Review Summary: Jane's Addiction meets Daylight Dies? This 1993 release mixes alt. rock and a streamlined doom/metal sound with near-perfect results.
“Because we don't know when we will die, we get to think of life as an inexhaustible well. Yet everything happens only a certain number of times, and a very small number really. How many more times will you remember a certain afternoon of your childhood, an afternoon that is so deeply a part of your being that you can't even conceive of your life without it? Perhaps four, five times more, perhaps not even that. How many more times will you watch the full moon rise? Perhaps 20. And yet it all seems limitless.”
Most people will recognize that quote as a sample used on Neurosis’ Enemy of the Sun
, but it wasn’t the only place that it was used. The God Machine used that quote to open their 1993 debut album, Scenes From the Second Storey
, and it set the mood perfectly. Upon its release, The God Machine’s debut was described as Jane’s Addiction after a death in the family, and it wasn’t really a bad description. Both bands liked to let the bass guitar lead their music and both were unafraid of extending song-lengths, and the vocalist even kind of sounded like Perry Farrell after a carton of cigarettes, but the God Machine were much darker. There wasn’t any tongue-in-cheek humor or soundtracks to grocery store dance-offs on this album; there was only depression, anger and introspection. The God Machine were also significantly heavier than that description might lead one to believe. Despite only being a trio, the band definitely liked to make noise and create suffocating walls of sound. They accomplished this by utilizing a thunderous bottom end that was smothered by reverb and feedback-filled riffs; as well as an upfront drum sound and a multitude of sound effects and samples. This wall of sound was augmented by a lot of quieter sections that really helped increase the depressing atmosphere of the songs and album as a whole. In today’s terms, the best description would be to think of these guys as a cross between Jane’s Addiction and a band such as Daylight Dies.
Scenes From the Second Storey
is very much an aural journey. The songs are all great on their own, but the album’s biggest impact is heard from start to finish. This is because the album is like an emotional rollercoaster – the two stages of grief: anger and depression. There’s absolutely no room for denial or bargaining and acceptance just increases the anger. To that end, Scenes
jumps in with two of the more aggressive, yet conventional, songs on the album. They’re both bass-driven and heavy, beginning with the question “Are you lost?” and ending with the vocalist cynically shouting “It’s all up to You” at the end of ‘She Said’. It’s at this point that the meat of the album is really displayed. The track, ‘The Blind Man’, becomes a precursor of things to come with its quiet, moody beginning ultimately clashing with a final few moments of feedback and a riffing wall of sound. It’s also during this song that the album’s theme is really made known with the line, “Have you ever bled and tried to hide the wound, so that no one could see your pain? I’m tired of hiding.” The lyrics of every song definitely display all the pain and anger without holding anything back, and each song has its own unique musical backing. There’s the odd rhythm-and-samples nature of ‘The Desert Song’, the bass-driven aggression of ‘Home’ and a few quieter moments of sadness. This all leads up to the sixteen-minute behemoth titled ‘Seven’. It’s a quiet, lumbering, moody track that can only really be described as alt doom. After this, it seems that the band is pretty well spent and they end things with a few quieter songs that also incorporate violin and piano into the mix.
Among all the similar alternative rock bands that were being signed, this band was an unknown and unique diamond in the rough. They brought enough of the alt rock aesthetic to appeal to fans of Soundgarden and Alice In Chains, but they were also heavy enough to capture the attention of all those slighted metal fans – either way, though, people were going to have to work for it. Scenes From the Second Storey
isn’t full of easily consumable radio tracks; it’s a collection of hard-hitting and emotional songs that are meant to be heard in order and in one sitting. It’s an album that is almost guaranteed to leave its listeners feeling emotionally (and possibly physically) exhausted as the last piano sounds fade from the final track. It’s also totally worth the effort, as the band suffered a tragedy a few years later and were never able to capitalize on the excellent sound they had created, leaving Scenes from the Second Storey
a criminally unknown release.