Review Summary: Mechina play it safe.
I have a bit of bias towards Mechina, admittedly. The Asembly of Tyrants
rests comfortably as my favorite industrial metal album ever alongside SYL’s City
, and of all the modern metal bands debuting in the 00’s I expected the greatest things from Mechina. It’s unfair to Conqueror
, because any album following such a superb debut is set up for criticisms and claims of succumbing the classic “sophomore slump” syndrome, but Mechina certainly don’t. They don’t exactly reinvent the genre either; it’s just a safe album. Good ideas and execution, but no boundaries are being pushed. It’s easy to say without bias that Mechina didn’t exactly try to top The Assembly of Tyrants
, rather avoid all experimental tendencies and release an album wholly inside their comfort zone with mildly successful results.
On one hand, they managed to avoid the sophomore slump, which is already a huge leg up. The songwriting is in a similar vein as its predecessor – mechanical riffs, dramatic synth-driven choruses, questionable interludes (although on Assembly
the interludes were actually good; here they sound like they belong in a Halo soundtrack), and an overall spacey atmosphere further instilled by the song titles and album art. Its production is cleaner, the band in general is tighter, and the riffs are crunchier and pack more of an aural punch than they did on Assembly
. The vocals are the most improved, though, as Dave’s clean singing no longer sounds strained, rather soothing and complementing to the songs they’re in. However the musicianship isn’t the problem here.
The problem is that not much about Conqueror
is noteworthy outside the fact that it’s Mechina’s second album. It does nothing new for industrial metal; even for Mechina’s signature death-industrial-synth sound it just comes across flat most of the time due to the outstanding lack of diversity, and the songs themselves aren’t terribly exciting either. ‘Internecion’ is the sole blast-beater and probably the most tepid of them all, and the rest rely on mechanical groove metal riffs to drive the songs contrary to Assembly
's wide variety of styles. The vocals are well done but boring as everything becomes so predictable after the first few songs. Heavy verse, clean sung chorus, keyboard break, heavy verse, clean chorus, rinse and repeat for six tracks, then add a pointless interlude in the middle and open/close the album with Halo sound effects building aimlessly for three minutes each; that’s the structure of Conqueror
in a nutshell.
In Mechina’s case however, formulaic and predictable doesn’t necessarily mean bad. Album highlight ‘Pray to the Winds’ strives on its melodic progression juxtaposed between cold chugging with each phrase seguing perfectly into the next, and ‘The Iron Law’ holds together the second half with a ball-busting chorus and some of the best riffs on the album. Again it’s hard to blame Conqueror
for its faults, because it feels like no mater how good it could’ve been, its reception was doomed from the start by following such an excellent debut. However the highlights and overall consistency in quality is enough to deem Conqueror
a great, albeit underwhelming, sophomore release.