Wednesday, July 6, 2016
Review: Machines of Living Death, "The DOS of War"
Ah, Baltimore. Something in the air - or the water, perhaps - fosters ample amounts of creativity and extremity into the lush metal scene that has favored this region for many years. Originality is something that comes easily to bands based from there, the musicians that comprise them ooze talent, and the world has taken note.
Well, world... today I present you with another fine example of Baltimore-based metal, one that you may or may not have had the pleasure of discovering yet. Formed in 2008 by Matthew Marzolf and Tony Mallory, Machines of Living Death is a technologically-obsessed hybrid of extreme metal and modern electronica inspired by all things mechanical (think Data from Star Trek, Deus Ex, Blade Runner). Everything from the lyrics, their sound, down to the clever title they've bestowed upon their newly minted album which contains a reference all programmers can appreciate, all centers around the digital world without restricting themselves to what is currently possible within it. Nerds and extreme metal fiends alike are going to really enjoy this one.
Here's my review of their latest album, "The DOS of War".
Track 1 - "Code War"
There's no time for pleasantries here as the first track jumps in heavy and relentless. A driving drum pattern precedes an equally electric series of riffs, culminating into some epically evil vocals. The effects they lay over the vox themselves vary but in all its forms, they're pretty captivating. I can't say that I've ever heard vocals done quite like this before, but they absolutely hit the mark when it comes to capturing the robotic, industrial quality the album is aiming for while losing none of the dimension, range, and raw injections of humanity (what us flesh-and-blood creatures like to call feeling) that all good vocals should possess. Around 2:30 they bring the tempo down over a complex, hovering riff that would make the robot devil himself break out into a jam. A minute later you're picked up again at light speed and carried swiftly on the wings of the AIs into a maelstrom before track one ends.
Track 2 - "Artificial Insanity"
This one begins with a touch of groove, and by five seconds in you know the aliens have landed. Those driving drum beats pick up again fast and furiously. The vocals here are strong, sinister, harsh... in my mind, they are what I imagine Shagrath had always hoped his vocals would sound like given the ability and proper tools. By the waThe first two minutes are perfect pit music, but you're given a bit of an intermission for a moment after before they get back to work at stirring souls to start circling once again.
By the way, did you catch that "Ctrl-Alt-Delete" reference in the lyrics near the beginning? Hahaha. Well played sirs.
Track 3 - "Byte Supremacy"
At first you get the impression that you've somehow slipped into that nightclub where Neo met Trinity in "The Matrix", but thirty seconds in you know you're actually in an environment a thousand times heavier. Great vocals here again, set to a somewhat dissonant series of riffs before something resembling structure forms again at 2:30. There's a bit of repetition in the next little bit, but ultimately amounts to something veritably pleasing to human eardrums. The lyrics are well done here, too, and in no way devoid of a little humor ("The virus of humanity, spreading like an STD"). They bring to mind the plot of "I, Robot" and other Asimov-ian fantasies... but perhaps that's what they were going for? Nailed it completely as far as lyrics go.
Track 4 - "Chromosexuality"
Track four leaves you in no denial that what you're listening to is electronically influenced. The metal influences balance it out nicely though once the song really gets going. I can sense even a little influence from the realm of such bands as Mindless Self Indulgence, yet the hooks still embody that sinister sound that we all know and love. It's a fusion I've hardly ever - if at all - come across and the blending of it all was accomplished masterfully. They keep those vocals and lyrics just as strong, multi-dimensional and inventive as it has been since the beginning of the album and I gotta say, I'm loving all the little nods to programming they've thrown in thus far.
Track 5 - "Pervertigo"
The opening of this one is the ultimate marriage of industrial and metal. Now don't get me wrong... I'm not talking about dubstep garbage here. I know some people are fond of the rankling sounds of prehistoric phone line modems dialing up or a corrupted file skipping, and that's fine. Connect to a landline, pick up your phone and jam out to that garbage to your heart's content if that's your thing. I don't consider myself a fan of that particular style of music, and have had a love/hate relationship with various styles of music classified as electronic. That being said, this album right here that I'm listening to is not that type of music. I want to be very clear on this. Even with my preconceived notions about that genre in particular, what I've heard so far from The DOS of War transcends that genre entirely, bonding it with a universally understood "that's f*cking solid" sound built on a very metal foundation. If there was ever a "right" way to do electronic, these gents have undeniably found it. Coming from someone who is a hard sell when it comes to that style of sound, that statement means a lot.
The riffs here don't disappoint, and the vocals (not to mention the lyrics) add an extra layer of heavy to this solid track.
Track 6 - "Vertebreaker"
The metal is strong with this one as the opening riffs plunge you straight down to robot hell. The vocalist transforms his voice at different junctures, one manifestation in particular that's impressively evil. Really loving the riffs in this one, especially when you suddenly sense a smidge of a power metal influence in the sweeping guitar patterns at about a minute and a half in. They're paired with almost a black metal style of vocals before the music starts to match, though not for long as you'll be in thrash mode for a bit soon after. There's some serious shredding thrown into the mix here as well, and the closing riffs are as satisfyingly complex as the ones that preceded it.
Track 7 - "Screambit"
Here we start out nice and dark, swaying between more electronic feels and very metal ones without lingering too long on either end of the spectrum. This track is short and not-so-sweet but undeniably appealing.
Track 8 - "Graveminds"
This one is heavy and heavily industrial, hearkening back to the glory days of early industrial metal. A supremely satisfying riff takes over at about a minute, so prepare thyself for goosebumps at this juncture. Again here you'll find expertly executed vocals with a subtle harmony that's just incredible before those familiarly sweet riffs take control once more. Yay, more harmonies! Even better, they're paired with some pretty malevolent lyrics adding to the aura of evil that envelops this track. This one right here, I have to say, has been my favorite thus far. It's dark, depressing, a bit on the slower end of the spectrum but heavy as f*ck... all winning qualities in my book.
Track 9 - "H.A.P.P.I."
In the opening here, we have a bit of a departure from what you've heard prior to this track on the album. The sound is more upbeat initially, heavy on the electronic side of things but with just the right infusions of heavy thrown in. The vocalist skillfully displays his prowess of theatrics in this one, keeping effects to a minimum and toned a bit lighter than what they have been (although after the previous track, a little lightness may be just what you need). It's a perfect transition track between the former and the latter...
Track 10 - "Smashcan"
We've arrived back into total heavy f*cking metal territory, with crushing riffs, blasting drums and flesh-melting vocals. It has a very grindcore/thrash vibe to it. The heaviness never relents in this three-minute masterpiece, and if you aren't inspired to start a pit listening to this one then you might want to get yourself checked out by a professional.
Track 11 - "Robotica"
They take their time setting up the atmosphere for their final track, with a slow but steady build in the beginning that snowballs into a heavily industrial sound before melding beautifully once more into that electric metal sound they've so skillfully created. The vocals again are impeccably performed, just as they have been on every track up to this point. Prepare for some shredding skills rivaling those of the robot devil at the halfway point, which makes me stop and think how I wished there was a little more soloing from the guitar throughout the album. I mean, it's pretty impressive. On the whole, every element of this band got their chance to showcase equally throughout the album, but the guitar solos always left me wanting a little more or wishing they had gone a little longer. Then again, most things that are worth enjoying often do. The vocals are just phenomenal here, and the vocalist is exceptional at rolling his "R"s. Not an easy thing to do!
A great end to a fantastic album.
Sometimes, you can go through swathes of time where it seems bands struggle to come up with something not only brutal and pleasing to the ears but truly original on top of it all. These guys have managed to do all those things, and the result is a testament to that creativity and skill between them.
Like I said before, the more industrial/electronic side of metal is a very hard sell for me. Well guys, you sold it and I'd happily fork over money to buy the shit out of it. Machines of Living Death is a band that I'll be following with great interest from here on out. Metal like that should never go unnoticed. If this is the future of music, then I say I'm f*cking on board. As it turns out, electronic/industrial music and metal music are in fact a beautifully brutal pair.
For proving that to me and any other lucky folks that have or will experience this album, you've earned a solid 8 out of 10.
I look forward to riling up the pits at your next show. \m/
If you're not familiar with Machines of Living Death, check them out via the link and let them know your thoughts: