Every now and then, an album comes along that fills you with an indescribable feeling, and all you can do is sit back and listen in sheer awe. When that album comes from right out of your backyard, it fills you with a sense of pride that something so good came out of your hometown. Better still is when you are privy to this information while the rest of the world remains ignorant of this great thing that you are so close to. Of course, inevitably the day will come when you will have to share this with the rest of the world, and while losing a little something, the same great feeling remains. This is one of those albums. The band is Death Machine; the home is the legendary metal hotbed of the SF Bay Area; and with this, their debut album, soon the whole world will know of their crushing power.
For starters, Death Machine is the equally important other project of Zero Hour members Troy Tipton (a.k.a. Thrak, guitars), Jasun Tipton (a.k.a. Devin, bass), and Mike Guy (drums). They are joined here by Elias (keyboards/samples), and the intimidating Kirk on vocals. For prog metal fans in the know, this alone speaks volumes, with Zero Hour having gained quite the following in that scene, and the brothers Tipton considered some of the finest players of their respective instruments. For those who do not know, or like, Zero Hour, I assure you that it would be well worth your time to give this album a listen.
The band wastes no time in going straight for the jugular with opener “Believing”, starting with a simple, chunky, heavy riff layered with just a little keyboard for ambience. Kirk’s vocals are at once clear, venomous, scathing, and urgent. To put it another way, this is the voice of the tortured soul that lies within us all – and it seems to speak directly to that crazy bastard. Just when you’ve had enough, “Genocide” rips out of your speakers and nearly takes your head off in the process. “Tangled Root” follows, and is a near-perfect soundtrack for a downward spiral into total dementia.
After that . . . well, you get the idea. It’s a non-stop onslaught of pure metal that can put poster boys Chimaira and Lamb of God in their place. “But what about the MUSIC?!”, I hear many of you clamoring. Well, as one might expect, it is expertly played. Simple, but effective, with only the occasional sweep or arpeggio and other assorted “wankery” dropping in for flavor. What really makes Death Machine’s sound, though, is Devin. The bass, normally used as a backdrop instrument to add to the crushing power, here is mixed equal to, and sometimes greater than, the guitars. Clean and ominous, the same level of crushing power is achieved while still keeping it at the forefront. Whether matching Thrak’s guitar or doing his own thing, Devin’s mastery of his bass shines through.
At this point, I think I’ve managed to describe an album without really saying too much, and that brings us back to that indescribable feeling that I haven’t felt since Witchery’s Restless and Dead. If you love metal, and are as fucked in the head as I am, this album will have you going from 0 to headbang in 2.4 seconds. Just make sure that no loved ones are around and all breakable items are out of harm’s way, because there could be casualties.