Album art for Obitus' Slaves of the Vast Machine.

Album review: Obitus – Slaves of the Vast Machine

Obitus has made it pretty clear what you can expect from their latest album, Slaves of the Vast Machine: “If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face — forever.” Capturing an outlook as dour as that and putting it to music may seem like a tall order, but that’s just what Obitus achieves on this 2017 release from Hypnotic Dirge Records.

You’ll find no beauty here. There will be no aching sense of longing, as commonly found in black metal of the atmospheric variety, nor the despairing yet cathartic release of depressive black metal. Slaves of the Vast Machine is a mighty and terrible engine fueled by one thing: hate. This misanthropic journey boils and writhes within the confines of a single track, leaving listeners strapped down as if in an insane asylum, with no escape and nothing to do but submit to the emotional flogging delivered by this Swedish black metal duo.

As for the music itself, a part of me worried that the album’s most memorable parts had already been revealed from the two sample clips Obitus had released prior, but I’m pleased to report this is not the case. When the onslaught begins, you won’t have time to even take a breath before you’re suffocating beneath roiling waves of blast beats, riffs, and raw aggression. It’s not all sound and fury, though, as there’s smart songwriting aplenty to keep you in rapt attention, as a single-track album should. Thematic rhythmic patterns are repeated throughout using different dynamics, showing enough variation to always surprise you. Of special note are the guitars, which play off each other in spectacular ways, diverging from alternating tremolo and picked patterns before careening back into each other to create maximum discordance.

Listeners wary of whether a single 45-minute track will maintain their interest or not should take heart – this is one vast machine you’ll willfully enslave yourself to.

My Top 10 Metal Albums of 2016

2016 was a pretty good year for metal. Say what you will about everything else, buttloads of talented acts released albums jam-packed with quality material. Distilling the year’s releases down to my ten favorites wasn’t easy, but I didn’t lose any sleep over it.

Continue reading “My Top 10 Metal Albums of 2016”

Album Review: Metallica – Hardwired… to Self-Destruct

I’m going to start by talking about Star Wars. Please bear with me.

When The Phantom Menace released in ‘99, it kicked off nearly two decades of disappointment. But the prequel films were honest, if mostly underwhelming; they were original and underivative, made with (probably) good intentions, even if they weren’t what longtime fans wanted.

When The Force Awakens came out last year, fans got a film much like the ones they fell in love with. To that point, some have said it was too similar, that Force Awakens followed too many of the same story beats as its predecessors, and depending how you looked at it, that point of view could be bad or perfectly acceptable.

Album art for Metallica's Hardwired... to Self-Destruct.

Hardwired… To Self-Destruct is very much Metallica’s Force Awakens — a return to a familiar form that should satisfy the yearnings for that old-school vibe but ends up treading a lot of previously covered ground. But what makes Hardwired different from my obnoxious analogy about space opera is the ground it covers is from the period Metallica fans have, historically anyway, liked the least — Load and Reload. Oh, there are a handful of good — I’d venture to say even great — songs, but the majority of the album is like if J.J. Abrams plopped Jar-Jar Binks in Force without any of us realizing it and gave him a significantly large (and appropriately tragic) amount of screentime. The plodding, unwanted Load-iness of tracks like “Dream No More” and “Now That We’re Dead” is baffling when other cuts like “Moth Into Flame” are kicking such ass.

To its credit, there’s no prequel-esque visionary departure on Hardwired; it sounds distinctly Metallica, the feel-good, Mom’s apple pie Metallica. No trash cans and cracking voice here, no’m — Lars is still holding things down behind the kit (despite every internet comments section wanting his head on a platter), and Kirk is still wanking away on his whammy. And of all the ‘Mets, James is sounding better than ever.

Metallica shouldn’t be above a little criticism, and neither should Star Wars; neither Hardwired or Force Awakens are perfect, and I don’t need them nor expect them to be. I gladly take the good (the Reys and Finns to the “Spit Out the Bone”s and “Atlus, Rise”s) along with, well… everything else. There’s nothing so offensive as a Jar-Jar here in Hardwired, so at least we can thank Hetfield, Ulrich, Hammett, and Trujillo for that.

I like that this isn’t a throwback album; the different styles of songs on display here show their willingness to accept the flaws in their DNA. After all, you can’t take the Load or St. Anger out of Metallica anymore than you can take the Hero’s Journey out of Star Wars. Those are fundamental building blocks to the final product we still get to enjoy to this day.

Buy Hardwired…to Self-Destruct here.