Title: Progenitor (Mechina)
Genre: Symphonic/industrial death metal
Running length: 50 min 20 sec
Release: Jan 1, 2016
Anyone who has a soft spot for Rammstein‘s subversive, technocratic mantras or sways towards the synth harmonics of Fear Factory will feel a familiar pull with Mechina. Ths US quartet — plugged into the industrial niche and evidently besotted with sci-fi — has devoted its entire repository of works to technology, myths, and humanity’s struggle to accept certain doom. Much to my delight, it all happens on a cosmic stage, and I’d be lying if I said my obsession with space didn’t lead me to seek out ‘intergalactic metal operas’ in the first place. Mechina‘s signature sound is a combination of serrated growls, clean lamentations and minor symphonies, but as its sixth full-length album, Progenitor flies through charted nebulas.
Mass Locked is a great opener for any futuristic music-video; intermittent bleeps, the resonant clash of gadgets, and increasingly shrill acoustics really drive the futuristic message home. It’s more of an appetiser than a track itself, and yet, the tremulous breaths of a sleeping beauty rising after 110 years of cryogenic slumber is exactly the sort of soft prelude that’s needed before Ashes of Old Earth — which begins with a forlorn violin that’s swallowed by a vivid orchestra of cacophonous drums, coarse cries, and poignant clean vocals. Mechina opts for the tried and tested duo of simple verses and heavy chorus repetition, so seasoned listeners won’t find anything groundbreaking here. However, if you’re pop-aversive its lyricism isn’t as formulaic as Arch Enemy‘s in Will to Power.
Starscape tries to unlock a weak strain of Slavic folk which does occasionally tempt listeners with organic refreshment, although it succumbs to Progenitor‘s standard technotheism far too quickly. To be fair, I wasn’t expecting a total apostate track here — Starscape just doesn’t carry enough unique musical identity and emerges a flat followup to Ashes of Old Earth. The intriguingly named Cryoshock fares slightly better. Scrubbing itself clean from the dirty growling, our Aurora (Andara in this case) begins a rather peculiar requiem; paralysed bones, fragmented cells and crystallised skin replace blood — and by extension, humanity. It’s so clinical it’s almost beautiful. It creates a perfect launchpad for The Horizon Effect, a piece that injects some much needed diversity into the melodic range while sticking to Progenitor‘s central themes. The tempo freezes, drums slow down, moody, echoing keyboards have greater prominence, and the vocal reverberation is tastefully done.
Still, I was waiting for a number that would blow me away. And despite being a valiant effort, Anagenesis misses the bullseye. The writing steps up a notch and shrieks make a welcome return, but their vanilla, scream-free counterparts seem to borrow Ashes of Old Earth‘s auditory shtick (it’s not auto-tune, the YouTube comments assure me) in a way that’s so noticeable it flays originality. Nevertheless, anyone fond of classical music should prepare to be seduced by kickass violin ambience throughout.
Planetfall plunges straight into brutal death/deathcore and is absoultely infested with smatterings of furious drumming and epic background chants. Don’t exit the shuttle expecting a tuneful touchdown; this is the least melodious track on the album, save for the temporary final assault of a classic guitar solo. As a battle cry, Planetfall isn’t engrossing or memorable yet it handles the man versus machine war decently enough in the lyrics department. I was sincerely baffled Mechina chose to wait until Progenitor‘s eponymous closing track to summon the Slavic magic. In a sea of comparatively blander compositions, saving the best for last is too little too late. Progenitor doesn’t hold back. Divine voice breaks and deep strings are in full force; foreign incantations invoke the gods of folk metal, sludgy death vocals finally couple with distinct musicality, and reiterated lyrics become a non-issue as even the purer vocals align with Progenitor‘s sublime sound. At last, Mechina delivers cosmic justice.
Verdict: Silver. Mechina has an obvious flair for sci-fi inspired metal but Progenitor takes too few risks and delays impressing listeners with interstellar magic until closing time.
REPLAY VALUE: ★★☆☆
Rating system Wood: 0-5, Bonze: 6-9, Silver: 10-14, Gold: 15-19, Platinum: 20-24, Diamond: 25