Review Summary: A mind-numbingly boring, and ultimately forgettable affair.
10 Years haven’t spent the past decade changing too much about themselves. Their past 5 outings have seen the group pretty content with rehashing their same old brand of radio-ready alt metal that becomes increasingly more polished with each release. Up until their newest offering and sixth studio album Minus the Machine, the band’s only real noticeable progression towards any new ground has been striving to make themselves more accessible to the point of thinning their sound down excessively, opting for simple hooks over actual substance.
For Minus the Machine however, 10 Years have decided to divert from this redundant course, and instead attempt to adapt their sound to the more raw vibes of the type of alternative metal found in Adrenaline-era Deftones and Undertow-era Tool, the type of atmosphere that served as the band’s main source of inspiration for their second album Killing All That Holds You.
This in no way makes Minus the Machine a proper return to form or roots though, as 10 Years do not make any advancements or changes to themselves while in pursuit of this route, let alone improve upon themselves. The band keeps the sound and structure that they have crafted over their past few albums, but instead of making adjustments to form the raw sound they had in mind, they simply decided to just drop the accessibility and hook-dependency they founded on their album Division, which was a huge factor of their sound. Deciding to completely abandon a considerably large part of one’s music can work without issue if the rest of the music around the lost aspect changes to mend the hole, but 10 Years don’t do that here, they just lose all of their radio-friendly hooks, a dominating part of their known sound, as the rest remains unaltered.
If 10 Years wasn’t so generic to begin with and didn’t rely on surface-based hooks, then this casualty wouldn’t leave such a heavy impact. Allowing a noticeable loss to be the sole method of effecting the music not only leaves Minus the Machine with no potential singles or catchy and memorable songs, it makes the album the definition of a step backwards in the band’s career, the first step in a process of devolution.
Minus the Machine retains the same plain and contrived grit of the third-rate alternative metal on their last album Feeding the Wolves, but it’s a retread through these familiar shallow waters without any of the run-of-the-mill appeal. At least the polished and clean production that 10 Years used to have gave them basic post-grunge choruses that couldn’t help but get stuck in one’s head for a short while, but without that guiding them, this is left sounding stale and bland.
Minus the Machine has very limited production, but this gives a more underdeveloped impression than the intended raw one. The music seems under-produced with everything sounding muted and subdued. This makes the already toothless and watered-down music itself come across as even less engaging. The vocals on every track are virtually indistinguishable from one another, much like the guitars. A track consists of the band plodding away at the same old predictable and repetitive riff that doesn’t chug enough to be nu metal but is too sporadic and staggering to be true alternative metal, as vocalist Jesse Hasek belts out his best Maynard James Keenan impersonation while bellowing melody patterns that merely sound harmonious without conveying or expressing any sense of interesting emotional depth.
Those who draw comparisons between the singing styles of Hasek and Keenan would be wrong to indirectly compare 10 Years to Tool, as the alternative rock of 10 Years is much more similar in style to Keenan’s other band A Perfect Circle, a style that Hasek manages to replicate only one track into the album on the bare end of the chorus of the title track.
Songs are arranged poorly and appear disjointed, with more ambitious aspects of songs such as the Asian-esque jingles of the backing guitar in the intro of “Writing on the Walls”, the weak excuse for ominous foreboding that engulfs the track “Forever Fields”, and the jagged drum stuttering in the climax of “Knives”, sounding more patched into the tracks instead of working with the rest of the music as a cohesive whole, as if the rest of the music is treated as generic filler until something slightly different changes the pace. 10 Years also experiment with odd time signatures on the single “Backlash” but only succeed in being scattered with pieces that hardly match, and do so in an awkward fashion.
For an album were every track bleeds into the next through interludes that contain seamless transitions, the album is severely lacking in any momentum whatsoever. With more attention than needed given to the certain moments in the songs such as riffs and vocals with nothing backing them, the album sounds unbalanced and uneven and comes together as barely aesthetically presentable.
Minus the Machine is at times excruciatingly dull, and a straight listen through is not advised for this very reason. The album comes and goes, passing the listener by without evoking much out of them or leaving much of anything that will stay with them, being underwhelming as can be and devoid of anything deserving of attention the entire way through, and all without even containing a trace of a single hook. This album marks a few leaps backwards for the band with no progress being made, as 10 Years are still what they always were, but even less so in one major category.
They still present their influences in their execution without any finesse. They simply regurgitate their influences and don’t posses any of the quirks that their influences have, reducing the sound to streamlined status in the process. Minus the Machine sees 10 years in their worst condition to date, representing the infinitely greater bands they take inspiration from as nothing more than a vague silhouette.