Originally written by Erik Thomas
Chances are, with this highly anticipated album being out for a while now, that any pointless, verbose spewing on my behalf won’t sway your opinion of this record. More than likely, you’re in one of two camps: First-you see Miss Machine as an embarrassing, commercially reeking disgrace. Or second, you view DEP’s leap into slightly more experimental, yet accessible realms as a necessary move both for the band and for metal.
Personally, while Calculating Infinity graces my CD collection, it’s a keepsake I rarely listen to, as I admittedly prefer less complex, easily absorbed music that doesn’t strain my cerebellum. And that’s where Miss Machine differs from DEP’s seminal debut. While certainly a challenging listen, it’s not as overwhelming and choppy as Calculating Infinity, and introduces some elements and even full songs that would not be out of place on a Nine Inch Nails record, and that’s the main lure or deterrence of the record, depending on which side of the fence you sit.
Obviously the seeds of the Mike Patton Fronted EP Irony Is A Dead Scene have grown considerably as new screamer Greg Puciato entered the fray, resulting in an album that retains far more of that EP’s vocal histrionics rather than the pure Hardcore-isms of former singer Dimitri Minakakis. Puciato’s versatility fits DEP’smore adventurous take on their self named ‘math metal’ and contributes to the album’s overall more accessible atmosphere.
While album opener “Panasonic Youth” deliver DEP’s trademark choppy, stuttering metal gait with Puciato doing an expected roar, there’s a tangible undercurrent throbbing under the masterful technicality that exudes a confidence delivering the subtle shift in direction that is “Sunshine the Werewolf”. This track wholeheartedly signifies DEP’s new found veneer, while inherently delivering an unpredictable math metal cyclone, but its vast climax is more Isis or Neurosis than typical staccato warbling.
However, up to this point the album still teeters on the edge of DEP’sexpected growth. It’s not until “Highway Robbery” cascades out of the speakers with a stirring emphasis on quirky but unobtrusive sampling and programmed beats within DEP’s jagged output. “Van Damsel” seems to intentionally deliver an uncompromisingly deft and technical blow akin to their prior output, but only as if to deliberately pave the way for the album’s first real eye opener, “Phone Home”; with a slithering programmed aesthetic, the track sees DEP really open up their new found style and lets Puciato cross over into Trent Reznor like seething rather than typical hardcore rage. For many, it will either be the album’s low point or an unrepentant, progressive step for the band. The same can be said for the duality of “We Are the Storm” that stutters and heaves with abrasive atonality, but its midsection serves as an ambient eye of the storm. After the techno mechanical interlude of “Crutch Field Tongs”, the Mike Patton influence exudes from the Mr. Bungle circus tune, “Setting Fire to Sleeping Giants”, that stands out as one of the album’s handful of tracks that could honestly not be identified as DEP to the unknowing ear. “Unretrofied” follows the ballistic “Baby’s First Coffin”, with more NIN-like escapism and pulsing sampling.
Despite the album ending with the gargantuan lurch of “The Perfect Design”, I cant avoid the overall feeling of being under whelmed by the commercial tangents that offset the adventurous steps the band have taken. The sudden shifts, while well implemented, reek of a precursor to the next album being purely directed at mass consumption; Miss Machine is obviously the stepping stone to greener pastures. The band are still supreme musicians, and snippets of their underground roots surface pleasingly often, but they are simply bogged down by an almost pretentious shift in song writing, that while ambitiously technical and no doubt financially pertinent, simply results in an album that never redeems itself from a commercial gloss.
Miss Machine is though, if anything, a daring album that will challenge listeners to question their own musical allegiance as the progression vs. accessibility argument is no more evident than on this deep, convoluted but ultimately self conscious effort from a band whose legacy will be defined by their debut.