Posted by & filed under Featured Music, Music, Reviews.

[Spinefarm Records]

[October 19th, 2012]

01. All of My Angels
02. Laser Speed Force
03. Transgenic
04. Rise of a Digital Nation
05. Pieces
06. Cyber Warfare
07. Republic of Gamers
08. Battlecry
09. 99
10. Hero

For those not completely familiar with the geekier side of Metal (and it’s a pretty nerdy genre to begin with), here’s the crash course in Machinae Supremacy. MaSu, as many fans have affectionately taken to calling them, are a Swedish Power Metal band fused with Electronic influences. These electronic tinges are achieved by their implementation of a SID chip – the component responsible for the “8-Bit” sounds for the bygone Commodore 64. On top of this, Machinae Supremacy also infuse their music with hints of Alternative Rock and Metal, but more on that later.

Without meaning to dash the hopes of the virtuosic enthusiasts and those that crave complexity, Rise of a Digital Nation is a very easy album. Many of the songs on the record have a very radio-friendly quality to them – this is meant in a positive way, honestly. The tracks are of average length, the songs all stand easily by themselves and the entire album is absolutely riddled with melodies that can only be described as “catchy”. Melodies that wind their way inside your mind, build a nest and stay there long after the album is over. A likely contributor to this is the aforementioned Alt Metal and Electronic influences. Considering the largely Power Metal nature of the band, the majority of the tracks are permeated by these traces of Alt Rock, making the somewhat niche (and slightly overpowering) Electronic/Power Metal combo easier to swallow for those unversed in the peculiarities of the sub-genre crossover.

One gripe to be had with the album (and this might seem like a peculiar grievance) is how spectacular the previews were. The album’s titular track ‘Rise of a Digital Nation‘ and the song ‘Laser Speed Force‘ were both released as teasers for the album – ambassadors to walk amongst the fans and convince us of just how great this record was going to be. Unfortunately, they did their duty too efficiently. Both songs are undeniable anthems and pleasantly simple – therein lies their effectiveness. The simple structures, the moderately sparse lyrics and the uncomplicated vocal lines are all contributing factors to the power of these tracks, bolstered by the SID’s melodies cycling along in the background. However, these two songs are the absolute height of Rise of a Digital Nation, which seems like a considerable misstep in forethought. Samples are supposed to provide a teaser of what to expect, leaving an air of “the best is yet-to-come”. Rise of a Digital Nation simply blows its premature beans and spends the remaining fifty minutes meandering in the shadow of its own promotional material.

The prevalence of the SID chip seems particularly more pronounced in comparison to previous releases, making its inclusion seem more of a gimmick rather than a sparing ornament to add spice and variety to the otherwise traditional musicianship. Gimmicks, however, tend to sell. This gravitation towards bringing the “chiptune” style instrumentation into the limelight could easily be the edge Machinae Supremacy need to garner wider success.

Whilst the band largely manage to maintain the delicate balance between Metal and Alternative, some songs (e.g. “Pieces”) dive brazenly into the “Alt”, which can contribute to a slightly jarring atmosphere and a general inconsistency in the record’s overall feel. These wild deviations will undoubtedly make some of the Metal Purists feel as though they’re being unwillfully escorted outside of their comfort zone.

It might seem like Rise… is getting an unfair treatment here, but that’s really not the case – it’s simply a matter of duality. To drive this point home, I’ll address another relevant issue – Robert “Gaz” Stjärnström’s vocals veer from genuinely likeable and contributory to the song’s cohesion, to borderline irritating and immersion-breaking. There’s a quality – a certain “twang” – to his voice that succeeds in augmenting the catchy quality of some songs and detracting from the enjoyment of others. The whole album really evokes some conflicting thoughts – everything good about it seems to necessitate the bad parts, and vice versa.

All niggles and petty grievances aside, ‘Rise of a Digital Nation‘ is a solid, well-constructed album that’s worthy of your time, if only for a single listen. If you’re not a fan, odds are you’ll be relatively unoffended, move on and not feel as if it wasn’t a total waste of your time. However, if you happen to enjoy Machinae Supremacy’s particular brand of super-happy Video Game Metal, Rise of a Digital Nation will sit very comfortably amongst your collection.