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Of light in the darkness. - 55%

Diamhea, March 8th, 2018

I hate to do this, as I've been a defender of Machinae Supremacy lately, but Redeemer is kind of a mess. Maybe it was more impressive back when it was released twelve (wow!) years ago, but it just feels like a sloppy precursor to the style that properly congealed on Overworld and was experimented with later. Yes, this album is in general heavier and more riff-driven than their later work, but that certainly doesn't make it any better by default. Furthermore, the keyboards and SID are not utilized nearly as much (or as effectively) as later instalments of Machinae Supremacy's discography, so the album has quite a lot stacked against it going in.

For one, looking at the fan-favourite "Elite," this has a lot of issues at first blush, as Stjärnström's whining, nasal drawl is only tolerable when he is hitting the right notes. Here he just sort of drones over the music, which in itself is rather rote, standard speedy In Flames melodeath worship, much like Blood Stain Child - another clear influence. There are moments, like on "Rogue World Asylum" which tease at the majesty the band would capture, but very little truly sticks. The mix is rather harsh and oppressive - certainly not the wisest choice for the style, but it does give Redeemer a sense of gravitas and impact it would otherwise lack.

Funny thing is, through all of this mediocrity comes on shining jewel: "Oki Kumas Adventure." This is one of my top five Machinae Supremacy tunes, as it just totally nails that exotic atmosphere, with extensive synth usage and one of the best refrains the band has written. The tune isn't structured in a typical manner either - certainly worth tracking down even if you aren't partial to their earlier, riffier material. Elsewhere, Redeemer really struggles. It just feels rather thrown together, which shouldn't be a surprise given the number of songs present here. Lots of faceless, lightweight wannabe-roiling melodic death posturing here, and Stjärnström can be extremely irritating at times.

I would say check out everything after this one first. A pervading sense of ennui bogs the entire experience, save for a few SID-driven moments ("Reanimator (March of the Undead III)" is decent). Some fans seem to love this one, though, so I think it should still be given a chance. However, Machinae Supremacy have stumbled mightily more than once, so they aren't an infallible unit. Their experimental style comes with risks, I suppose.

Machine is rebelling. - 99%

dabbidXI, June 26th, 2012

This album is absolutely masterful. Being their second serious album (after they released their debut, Deus Ex Machinae, the band made a soundtrack for the Jets ‘n Guns game), Machinae Supremacy have a bit of experience under their belt now, and damn, do they use it here. Every song on this album combines dark, insightful lyrics with incredibly proficient instrumentation which creates a beautiful darkness not found on other Machinae Supremacy albums. Being one of the very first albums I really got into, it also holds a dear place in my heart and a large influence on what I listen to now. Too bad there aren't more bands that can pull off what MaSu does.

But enough on this album as a collective whole. I could talk about its greatness for days. Let’s get into the music itself.

First, the vocals. As always, Robert Stjärnström (Gaz) never fails to deliver powerful, emotional vocals with a hint of mysteriousness and uniqueness that almost transcends the music itself, that is if the music itself wasn’t already amazing. But more on the music later. The harmonizing also helps bring out his voice and add to the power of the vocals. Despite hitting maybe one or two sour notes on the entire album (Through the Looking Glass's “Another nightmare in my mind”, for example, sounds really nasally and weird), he performs fantastically, always matching the atmosphere the music creates. The vocals really shine on tracks like Rise, where he varies from his typical vocal sound halfway through the song for a bit, and especially Fury on the last line ("And now! Descend from above"), which sounds absolutely divine and is a fantastic way to close the song. Gaz also puts incredible emotion into the lyrics of Hate. You can feel the anger, hurt, and maybe even slight insanity pouring from every note in this song. Some other honorable mentions are I Know the Reaper, Rogue World Asylum, and Reanimator.

Before I get into the instrumentals, I want to talk about the lyrics briefly. The lyrics on this album are fairly dark for the most part. This album’s lyrics are typical of MaSu: they talk about society (Rise), conformity (Ghost, Elite), and they even throw in a short epic tale (Oki Kuma’s Adventure). As always, they are crafted incredibly, with lyrics that flow beautifully and blend with the music that really brings it all together. Some songs on the album even incorporate Japanese lyrics (Kaori Stomp, Oki Kuma’s Adventure, Reanimator), but I’ll talk about the Japanese influence later. A few stick-out tracks are Rogue World Asylum, Through the Looking Glass, Hate, and Reanimator.

The guitar work is also fantastic here. Like the vocals (and all the other instruments), it all blends together perfectly to create a balance between incredible power and emotion. At times, the guitars are used only in hints to accent the music and takes a backseat to the SID on Oki Kuma’s Adventure or even the drums in parts of Through the Looking Glass and Elite, and at other times it becomes the centerpiece, leading the music, which is found on tracks like Oki Kuma’s Adventure and Kaori Stomp (Which is only found on the Underground Edition, and is one of the highlights of the album). This makes for lots of variation within the album, yet the songs still sound focused and continuous, which is one of the things that make this album as fantastic as it is. Despite all this, there is one moment where I feel the guitar sounds “rushed”, which is the intro to Elite. For some reason, the first few seconds of Elite sound off-place, but a drum roll fixes this and lets the track flourish. Some places the guitar really sticks out are on Kaori Stomp, Rogue World Asylum, I Know the Reaper, Ronin, Seventeen, and Elite (an acoustic guitar is used in the background during the first verse and it really does a whole lot despite being quiet and minimal), but hell, the guitar work is great over the entire album.

The bass doesn’t really stick out much on this album, but where it does, it’s used very well. It can be heard especially on Through the Looking Glass, where it keeps up with the quick-paced drums fantastically and just sounds really fucking cool. It’s also prominent in the slower parts of Elite and compliments the acoustic guitar perfectly. It even becomes the center of attention on one part of Elite “Did you doubt us from what came before? / Were you not a believer? / Here and now all your doubts are no more / ‘Cause this is redeemer”, where the bass not only keeps up but is one of the most powerful aspects of the track. The bass is also fantastic on Rogue World Asylum, and the last couple seconds of Hate has a really awesome bass line.

Now onto the SID. The SID is one of the defining features of MaSu, as it is not commonly used in music, especially metal. Basically they use a SidStation that features the SID chip of the Commodore 64. It’s what makes all the blippity-bloop sounds you find on here. But they are more than just blippity-bloops. Unlike on their first album where they just used it because it sounds really fucking cool, it becomes almost a necessity on this album, being as important as any other aspect of the music. The SID helps significantly on songs like Fury, where it is part of the intro and is used to give the song more depth and give it a more completed sound. Without the SID, Fury would sound like a very empty song. It’s also important on Reanimator, helping to build up emotion and add to the atmosphere until it’s all unbottled at the line “Sleep and fade away / Inside these walls we wait / To change takes more than to remain / Therefore we lay back in the comfort of our chains”. It wouldn’t be the same without the SID. It’s also used a lot on tracks like Ronin, Oki Kuma’s Adventure, and Seventeen.

Now, onto the drums. Tomas Nilsén (Tom) does a hell of a lot of work on this album. The drums are incredibly prominent everywhere on this album, but prominent enough to let the other instruments shine. Whether it’s leading the track with quick-paced intensity (Elite, Through the Looking Glass, Seventeen, Empire) or slowly plodding along with the rest of the music (Reanimator), Tom can make the drums accent and complement the music regardless of the tempo. Some places the drums stick out are on Elite, Through the Looking Glass, Rogue World Asylum, Kaori Stomp, Seventeen, and Empire.

There is obvious Japanese influence throughout the album. The band themselves even say that they’re influenced by Japanese culture. While some songs include short parts where a guest vocalist (I can’t quite remember her name or what she’s in, but she’s awesome) like on Oki Kuma’s Adventure and Reanimator, my favorite example is in Kaori Stomp, where Gaz combines English and Japanese lyrics, which ends up sounding great “You’ve got the style, ikasu / Ore wa obote iru / When you are here, to hoka no / Hitotachi ga mienaku natteshimau”. Definitely check this out. There is also some influence on Oki Kuma’s Adventure with the add-in of some Japanese-sounding wind instruments. The SID even has a “Japanese” sound to it at one point.

Of all the minor complaints I have about this album (what keeps it from being 100%), the two pauses in the music is probably the largest. This review has been sticking to the Underground Edition of Redeemer, which includes four tracks the Retail edition doesn’t: Kaori Stomp, The Cavern of Lost Time, Prelude to Empire, and Empire. The Cavern of Lost Time and Prelude to Empire are both short tracks (0:34 and 1:37, respectively). The Cavern of Lost Time is all atmosphere, with some light sounding pads and whatnot. Placed in almost the very center of the album, it offers a short break before exploding back into momentum with Rogue World Asylum after being thrashed by the quick Seventeen. While it adds a nice break, it doesn’t seem like it ties into the music any or adds to it, and is just there as a short break in the music. Prelude to Empire uses short samples from several older songs by MaSu, some even from their debut (Insidious, Flagcarrier) and a couple of other songs released for free on their website. While a break is also needed before Empire, after about a minute it seems like it drags on, and it could have been shorter.

Since I’ve been talking about the Underground Edition, it would not be fair to omit the one song that is not on the Underground Edition, but the Retail Edition: Ghost (Beneath the Surface). This is probably one of the darkest tracks on the album, besides Reanimator, with a somewhat quick intro that slows down for a while into a very slow, atmospheric, almost dream-like sound. The track then explodes in a fury of incredible guitar work, eventually fading back into the slower, dream-like theme, and back and forth between incredible power and slow, dark, dream-like music. Truly a powerful song.

By far one of their best albums, if not one of the best albums I’ve ever heard. 99/100 because there are some parts that sound a little weird, but don't hinder the music as a whole at all. I would recommend this album to anyone who likes rock, metal, or can appreciate deep, meaningful music.

Some stick out tracks (all of them are fantastic): Elite, Kaori Stomp, I Know the Reaper, Rogue World Asylum, Through the Looking Glass (ESPECIALLY this one!), Oki Kuma’s Adventure, Reanimator, Ghost

Elite! - 91%

Deviante, June 24th, 2011

Technically speaking, this album - Redeemer - is the number three album for the out-of-ordinary power metal band, Machinae Supremacy, yet I still consider it a 2nd debut of sorts for them (if that even makes any sense). Sure, Deus Ex Machinae was a proper debut album and a decent one at that as well, but to me, it still sounded fairly directionless for the most part. Not only that, but it was also relatively underdeveloped and the overall feel wasn't really all too, well, metallic... After their debut, Machinae went on and made a game soundtrack, called Jets 'n' Guns. While it technically still is an instrumental full length album, it really does feel more like the soundtrack that it is. Fastforward another two years and Machinae unleash Redeemer; their first album to establish their signature style properly (vocally, as well), upon which they would later on build their sound further.

Right, so now that I got that off my chest, I can begin analyzing the content itself more in-detail. As stated before: this is the first Machinae Supremacy album that feels like a focused metal album to me. While Machinae had some riffy and cool tracks (Bouff, for instance) before this release - even on their first webography releases - not to mention the Jets 'n' Guns -soundtrack; it's still this album that really saw them starting to operate as a full-fledged band in the sense that describes them as of 2011 as well. Gone are the songs with pop-punk/rockish vibes and the overall sense of amateurishness (which wasn't all that bad). Gone is the "gimmick" value; the SID-chip (essentially, retro-gaming synth sounds) isn't there just because it's cool, but the band decided to fully marry it with their songs instead. I do not mean that in the way that the SID-sounds would be there all the time; quite the opposite. Indeed, it is in here that they just sort of started treating the SID as a nice little spice that enhances their songs and is fitting of the atmosphere.

In other words, it's this album on which Machinae started to rule a lot. Deus Ex Machinae was vocally very flaccid and the riffing wasn't consistent. Jets 'n' Guns had lots of cool riffs and leads, but the songs weren't really fully developed for most parts - ignoring the fact they were instrumental to begin with. That is to say, the songs merely revolved around the game (as expected) however they happened to see them fit, thus resulting in the songs being merely fun to listen to. Which is not to say that that is a bad thing - quite the opposite - but here the package finally seemed developed enough. The music is partly emotionally engaging, partly just fun, catchy "niche" power metal music.

Therein lies the brilliance of this album: it has lots of excellent groovy yet melodic riffs and clear hooks, while still being rich in atmosphere in the way that you discover more on repeated spins. Rhythmically, it remains quite tight, even though the drumming is quite rock-ish in essence: this has to do with how Machinae write their songs in the way that there are instances wherein the guitars get dropped as the verses begin, having the songs rely on the vocals and dominating basslines - only to have the guitars come back later on into the verse with riffs of various kinds - galloping, harmonized, groovy and so forth. It creates suspense and allows for more intense build-ups even before the choruses have hit you.

While one could make a claim about the aforementioned style making the songs sound less layered, I assure that that is not the case, not in the bad sense of the word at least; it's mostly the slower end mid-tempo numbers that make use of this style of writing. I am not trying to deny the pop-sensibilities at hand, but the music is catchy in the same way as some traditional metal is; catchy riffs and melodies galore, not to forget big choruses. The good thing is, the appeal lasts. And boy does it last. These guys have a real talent for writing memorable riffs and melodies. The music is not exactly simple while quite linear, because it's cleverly written; but one can not deny the ear candy-ness within, albeit it's different to what you'd expect from your power metal, usually.

What makes the album stand out as a masterpiece, however, is how profound the album is, despite its apparent balancedness and linearity in terms of primary hooks. The songs do revolve around mostly linear structures and it is also a fact that the choruses are greatly emphasized; so what exactly makes Machinae any different? The transitions within the songs, is what. There are lots of tempo changes, mood changes and time signature changes within the songs - whilst the songs always retain a nice sense of continuity.

The band just got it right here; the pumping basslines and the nasal yet fitting vocals meet the ahh-so-nostalgic SID-sounds right when they should, while the riffing is prominent just when it should be. The interplay at hand is simply wonderful: nothing ever drowns anything out; the guitars focus on the rhythm at the right time, the melodies are driven by the vocals at the right times, the emphasis is put on the keyboards (SID) when it fits, the guitars deliver stunning leads and melodies at the right time etc.! It's a very colourful listening experience.

In addition to these less obvious things, what sets Machinae apart from the others is - of course - their use of the SID-chip. I personally think that the raving about the SID gets pretty old. Don't get me wrong, I really love it how Machinae utilize it, but to me it's comparable to a band having a keyboard player providing additional layers to the sound, with the difference that getting used to the at-times-random-seeming beeps can be challenging if one doesn't have a gaming background (late 80s, early-mid 90s!). But really, even though people can think of it as a gimmick to use these kind of retro-sounds; it works well with the power/heavy metallic compositions. I wouldn't compare this to Iron Maiden's Somewhere in Time on any level, but if you think of it - the guitar synths of Somewhere in Time were about as experimental for their time as these kind of retro-sounds slapped on top of heavy metal songs is.

Then there are the vocals. A lot of people that I know like Machinae for their instrumental side, but can't get into the band due to the vocals. I can understand this; Gazz is one of the most nasal vocalists that I have ever heard (at least up to this point). To be honest, the vocals were a turn-off for me at first as well, but the more you listen to them, the more you realize that they just fucking work in this context and that - surprisingly - the enunciation is quite interesting, having Gazz provide the songs with cool vocal hooks often times. The degree of "whiny-ness" varies, but the vocals are never off-key nor do they lack attitude; saving them from the plausible nu-metal-esque whining -pitfall. It's kind of like getting into something new yet again. Remember how it took you a while to enjoy growling? Remember how King Diamond's falsettos might have sounded a bit silly at first? And the list goes on. It's like that in here as well - Gazz is no Mike Patton, but it is probably the closest comparison I can come up with without resorting to namedropping bad musicians!

So yeah, this music is awesome. You have some very Maiden-influenced stuff in the melodies and the leads, while the music is still pretty punchy, the riffwork focusing on rhythm for the most part still, not to forget harmonization. The SID gives the songs a fresh (or rather, dated!) breath, and the songs range from tight and headbangable to more atmospheric and middle-paced slabs. If you like heavy and power metal in general - and if the idea of SID-sounds doesn't turn you off; chances are you might appreciate Redeemer, given you give it a chance to grow on you. It's both, accessible and quite demanding, mainly vocally. It's got some of that rockish vibe to it, mainly due to the drumming - but the riffwork is simply metal. This is simply uplifting and self-confidence-boosting music; the appeal of the melodies, riffs and the songs themselves just last.

It should also be pointed out that two versions of this album exist: the Underground version (band's own product), and the Retail version (Spinefarm release). The Underground version has Fury, Kaori Stomp, Prelude to the Empire and Empire to it - all of which excellent songs, while the Retail version has Ghost (Beneath the Surface). I own both of these albums, and in my opinion, the song selection on the Underground version is slightly better (especially because the UG version has Empire, which is a 7-minute epic, based on the Jets 'n' Guns track, Machinaeguns!), but the production is kind of flat and hollow as well on the UG version. For this reason, I usually listen to the Retail version, having transferred the non-Retail tracks onto the same playlist.

Either way, I encourage anyone into power and heavy metal who doesn't mind experimenting to check out this album. It's not as good as the albums that Machinae would put out afterwards while still a galloping, adventurous, catchy masterpiece in its own right. Elite is a power metal monster with lots of headbangable riffs and cool transitions, while Through the Looking Glass might be the best modern heavy metal song of the 21st century; simply breathtaking in how it is layered whilst remaining incredibly catchy and adventurous. Then you have the all-over-the-place song, Rise, with bouncy riffs, lots of guitar interplay, choppy verses and an incredible chorus, not to forget the absolutely fist-pump-inducing Hate with its basslines and blazing riffs and solos. Oki Kuma's Adventure is an atmospheric song where the SID is emphasized (especially on the Retail version!) greatly, making it a very epic listen.

Machinae Supremacy are not the most riffy metal band, nor are they fastest by any margin. The instrumental catchiness might be overshadowed by the weird vocals and the SID-sounds, but if you look beneath the surface - this album is incredible in how layered it is. You can hear SOME Megadeth-esque speed/thrash influence on the guitars, for instance, listening to the short and impulsive solos and some riffs here and there, not to mention some mild progressive traits when it comes to the melodic structuring and so on. It just simply surprises me how full the sound of Machinae Supremacy is, despite the recipe being simple, with potential gimmick value to boot. This album is not perfect - Machinae would get closer to perfection later on, relying less on simpler riff repetition (which of course works, here though) and layering their sound further, but for what it is, Redeemer couldn't be any better. I could go on and on, but instead of me doing so, I recommend you get this album (or any of their later work) now!

Different, but surpirsingly good! - 89%

MorLadim, July 21st, 2007

Machinae Supremacy are known for their use and the SID chip. While their previous album, Jets 'n' Guns, Machinae Supremacy used the SID primarily in each song. However, on Redeemer, Machinae Supremacy have advanced their music a bit more. The SID chip noise takes more fo a backing role to the traditional instruments. The affect? An awesomely upbeat, different sound.

Also different from the previous albums, Redeemer features some vocal work. At first, I almost immediatly dismissed the vocals are crap. However, after listening for a bit, I relized how well they suit the music (Despite the high notes being a bit strange occasionally), and actually became a positive part of the album.

The guitar work is competent, and often quite good. Each song has a fairly memorable riff, and are well backed up by the SID chip. If I had one complaint about the instruments on this album, it would be the drumming, which often sounds fairly "rockish". This doesn't really detract from the album, but it is noticable.

There are several standout songs. "I know the Reaper" is bloody fantastic, despite having the fairly rockish drumming. An awesome chorus, and good lyrics top it off. Other highlights include "Oki Kuma's Adventure" and "Kaori Stomp".

All in all, Redeemer is an excellent album, that is very easy to get into.