Review Summary: Of deja-vus, groundhog years, and why we don't fix what is not broken. Happy New Mechina.
Like clockwork. On January 1st this year, Joe Tiberi and co. uploaded their tenth full length to their Bandcamp page as it has been tradition for the last ten years (with a couple of exceptions). Venator
does not change the formula but builds instead on the new direction marked by 2021's Siege
. There are a few improvements though: Mel Rose's vocals now share the spotlight with David Holch's achieving a better balance, blending together as if they were one single voice at times and harmonizing like they were dancing together in other parts. The effect when they sing the same melody line is interesting, being very even in the mix and giving it the texture of some sort of genderless hybrid android, while coming back to their own character when they play around different notes. The orchestration seems to have been pushed to the background too, especially during the heavier parts, and Tiberi seem to have managed to create different levels of intensity throughout the album, instead of a massive seamless homogeneous stream of seven-minute tracks, which was one of the issues that affected Siege
. Here tracks are slightly shorter, except for the first two, which round up nine minutes each. All in all, most of the songs have better vocal hooks and riffs that feel more effective. "Praise Hydrus", despite being an eight-minute track feels shorter than most of the material in Mechina's last two albums. "Aphelion" has a great introductory riff and "Totemic" dares to strip off guitars to create a sort of spacey synth ballad where the vocals of Rose and guest vocalist Necole Wright are the main focus, leaving Tiberi to design an empyrean atmosphere around them.
Fans of Dave Holch! Don't fret though: your time has come. The last two tracks, and especially "The Embers of Old Earth" bring back Holch's growls in a clear callback to their earlier releases. Even the closer, "When Virtue Meets Steel", throws some savage blast beats at you before the album's grand finale, which signify that Mechina is not entirely committed to the more melodic approach of their last recordings, as they try to preserve these more aggressive sections which I personally think is the correct approach.
Regarding Mechina lore, (I know you love that stuff) no one has any idea where Venator
fits in the time line anymore. Some assumptions point out to a story post Xenon
but no solid theory has been confirmed yet. Obviously, the respective singers reprise their roles as Enyo (Mel) and I guess Amyntas (Dave) who along with Alithea (Necole?) seems to be in cryo. The year seems to be 2632, which would be present day in the story, but only Tiberi knows this, that, and what the hell is going on in the Mechuniverse.
doesn't mark a giant step for Mechina, not that they needed it anyway, but instead continues the tale doing what they know they do best, stuffing Fear Factory with Pendulum in a thrilling symphonic intergalactic djent blaze that will be most welcomed by fans of the project, and who knows, maybe it turns some heads in their direction too. If it doesn’t, do not worry, we’ll meet again for season 11 on January 1st of 2023!