Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Maschine - Rubidium

Inside Out Music/Century Media Records/E.M.I. Music Australia

Initially forming and touring under the name of Concrete Lake a few years ago before changing their name to Maschine, this relatively new U.K. based progressive rock outfit have attracted quite a bit of attention in their short time together. The interest in the group lies behind the fact that two of the band’s members - vocalist/guitarist Luke Machin and bassist/backing vocalist Daniel Mash – spent time touring and recording with fellow progressive outfit The Tangent, and who have finally put together their own outfit Maschine (Alongside guitarist Elliott Fuller, keyboardist/backing vocalist Georgia Lewis and drummer James Stewart), and delivered their debut full-length effort ‘Rubidium’.
My initial expectation was that given the history of those within the group, that Maschine’s debut would fall musically somewhere close to where The Tangent has been heading on their last couple of albums. But that couldn’t be further from the truth, as the opening track ‘The Fallen’ clearly shows. Clocking in at just beyond the ten minute mark, ‘The Fallen’ is an exercise in technical riffing, constant shifts in musical direction and fusing together melodic pieces and having those shifts in structure reflected with pockets of melody and aggression in equal measure. Sound wise, there’s a touch of The Tangent’s influence, with the song sounding more akin to ‘70’s progressive rock than anything within the progressive metal scene. But while the sound has more in common with the past, there’s no overlooking the metallic aspects of the song’s overall premise, and the way the guitarists deliver the riffs with such technical precision (Excluding the Steve Vai like two minute closing section, which is quite relaxed and atmospheric). I’m not too sure of the aggressive vocals (They aren’t all that convincing), and the dryness of sound on the production side of things, but for the most part, ‘The Fallen’ is a strong opening cut for the album.
The title track ‘Rubidium’ slows things down, and in the process gives the band an almost growl free/stripped back Opeth mixed with Leprous sound, albeit with the same laid back Steve Vai like passages dotted throughout, while ‘Cubixstro’ sees the band incorporate a whole host of influences into the mix - including traces of Latin jazz, ‘70’s progressive rock and dub-reggae. Although interesting and likeable for the most part, the song doesn’t quite flow like the opener, but boasts vocals that are stronger.
‘Invincible’ is by far the most melodic and un-metallic sounding track on the album, and surprisingly enough, the one track where the band seem to have everything lined up on the song writing front. Machin sounds far more comfortable on the vocal front here, which seems to flow through to some of the lead work he showcases here as well. Even when the song does get a little heavier around the latter half, it’s the strength of the song writing that comes through the most, with the technical aspect of the band’s playing ability complimenting the solid base they started on.
‘Venga’, not unlike the former track, again shows the quality of songs the band can come up with when the song writing is good, and also how diverse they can be when they’re willing to shake things up a little more beyond the sound offered up on the album’s first few tracks. Sounding very much like latter day Pain Of Salvation, ‘Venga’ is more classic rock with a progressive edge than progressive metal, and it’s a style that fits the band exceedingly well.
Finishing up the album is the two part ‘Eyes’, which begins with the first part which is another foray into heavier metallic territory mixed with acoustic and atmospheric passages, before concluding with the mostly instrumental second part which seems to traverse along every path, touching upon everything the band are capable of sound wise within the one track. Again, there’s some truly interesting pieces within ‘Eyes’, but as a whole sounds a little too scattered to flow as one complete track that has a start, a middle and an eventual end.
On the strength of ‘Rubidium’, Maschine prove to be a very interesting and promising act. It’s not a bad album, but it’s a little lacking in the song writing department in places, and the rather dry production tends to make the album drag on and sound the same at times.
I’ve certainly heard stronger progressive rock albums this year, but for a debut effort ‘Rubidium’ still has enough moments to warrant progressive rock fans to check it out.

For more information on Maschine, check out - http://www.maschineuk.com/

© Justin Donnelly

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