Review Summary: Atmospheric. Emotional. Hypnotic. A remarkable album.
I first stumbled upon Rise of the Great Machine
when I was on the hunt for some ambient, hypnotic music to just relax to, and I’m very glad I did. Starting out in 1994 as a side project of vocalist Jacob Bannon, who was eventually joined by Ryan Parker, Seth Bannon, and guitarist Kurt Ballou, Supermachiner is very, very different from the hardcore punk of his main band Converge. Showing influence from acts such as Bauhaus and Swans, Rise of the Great Machine
is very atmospheric with floating instrumentals built around minimalistic songwriting, featuring soft, melodic singing and also some purely ambient tracks.
I Am Legend
is a good example of what the album has to offer. Beginning with a dreamily plucked guitar line, drums, additional guitars and finally vocals join in until the track builds into a glorious climax where distorted singing mixes with ecstatic tremolo picking. Like most tracks on this album, I Am Legend
is built around a single musical idea which is repeated and expanded upon in an almost hypnotic fashion. What is so special about Rise of the Great Machine
, though, is a vibrating sense of timelessness and emotion that is ever present in the songs. Even in their most serene moments, the songs have a certain dark ambience about them. One of my favorite tracks, The War We'll Never Win
, is really expressive despite the calming surface of the song, its dreamlike guitars, interlaced with soft, shoegaze-like singing being introduced with chirping crickets . More apparent are these darker undertones in the purely ambient Vicious Circles
, which could be used as the soundtrack to some horror game.
One thing that prevents the minimalistic songwriting from getting stale is the creative way a variety of instruments are being utilized. In Below You
bongo drums, cellos, guitars and somebody tapping on a glass are all used in a percussive manner, and as ethereal howls courtesy of J. Bannon soar distantly among the instrumentals a most chilling, atmospheric soundscape is created. This track is difficult to do justice in writing; it is both intriguing and intense.
But the most intense experience on the album is the bizarre and crushing Bitter Cold
. Being the only truly heavy track, it utilizes unsettling Texas Chainsaw Massacre samples, an ominous guitar line and heavily distorted screaming in its climax. Following this track are some of the more jarring moments of the album, from the slightly off key singing in A New Loss
to the pure noise of Fireflies Light the Way
. The final tracks bring a great sense of closure, Declaration Two
being soothing with its electronic ambience softly washing over the listener, and the final track Reign of the Great Machine
utilizing the harmonic progression of opening track Rise of the Great Machine
to nicely tie the entire album together in a musical bow. This album should definitely be listened to as a whole.
My only criticisms would be that some tracks start out with great ideas but end before being developed enough, and that Fireflies Light the Way
and its “experimental” distorted rumbling just goes on far too long. I also find Bitter Cold
and its female screaming samples to be too uncomfortable to listen to at times. But maybe I'm just a pussy, and in the end, Rise of the Great Machine
is a great record. Creative and emotional, at times bizarre and intense, this album communicates a vibrating sense of timelessness and emotion. If you enjoy acts such as Bauhaus or Swans, post rock, post punk, drone, experimental, ambient or any similar type of music, you should check Rise of the Great Machine