.
And exactly, the first song show this imperfection and is highly reminiscent to what they did on the first album. Later on the album though it is clear that they fused the styles of both Skinnerbox as Antimatter to a better whole and by god, I love it!
There's massive riffs, fast and brutal, but there's also a lot of breathing space. With one of the original guitarists gone, as well as the drummer, the songwriting could have taken a whole different direction and in a certain way it did, but it still sounds like Spoil Engine.
Niek Tournois always surprised with his dynamic voice, but yet again shines with variety. Also, his lyrics hold a lot more meaning than they did on Antimatter. Kudos on his part. People always compared Niek's vocals to those of Corey Taylor (yes, the vocalist from Slipknot and Stone Sour) and on this album this is more true than ever. Not only his voice, but the vocal lines are heavily inspired by Corey's singing style. I would love to see Niek doing his own thing on the next album, because - great as the singer really is - it takes away a lot of the originality.
I couldn't just close this review without describing some of the greatest moments of the album. First of all, there's album opener The Absurdist, which starts of with an intro, before bursting into a full speed riff. Later on in this song, there's a chorus, but - to me - it somehow sounds as if it's supposed to be a lot more catchy than it turns out to be.
Nerve Cell is another interesting song. There's a videoclip for this one, out there for you to check it out. It's a fast song too. By Numbers on the other hand is a whole lot softer and shows the Spoil Engine we know from Antimatter. Later on, Thalidomade shatters with a brutal almost-breakdown riff.
And so on and so on ... The album is chock-full of great songs and whether you were a fan of Skinnerbox, Antimatter or both: you'll like this one. Never heard of this band before, then don't hesitate and give them a spin or check them out live.