Review Summary: A unique metal masterpiece
If you haven’t heard of the Chicago-based industrial band Mechina, honestly I can’t blame you. They’ve been under the radar for the better part of seven years. Their first release The Assembly of Tyrants
was released in 2005 and, to put it simply, it was unique. Not only unique for the metal community but also unique in the music community in general, which is likely why Mechina don’t get the praise they deserve. They’re not your typical metal band writing catchy, heavy-for-the-sake-of-being-heavy songs for the masses – they strived for something more. A metal band with actual depth and knew how to use atmosphere to their advantage without sacrificing their sound. A metal band that actually knew how to contrast harsh and clean vocals to compliment each other without ever sounding forced. Mechina were a forced to be reckoned with, and on The Assembly of Tyrants
they proved exactly that.
Opener ‘Shattered Cry’ pulls no punches. It’s the most abrasive and straightforward metal song on the record and shows off their brand of industrial metal quite well. Mechanical riffs akin to Strapping Young Lad are prevalent, along with double bass drumming galore topped with punctual death metal growls. The qualities that separate Mechina from typical metal bands don’t shine through until the third track ‘Clash of Cultures.’ As much as I hate throwing around the word, this song is epic. There’s no other way to put it; especially for a song that’s barely over 5 minutes. The atmosphere is simultaneously dark yet uplifting – right from the ominous keyboard motif that leads the song up to the well-done clean vocals near the end of the track. Another more ethereal version of this song is used to close the album. Usually I’m not a big fan of “remix” songs, but this one is very well executed and closes the album brilliantly.
The band members themselves have talent, there’s no doubt about it. Vocalist Dave Holch can definitely hold his own against fellow growlers and his clean vocals aren’t half bad either. Could be better, but they’re used sparingly enough to remain enjoyable when they are used. Riff wise, Joe Tiberi isn’t the most talented in the genre but he layers riffs on top of each other to create thickness instead of relying solely on technical finesse to get by like many technical metal bands do. The drums are indeed a standout on this record though. Especially the insanely fast double bass work on ‘Shattered Cry’ and ‘Afterimage’ or the straight up blistering blast beats on ‘Machine God’ and ‘Skin Deep.’ While the band are certainly capable of playing incredibly fast as they prove multiple times on the record, they focus a lot more on the actual songwriting. The songs on here never feel like they’re just treading along idea after idea without any direction. No, every song on The Assembly of Tyrants
is completely focused and vital to the flow of the album. Even the interlude tracks feel like actual interludes instead of passable filler. ‘Warfog’ in particular provides a beautiful symphonic intro to the jaw dropping title track, possibly the best song on the album, being a perfect combination of Mechina’s robotic riffing and dynamic atmosphere ideally utilized in just under 8 minutes – it’s phenomenal.
The great thing about The Assembly of Tyrants
is that not one track is inferior to the rest. I suppose the shorter tracks do pale in comparison to the longer ones just because the longer ones have more time to entrance you, but I can’t imagine the album flowing as well as it does without each one. Unfortunately, the vocals are probably the main thing keeping this from being a perfect record. Dave is great at what he does, but he doesn’t bring anything new to the table both screaming and singing wise. He sounds like a standard death metal vocalist with the occasional mediocre clean singing getting him through the more melodic sections. It just gets monotonous to listen to after a while. However ignoring the very minor flaws, The Assembly of Tyrants
is a truly impressive album through and through. On this album, Mechina became the dynamic metal band they strived to be. They sacrificed a potentially bigger fanbase for musical depth. They didn’t want to write catchy, heavy-for-the-sake-of-being-heavy songs for the masses – they only wrote for themselves, and it's this attitude and originality on their part that makes The Assembly of Tyrants
a near flawless masterpiece.