Review Summary: Bring on the nightmare.
There’s no warmth to find when strapped down to a surgeon’s table. Forced into supine position, staring into a blinding light, and rendered completely vulnerable, only a profound fright can take hold as masked figures get to work. That lack of comfort is a powerful inspiration for terror—where the hell else does a fear of needles come from, after all, or that sense of loneliness brought about by nondescript hospital walls?—and that terror translates to morbid nightmares of blood-soaked passages, deranged doctors and no escape routes. This is what the Lotus Eater Machine project provides: cold, lethal, precise mathcore that operates on a death-by-a-thousand-cuts methodology, slicing through airwaves like sharpened steel meticulously drilling into skin—the metalcore version of a horror film. What may seem hyperbolic is made quite an apt description upon exploring the nadirs of this sophomore effort. Formerly known as Geisterfahrer, the Massachusetts quartet present a style built upon conventions that are familiar to all, yet the execution of them is highly impressive. Buoyed by tight songwriting, the group’s second record aims for disgusting brutality without a semblance of peace, and it finds ample success in that pursuit.
Though its precision is undoubtedly an asset, Prisoner to Seven Demons
is not a clean adventure. Rather than striving for pristine textures, a gritty production quality supplies ample crunch to proceedings, buttressing the album’s rampant pandemonium with a tangible weight. A dose of static aids the dissonant tones, immediately concocting an appropriately suffocating atmosphere supported by equally hectic instrumentation. Guitars are transformed into deadly, corrosive weapons capable of mesmerizing with their raw virtuosity or evoking mayhem when dragged to a pulsating low-end sound—something that a bellowing bass contribution eagerly assists in augmenting. Alongside the ceaseless fury of the percussion and appropriately manic vocals, Lotus Eater Machine’s sonic output is made suitably heavy, and their refusal to step off the gas pedal enhances the bedlam, causing the 34-minute duration of the LP to accelerate rapidly. In-between the chugging, rhythmic breakdowns and straightforward grind escapades is a progressive flair; a labyrinth of complex riffs, violent shifts and unconventional structures populate the claustrophobic corridors, plunging the listener further into the nightmare at hand.
Time is an illusion in these confines; the album deftly cycles through aforementioned grind forays, groove-imbued death metal, punishing mathcore riffs and beatdown-styled hardcore that aims only to destroy, liberally toying with tempo alterations throughout each section. As can be expected from this category, cohesion is a game played on a razor-thin wire, with the record’s predilection to unpredictability altering a given tune into a veritable maze of disparate influences. In of itself, “Bullwork” flies through blistering discordant riffing, bass-boosted breakdowns, sudden math flurries, liberal low-end abuse, pure groove metal, and a vocal performance that provides piercing shrieks and manic shouts. That vortex of dynamics can be nauseating in its unhinged progressions, but that’s the price of admission to an experience like this; the balance between passages is nigh-imperceptible, further compounding the pandemonium abound in the mix. One must reckon with the thunderous, industrial-like conclusion of “Voluntary Lobotomy,” the dexterous sweeps of “Eating Angels to Extinction,” and the utter destruction of “Scapmetal Dermatologist”--a tune that, unprompted, launches headfirst into pure, filthy sludge metal. In a record featuring no breaks beyond a graciously reserved closing track, it’s enough to induce prolonged fits of dizzying headbanging.
Melody is scarce throughout Prisoner
, peeking its head above the trenches sporadically before being plunged into a whirlwind of technicality. Contemporaries such as MICO or Helpless intersect at this juncture, but whereas the former employs a blackened aesthetic and the latter plays the genre straight, Lotus Eater Machine subscribe to a somewhat noise-oriented direction that emerges in their more raucous outbursts. The only detriment in that regard is that those sparse moments, alongside occasional synth usage, are not expanded upon nearly enough; the album teases these elements, yet neither obtain the prominence they could perhaps possess in this concoction. The potential is there for a Frontierer-esque romp through eclectic or otherwise underutilized genre combinations, especially with the vaguely industrial sense born from the LP’s militant technicality, but the group falls short of fully capitalizing on such possibilities. This is doubtlessly a robust foundation to continue expanding upon, however, and its uncompromising approach is a delight to experience. From the start, Prisoner
captures any wayward listener, locking them within the walls of a blood-soaked hospital as unknown figures draw near. It’s a special kind of hell that mathcore can breed, and Lotus Eater Machine undeniably demonstrated their ability to encapsulate such a brutal atmosphere.