[29th July 2013]
01. The Fallen
06. Eyes Pt.1
07. Eyes Pt.2
The definition of ‘progressive metal’ has quite significantly broadened in the last couple of years. Now, the term can be used to describe newer bands like TesseracT, The Ocean or Sleepers Awake as readily as the likes of Dream Theater and the other wizards of twiddly to which it has traditionally referred.
Maschine‘s debut album Rubidium certainly contains a nod or two in the direction of the neo-progressive bands, but it is clear right from the swirling arpeggios that introduce album opener “The Fallen” that traditional prog is closer to their hearts.
At the centre of Maschine is guitar prodigy Luke Machin, who has already built up a fairly impressive list of credentials and, along with bassist Daniel Mash, has spent the last few years as part of The Tangent‘s line-up – but with the dissolution of that band last year, they have been free to concentrate on Maschine.
You don’t have to look much further than the tracklist to see how firmly the band the band have nailed their colours to the prog mast. With the six main tracks on the album, including a two-parter, only one is less than eight minutes long and three of them sail past the ten minute mark.
From a purely technical perspective, Luke’s guitar work is clearly exemplary. It’s certainly not hard to see why his talents as a lead guitarist have been in demand. However, it soon becomes uncomfortably clear that other aspects of the album fall some distance short of these high standards.
Unfortunately, a number of the issues manifest themselves most clearly in that opening track, with two presenting themselves immediately after the fairly impressive introduction. The riff which follows feels awkward and clunky, which is underscored by some unimaginative and very thin sounding drumming.
I can’t tell if the drums have been programmed or recorded, but they sound as though they’ve been tracked in a vacuum. They have virtually no presence at all, and little imagination. This second point is a particular shame, as some deft stick-work could have papered over some of the more awkward joins in the riffs.
The general flatness of the drums is less of an issue on the quieter songs, especially “Cubixstro”, which shows off the Daniel’s bass-playing talents, with his slinky grooves and Amos Williams-style interjections of slap and pop – but he does then blot his copy book with the addition of an almost completely superfluous bass solo as a coda to “Invincible”.
The vocal pairing of Luke and keyboard player Georgia Lewis also lacks confidence and character. Whilst they hit all the notes, there doesn’t seem to be much passion evident. The release in general has a tone which is serious to the point of clinical.
By and large, Rubidium is meandering almost to the point of being directionless. Luke’s prowess as a lead guitarist is not yet matched by his songwriting abilities. Maybe this will come in time – but, for now, there’s not much of interest here for anyone other than die-hard proggers and avid fretboard-watchers.