Review Summary: I will never grant you ground, remember me and why you all bow down to a metal-forged dominion...4 of 4 thought this review was well written
Deus ex machina is Latin for “a god out of a machine”, a literary term describing a solution out of nowhere that completely and abruptly resolves a story's conflicts. That seems a good description for this album; Power Metal with electronics, crossed with a nasally singer who has little range and lyrical allusions to video games sounds almost laughable on paper, but in practice it is comparable to the moments in Greek plays that caused the coining of the term deus ex machina, when Zeus descends by a harness to solve the protagonist's problems when only the gods could help.
Machinae Supremacy is the self-proclaimed "first SID-Metal band", using the Sound Interface Device from the Commodore 64 PC. The epic and thoroughly inspired synth lines made with this device define the band's sound, setting them apart from their contemporaries and creating fast, heroic-sounding "riffs" that DragonForce only wish they wrote, let alone wish they could reproduce live. The electronica intro to Insidious
shows the band's skill with the SID right from the start with its infectious and soaring melody. The synth solo in the title track achieves the "Super Nintendo" sound that many Power Metal bands spend their entire careers seeking, sounding reminscient of a Megaman game. The true crowning achievement of the SidStation is Machinae Prime
, an eclectic instrumental track that manages to go on for 7 minutes without a single boring moment.
While the SidStation is MS's claim to fame, the more traditional elements of a metal band are not to be overlooked. The two guitars especially shine, with solid riffs from the rhythm section and creative leads that glide along the skyline. The riffs in Dreadnaught
remind one of classic rock, and the palm-muted strumming in Killer Instinct
compliments the electronics over it perfectly. The lead guitar, like the synth, has some of its best moments in Machinae Prime
. Solos are not rare on Deus Ex Machinae, and are consistently memorable, such as in Blind Dog Pride
, a track which features the two guitars trading back and forth and playing off of each other to create an amazing balance. When the guitarists slow it down and play clean and even sometimes acoustic lines, their talent shows even further and proves that they are not one-trick ponies.
The vocals are certainly an acquired taste. Whereas most unique vocalists at least have talent that is obvious to someone who is trying to get into the band, the first impression one gets when listening to Machinae Supremacy is "I will NEVER enjoy these vocals." Once the listener becomes accustomed to Robert Stjarnstrom's vocals and even starts to enjoy them, they still aren't excellent, and his limited range is one of the weaker points of the album. However, Stjarnstrom's voice is a breath of fresh air from the often pompous, over-dramatic vocals that pervade the genre, and the vocal melodies are undeniably catchy, even with MS being a mostly instrumental band.
The lyrics are in some ways "standard Power Metal fare", and in some ways not. They are typical in that they often remind one of a sizable block of cheddar, and are often about fictitious subjects. They are different in that they shy away from the cliche fantasy lyrics and instead gravitate towards science fiction (which they pull off rather nicely), and regrettably, towards video games as well. Player One
, originally subtitled "Return to Arcade", is an example of this, but is not blatant enough to be annoying, though the subject of video games would have been better left untouched.
Drummer Tomas Nilsén takes a minimalist approach, playing simple but effective beats that fit the music well without overpowering anything else. The drumming, while not standing out, is never stale, and the occasional interesting fill proves that Tomas is not simply taking a backseat because he is not talented. Bass is used sparingly, but when it can be heard, it provides even more to like about this album, especially in Tempus Fugit
, where it adds to the light, airy atmosphere.
Filler is nowhere to be found. Every track is well thought-out and original, and enough variation is used to keep things fresh while still maintaining a cohesive sound. One would be hard-pressed to find a single moment that comes across as uninspired or half-hearted.
While not perfect or classic, Deus Ex Machinae is a Power Metal gem and much better than one would assume by hearing the elements of its sound described to them. It is accessible while still deep and memorable, and is somehow easy to connect with despite its epic sound and ridiculous lyrical themes. Best of all, it's entirely free on the band's last.fm page. If you enjoy Power Metal and have not yet downloaded this, I recommend you do so now.
Soundtrack to the Rebellion
(Or just download the whole thing, it's free)