Review Summary: Ex-Megadeth guitarist, Chris Poland, releases a very classy and restrained version of prog that should appeal to those that don't always need aggression in their music.
Anyone that considers themselves more then a passing fan of Megadeth
should recognize the name, Chris Poland. For those that either don’t recognize his name or only have a vague idea, a brief history is in order. Chris Poland was the lead guitarist on the first two Megadeth
albums, Killing is My Business…and Business is Good
, and also Peace Sells…But Who’s Buying
. In addition, he can also be found on the re-issue of Rust in Peace
playing guitar on a few of the demo songs, and he also did the leads on The System Has Failed
. Now that the refresher course on why his name might ring a bell is over, the next thing that must be done is for you to throw out any pre-conceived notions of how his past might impact the sound on this album.
The above history was written just to catch your attention, but it really is imperative to your potential enjoyment of this album that you forget all about it. Damn the Machine
was Chris Poland’s first recorded output post-Megadeth
and it is nothing like his former band. There aren’t any thrashy riffs on this album, nor are there any high speed leads, and aggression is also the farthest thing from the atmosphere created on this album. Literally, the most aggressive thing about this band is their name, I just want to make that clear. What we do have is a very laid-back version of Progressive Metal musically similar to recent releases by Porcupine Tree
(without the heavy parts) or mid-era Fates Warning
-era) with very classy guitar solos thrown in for good measure. Literally, if there is such a thing as “bare-bones” Prog then this would fall into that category. The music is well played, mixing up the metal with slight influences from Chris Poland’s Jazz-Fusion efforts.
The description for the band has them listed as Progressive Metal, and that probably is the most accurate depiction. The progressive nature of the songs comes mainly from the rhythm section with the bass player using the chill vibe on the songs to weave some very good bass lines in and out of the main guitar parts while the drummer plays some interesting, slightly odd, times. The precision in the guitar playing and the jazzy influence in the guitar solos are where the progressive nature would be found in the guitar playing itself. Lyrically, the band also eschews any connection to Chris’ thrash past. Instead of scathing political commentary and angry-at-the-world lyrics, Damn the Machine
take more of the “every man” approach to politics. Almost all the songs are politically minded, but instead of a confrontational stance against the government, the lyrics feel more like the thoughts of the average citizen who sees what is going on around him but feels helpless to do anything about it. What’s more is that between the well-written lyrics and the vocals of Dave Clemmons, you can almost feel the despair and helplessness of the people in the songs.
The first song on the album, “The Mission”, is the most aggressive you’re going to get throughout your entire listen and even that song starts out with a mellow clean guitar before breaking into one of the more “metal” riffs on the album. The metal riff is short lived, though, as clean guitars make their way back in and the tempo fluctuates back and forth between faster parts and more mellow parts. “The Mission” also does a good job of introducing us to the vocals of Dave Clemmons. His vocals aren’t the typical high-pitched prog style; instead we are treated to a gritty vocal technique in the metal parts, and some very good alternative-style vocals in the more mellow parts. The next song, “Fall of Order”, is more indicative of the album as a whole as it is more technical and much more laid back in its approach, mixing proggy main riffs, with some inventive bass playing, interspersed with mellower clean guitar parts, and lyrics about a man’s fear of the breakdown in society and what that could mean.
In addition to the laid-back prog songs there are also a pair of nicely done ballads, except they retain their political nature and don’t have anything to do with love. The first one is called “Honor” and starts out with a bluesy solo before transitioning into the main motif of the song which is a simple clean guitar, some more interesting bass playing, and lyrics that sound as if someone is having a crisis of faith as he sees more and more evil in the world. The second ballad, “Silence”, is where they really shine. The main guitar riff is something that should have anyone into the mellower stuff by Riverside
enjoying it. It’s a clean guitar sound that makes good use of harmonics to set its tone. Again, the song seems to be a song questioning life and the world we live in, and features one of the best solos on the CD.
For those that are fans of bands such as Fates Warning
, Porcupine Tree
this band would probably appeal to you as well. The playing is top-notch, never succumbing to self-indulgence or overly long song lengths, the lyrics are well written and well sang, and the unique political nature of the songs all add up to something that could be an enjoyable listen for anyone willing to track this down. Just be warned one more time, that this is not a thrash album to the point that you would have to try really hard to make any connections to this band and Chris Poland’s “other” band.