Review Summary: A technical juggernaut that delivers beauty and power.
The HAARP Machine is a piece of machinery shrouded in mystery, its actual purpose debated amongst those who suspect a more sinister motive behind the powers that created it. The HAARP Machine is also a band, who just like the machinery they based their name off of, is shrouded in mystery. Their debut album Disclosure
is a juggernaut of melody, technicality, beautiful vocal harmonies and vitriol filled screams. 'Disclosure' has been a year in the making, with several member changes along the way it seemed perhaps this album would never see the light of day. However with a new vocalist they have managed to create something truly worthy of the wait.
Unlike most technical Death metal, The HAARP Machine doesn't assault our senses with relentless intricate riffing, complicated tremolos with rhythmic patterning, off-the-wall time signatures and galloping solos that seem to be endless. Instead they offer technicality that is accessible yet still commendable, it’s simply digestible and because of that it’s enjoyable. Along with the technicality comes a dose of melody, that sits in the middle, sometimes pushing forward; it isn’t the forefront of the music, it’s the support. With this melody, the HAARP Machine create a whirlwind of sound that never seems to become stagnant or bloated, it helps carry the songs and varies up the structuring. The guitar work is something to be admired; it’s cleverly composed but not obnoxious. Furthermore, the HAARP Machine adds another flavour to the already successful mixture: Middle-Eastern sound-scapes which add to the atmosphere and provide some truly outstanding moments. Yet, this isn’t anything new, the sole guitarist (Abdullah Al Mu'min) borrows from the staples of those who have come before him. Somehow, he just manages to disguise the fact with his ability to play elegantly and write beautifully.
However, what truly makes Disclosure
special are the vocals. The new vocalist, Michael Semesky has some serious vocal talent, from dream-like crooning that could warm even the blackest of hearts, to screams/growls that are of the caliber one would expect from a band such as this. The vocals allow the music to breath, creating periods of calm; allowing the listener to sit back and take in the sheer blitz of musicality. Vocally, Semesky’s abilities range from soothing high octaves that at times sound similar to Brandon Bolmer (formerly of Chiodos) to a more powerful yet typical singing voice that you’d perhaps come across in a progressive band. Talking of progressive, Semesky’s vocal moments create some prog-like breaks; dreamy sections in the music where everything is gently intertwining, eventually building to a bombastic crescendo. Although the vocals are not for everyone, some may find the cleanly sung passages irritating, perhaps too melodic at points or slightly abrasive to listen to.
Last but not least is the drums, the drumming on this album is what you’d expect from an album of this genre; blast beats, generally rapid drumming, crazy fills and some tight cymbal work. The drums sit in the back of the mix, they feel restricted due to the other instruments taking centre stage; whether it is due to the guitar or the few piano interjections. Moreover, the bass is generally inaudible. It rears it's head here and there but seems lost within the music. Disclosure’s production is very clear and crisp but it can sound a bit much at times, there is a lot going on throughout the eight songs and it can be a bit overwhelming.
The HAARP Machine has managed to create a debut album that surpasses many others due to the ability to write clear, concise songs with interesting takes on the standard tech-death formula without making it convoluted. The album is also short but sweet, there is no filler; it is thirty-three minutes of fun. To conclude, The HAARP Machine have created a force to be reckoned with, I was apprehensive about the vocals and that perhaps it would be your standard tech-death merry-go-round yet 'Disclosure' sounds fresh due to its composition albeit similar to its peers in roots. 'Disclosure' is by no means ground-breaking, but it accepts that from the word ‘go’ and manages to deliver, firing on all cylinders.
- Excellent Musicianship
- Vocals are great
- Interesting takes on song structure
- Great overall sound.
- A fun listen, a lot of replay value
- Sometimes the mix is just too much.
- Drums and Bass get lost in the mix more often than not.
- Lyrics can be slightly off-putting due to subject matter (world conspiracies etc)