There are always new bands attempting to emulate their influences popping out of virtually nowhere. Often times these bands rip-off their idols rather shamelessly, sound rather bland and have a been-there-done-that feel to them, and do not achieve the levels of success they expected. Of course, this is not always the case. Every now and then a band breaks such a mould, taking their hero's classic sound and recreating it with their own interesting spin on it. Machine Men is one of those bands. Taking their sound out of the book of Iron Maiden, the young Finnish quintet returns once again with their third full length offering, Circus of Fools. Picking off right where they left off, the Finns once again shatter expectations with an excellent, action packed, forty minute album.
While the most basic way to describe the band's sound is that of prime 80's Iron Maiden, one could go a step further. The album also sports a very large influence from Bruce Dickinson's solo material (particularly Accident of Birth and The Chemical Wedding), Euro power metal, and thrash metal. Now, that isn't to say that if you combined Iron Maiden, Bruce Dickinson, Gamma Ray, and Dark Angel you'd get Machine Men. Far from it. But the basic elements of the thrash and power metals is definitely quite noticeable. And unsurprisingly, the intensity and aggression of thrash combines with the epic, melodic values of power metal rather well. Among the most notable elements affected by such song writing tendencies is the rhythm guitar playing. Guitarists Jani Noronen and J-V Hintikka show off their skill with heavy, exciting riffs. Riffs which are very catchy and can be considered the backbone of Circus of Fool's musical entity. But with all due respect to Jani, H-V, and the album's music, the most impressive part of Machine Men's formula is vocalist Toni Parviainen. If anyone had ever sounded like Bruce Dickinson, it would be him. Quite simply, he is the Air Raid Siren with a Finnish accent. Similarly to the direction of the music on Circus of Fools, Parviainen takes more from the younger Bruce of the 80's. Quite a useful talent, I must say. Just as his primary influence, Toni can sing with the best of them, and his emotional, powerful vocal deliveries often steal the spotlight away from Machine Men's musicians.
While the closing tracks, such as Border of the Real World and The Cardinal Point, are definitely excellent outings, the early songs on the band's third full length release are by far the strongest. The title track, Circus of Fools, starts off the album quite similarly to that of an Iron Maiden album. A powerful, mid-length track, it helps prepare the listener for what's to come. Especially notable is the songs chorus, where Machine Men's singer displays his impressive vocal capabilities. Another track similar to this one, vocally, is No Talk Without the Giant. Toni Parviainen is at his best in this track, displaying the range and power of his singing and easily steals the spotlight away from his friends in the band. However, two songs where Machine Men share the limelight equally are The Shadow Gallery and The Cardinal Point. Both songs are epic tracks exceeding six and seven minutes respectively. Every musician, except for possibly the bassist who is fairly inaudible, is given a chance to show his skills. And which such an opportunity, each member delivers an entertaining performance which combines skill, top notch song writing, and catchiness. Quite fun songs to listen to, if you're asking me.
Machine Men has been around for quite a long time. They were formed in 1998 and have since released 3 albums. Why they are not better known is beyond me, as they have the potential to do some excellent things in the future. Just check out their third album, Circus of Fools. The Iron Maiden/Bruce Dickinson influence is still going full force, but Machine Men also incorporates both power and thrash influences into the mix, creating a melodic, aggressive, and ultimately enjoyable sound. If there was any modern band that could successfully emulate their idols without sounding bland and contrived, Machine Men would be the one. We're about two months into 2007, and of all the new releases I've heard, this would probably be the best of them. If you're a fan of Iron Maiden, Bruce, Priest, or any band of that ilk, definitely check this out. It's quite excellent.
Circus of Fools
The Shadow Gallery
Ghost of the Seasons
No Talk Without the Giant