December 2020 has been a good month for the Manchester metal scene. Death-thrash outfit, BruteAllies, put out their debut album and now we get the inaugural release from industrial blackened death metal quartet, The Machinist. If you thought Ingested were the kings of extreme metal in the north of England, you may have second thoughts after listening to I Am Void. This is fucking heavy!
Like Anaal Nathrakh, The Machinist play chaotic blackened death metal with a grinding industrial rhythm section to ignite the carnage of their extreme assault. The opening 6 minutes and 39 seconds of ‘Extinction Event’ will singe your eyebrows with pulverising metal riffs and a roar of layered screams that pierce through your ears like the distant agonies of torture victims. It becomes clear on ‘Skin is not Enough’ that the multi-tracked shrieks are the key ingredient in the band’s arsenal as an extreme band of absurd proportions. The latest Shadowflag album is a good example of this awesome bludgeoning, but The Machinist are not afraid to settle into a mid-tempo assault when the mood takes them in a Celtic Frost/Triptykon direction. Nor do they hold back from the monumental intensity of late 90s Emperor on ‘The Sky Has Opened’, which also presents us with the novelty of black metal gang vocals. (Is that even a thing?)
Where did this band come from and how did they remain unnoticed? you may ask. The answer is not obvious, but ex-members of Reign of Erebus swell their ranks and it’s clear their levels of musicianship have a combined aggregate experience equal to a life prison sentence. The ponderous synth-bass on ‘Approach’ is as surprising as the blackened cyber-punk of ‘The Death Cults of Abraham’, which starts like Tombs and mutates into a doom metal song with chaotic incantations guiding the black metal mayhem in a sorcerous spell. It leads into the standout track, ‘Magnificent Judgement’, the closest any band comes to wrapping Voivod in the grip of Akercocke’s malevolent blasting. They even throw in a brutal death metal transformation and give us an industrial slam breakdown (another first?). Agonising screams persist throughout the 6 minutes and 13 seconds of utter devastation and will leave you groggy as if asphyxiated with a plastic bag over your face.
With so many fast and furious elements and no shortage of misanthropic bile dripping through the anti-religious lyrics, The Machinist are happy to push the boundaries of extreme music. The only drawback is their debt to Anaal Nathrakh, which borders on plagiarism at times. Those glitchy drum machines and multi-layered screams are synonymous with the duo of Dave Hunt and Mick Kenney. Sometimes, they exhaust the backing hysterics and rely too heavily on the frenetic delivery of the lyrics, a technique pioneered by Dark Angel in the mid-1980s to give the illusion of enhanced heaviness. It makes the fifty-two minutes of this record feel like seventy.
But these reservations evaporate with the fascinating ten-minute ‘Schwarzchild Radius’ ending the album in style. This is how you wanted Morbid Angel to sound on Illud Divinum Insanus when they promised so much and delivered so little. The death-doom guitars and violent synthetic drums give way to a surprise Immortal segue of tremolo riffing and reset to a quieter interlude of semi-distorted notes with a sprinkling of spaceship control room sounds. One minute they’re vaporising you with blast beats, the next moment they’re finishing you off with precise axe blows calibrated to prolong the pain.
Though not a magnificent album, this is a damn good one and sets The Machinist up as potential innovators on their next release.
Release Date: 04/12/2020
Record Label: Self Released
Standout tracks: Approach, Bleak Affirmations, Magnificent Desolation
Suggested Further Listening: Anaal Nathrakh – A New Kind of Horror (2018), Thorns – Thorns (2001), Shadowflag – In Asylum Requiem (2020)