Wolverine – Machina Viva

So I’m actually going to do a first for this review. Until now, I have never given a progressive metal album that didn’t have any other genre attached to it (such as folk metal, death metal, etc.) an 8 or higher. I’ve often bagged on about “oh man,  if only get to like generic prog, I really want to like this but I’m retarded and don’t have the capacity to enjoy simple things” etc. Well fear not jaded prog fans that view my site for some reason, hope as arrived. Wolverine just made me a believer with their new album Machina Viva, a depressing and soulful look journey that made me self discover what I really want from progressive metal.

And it started when I came to the realization that I loved this and they weren’t doing anything super weird. I know, I’ve said both that prog needs to push boundaries, and that there’s nothing wrong with being generic. I feel like both are true in certain situations, but to be honest I don’t give a shit about hypocrisy, whatever helps me make my point at the time is fine. If I said something contradictory to that earlier, then well, oops I guess, things change. For my argument that being generic is fine, I’ve often stipulated that bands still need to add something for me to latch onto. I can’t just hear wanky alt/power metal for 50 minutes and be impressed. Wolverine passes this with flying colors. There is a distinct depressive atmosphere to this album that remains consistent throughout the entire work, and one I don’t remember experiencing on any other album I’ve listened to. Prog is generally a happy genre, filled with wannabe goofballs that think wacky chugs are the way to go for experimental music. There is nothing wacky or chug reliant on Machina Viva. The whole record is not necessarily immersed in any riffs or particular melodies (though they aren’t too shabby on the melody department either, the main melody to Nemesis in unf worthy), but a direct focus on providing a calm and introspective atmosphere.

There is this unique melancholy to this album that you just don’t experience often in metal, outside of maybe depressive black metal. Though to be fair, this is barely metal. I would’ve reviewed it anyway, but this is maybe 15-20% metal, and the rest prog rock and electronic. Which fuck, I HAVE to talk about the electronic synths here.

One of the reasons the whole feel of the album is consistently mellow is how subtle the synths are. They add this ethereal, alien-like aspect to the music, that contrasts so well with the extremely human sound of the guitars. It’s hard to explain, but it’s like there’s this slight impersonal tone that in an abstract way further cements the feeling of isolation and loneliness that I get from this record. You know how they say depression is a warm blanket? That’s kind of how I feel here. The guitars and vocals are the depression, the synths are the blanket. There’s this warm sadness throughout the whole album that actually made it quite difficult for me to review until multiple listens (which is tough on time, this is over an hour long). I love how sometimes I even mistake the synths for other instruments, like horns or saxophones. I say that if the synths are good enough to make me think they’re using french horns, it’s a job well done.

I do want to touch briefly on some faults however. I can’t really pick a favorite track on this album, partially because they’re all so spectacular, but also because the album is very monotone in it’s flavor. It delivers melancholy, and ONLY melancholy. There needed to be more tracks like Shed, which put a different, even somewhat happier spin on the established canon of the record. Pile of Ash kind of does this, but I see that as more the generic acoustic guitar track that I guess is mandatory in prog albums. I don’t like how that track and Nemesis just end with no conclusion. Like they just stop, there’s some silence, then they move on to the next track. Takes me out of the album for a bit, it’s jarring. Also there’s the issue of Machina just being too quiet, not as a dynimc, but just from a production perspective. The studio should’ve turned the volume up slightly, that’s all. I would’ve liked a bit more oomph in the production, I feel like no matter how good your music is, if you can’t physically feel the music at all, it can only do so much. I’ve recently bagged on bands for being too noisy in their production, but I feel like there’s a difference between not being able to hear the instrumentals, and just not feeling the music in your gut at all. You need that little love tap to make the emotional punches really count.

I think if maybe one of the tracks would’ve been replaced with something a bit more diverse in nature this would’ve been a 9 easily. Machina feels a bit weak that doesn’t have the impact the run of tracks from Our Last Goodbye to Nemesis does. It’s weird, because Machina does try to be a bit more experimental with the electronics, but it isn’t experimental enough to justify it’s place on the album, and doesn’t have some of the tension building that Wolverine does so well on this record. Before I end I do have to speak about that, because this is important as fuck. I really am impressed by the fact that these guys were able to create meaningful buildup and climax without anything feeling like a forced crescendo. Everything feels like a natural evolution of the song, rather than trying to just pile on layers of noise until it breaks upon itself. That’s a mark of top notch composition skill, well done.

Other than that, there’s not much more to say. Color me very impressed, this is prog AOTY so far and I expect that to stay the same unless something drastic happens. Just goes to show you what a bit of care and subtlety can do to turn a record from pretty good to spectacular.


8.75/10

Jute Gyte – Perdurance

So regardless of what numerical rating I give this record, I will say this: Perdurance has some of the coolest fucking guitar tones I’ve ever heard. I mean listen to that shit at around the 1 minute mark of Like the Woddcutter Sawing His Hands. Holy shit, that’s fucking surreal. I wouldn’t even know how you could go about creating that. Then again, I don’t think I have the imagination to create this album period. Rarely are there metal albums that I listen to and don’t think “yeah if I played guitar I could do that”. I mean maybe extremely technical and vituosic albums sure, but assuming my guitar skills were shared with the artists, the large majority of the albums I listen to is shit I could do in that scenario. This album isn’t one of those, and that deserves some respect.

Aside from just the guitar tone, the entire premise of this album is wicked fucking awesome, like genre porn that you never knew you wanted. Black metal has always prided itself in sinister riffs and tones, so a logical next step to that would be to create black metal using tones that one wouldn’t normally hear in a metal album, or any album for that matter. I’ll admit, I don’t have exactly the biggest experience with microtonal music, but I instantly thought of Penderecki when I heard this, and any time there is even an implication of Penderecki and black metal, I’m going to be a happy man.

But it’s not just microtones that they throw at you. Along with the haunting, whispering buzzing tonalities, you get these crunching, mechanical guitars that sound like they don’t belong on the album. Not that that’s a problem, I’m more than happy to accommodate more weird shit if it sounds good. These guitars are used to produced these heavy, groovy riffs that at times sound like they come from a stoner doom record of all things. Groove is a surprisingly large element of Perdurance. This isn’t all just art student wankery, there are some serious riffs going on here, to a point where it almost detracts from the more artistic elements of the album. Almost.

However, as much as I loved this record, I feel like there simply aren’t enough ideas for it to justify its length. Once you’ve heard the first track, you’ve essentially heard the entire album. I Am in Athens and Pericles Is Young is just about the best closer one could hope for, with more diversity than any other track on the album. But until then, the songs are often quite formulaic, with breaks to introduce “new” ideas, however those ideas never coming outside of the formula itself. There’s almost always that mechanical guitar riffing, followed by microtonal whining, back to guitar riffing. The variation comes during moments outside the riffing, however I feel like I have to wait for the riffs to be done before I ever get anything really new, and the riffs make up the large majority of the album. I Am in Athens has some softer sections that sound almost uplifting in a way, and other aspects that keep me interested during the entire track, rather than simply waiting for the good shit to pop up. I feel like an EP of tracks 3,4, and 6 would be fantastic, and get exactly as much information to the listener, while being a lot easier to listen to, and less time consuming.

Is this album a gimmick album, absolutely. A great, and very unique gimmick, but a gimmick none the less. That’s not necessarily a bad thing however. I absolutely adore the concept, and complaints aside, had a wonderful experience with this album. Perdurance represents what I love about black metal. No matter how much black metal you listen to, there’s always something new to hear, and always new ideas being created. It’s ripe with experimentation as well as tradition, often blending both in the same record (though not so much here). But an album based on essentially two ideas does not need to be an hour long. It’s not a major complaint, but it prevents this from being a top 10 album this year, which I feel like it had every right to be.


8/10

Fallujah – Dreamless

In a twist of irony, Dreamless goes about to create a dream-like state, with spacey riffs, and electronic tracks, and makes an album whose entire premise has been done before, and done better. Fallujah has gone much more into the djent category, to the point where I would almost say this is more djent than tech death. Rarely do the guitars have that monstrous growl you find in death metal, mostly residing on a clean, gutteral, mechanical burps you find in djent. While there is plenty of technicality, I feel like any melodic composition is thrown out the window in favor of atmosphere, and by atmosphere I mean ambient chugging. It doesn’t feel like a tech death album, or at the very least, feels like a tech death album that went through the entire Nuclear Blastify process, instead of showing any kind of resistance. Any time you have that many guest artists for the vocals on a death metal album, you know something is not right. Dreamless feels like manufactured product, made specifically to be sold to the masses.

And that wouldn’t be so bad if the ideas on the album were at least somewhat coherent. Tracks like Adrenaline sound like the band picked what fucking ideas they thought of in the shower, and threw any that sounded good in the track, without thinking on whether it made a coherent song. And to be fair, in the most superficial level possible, it definitely “sounds good”. This is one of those albums that doesn’t really have a defining lovable aspect to it, or any reason for me to heavily praise it, but I’m sure if I listened to this as just background music for uh, idunno, whatever the fuck people who listened to the Black Dahlia Murder one time and then posted on facebook about how they’re ordering the satanic bible from amazon prime do for fun, I would probably very much enjoy it.

Dreamless lacks any sort of depth or replay value that’s required for a great album, but for a commercial product I can’t really fault it for having it’s, well, faults. It’s a pretty nice album. It’s the epitome of a band selling the fuck out, and basically represents a lot of what is wrong with commercial technical death metal. But it’s nice enough.


6/10

Haken – Affinity

Very rarely do I listen to an album more than twice when reviewing it. This is almost entirely due to the fact that I’m massively stubborn, and very rarely does my opinion of an album change after first listen. I can count on one hand the number of times it’s changed drastically (three). Affinity is an exception, however not quite to the point of me being able to say I loved my listening experience. Initially I was bored by the generic chord changes, cheesy atmosphere, and the overall sound of a dime a dozen prog album. I gave it a 3/10 and moved on. A month later however, here I am, giving it over double the score I would’ve given it at the time of initial review. Have I changed? Not really. I got a bit of an appreciation for “generic” chord progressions, but other than that I’ve mostly stayed the same. The one thing that has changed is that I didn’t go into it desperately wanting to hate it. Any album that is labeled a generic prog metal/rock is almost always an instant dislike for me, and considering Haken has been a poster boy for generic, over the top, and cheesy modern prog, I went into the album wanting to hate it, and that’s what I got. On second chance however, I have come to appreciate it for what it is, while still maintaining that it has some serious flaws.

The two biggest elements that have been added to Haken’s repertoire are heavy djent and electronic influences, though RateYourMusic apparently disagrees, because prog fanboys are retarded. While on the surface those aspects seem like not only typical sellout tropes for prog bands, but also should be a massive annoyance on the listener. And to a degree that’s right. On The Architect these elements are combined into an extremely long opus that’s full of variety, but none of it enjoyable or even remotely worth making a track that long for. I very much actually enjoyed tracks like 1985 and Earthrise, despite their over the top and corny as all fuck faux 80s aesthetic (hence the faux retro cover). And the djenty, off rhythmic aspects of The Endless Knot actually makes for a killer track to bob your head to. Hell, generally speaking I actually enjoyed most of the fake aesthetic and djent aspects of this album. Sans the weird brostep like drop on Endless Knot (which actually prevented it from being the best track on the album), even the electronic aspects were handled with some appropriate restraint. But The Architect just takes all of what Haken was doing right, dressed it up in a clown suite, strapped to a gigantic Garfield balloon, and sent it off in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade with a sign attached reading “kill me”.

However overall, while I still can’t really recommend this as something I really like, I can see why people like it, and if anything present a precedent for me not to automatically shit on any modern prog that doesn’t reinvent the wheel. Because just because you didn’t change the shape of music, doesn’t mean you didn’t release an acceptable album, even if that’s the supposed purpose of your genre.


6.75/10