Damn the Machine

Damn the Machine

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On this, Damn the Machine's first and only album, Megadeth alumnus Chris Poland and bandmates rip through 12 slightly tricky metal songs. In these generally mid-tempo tunes, melodic vocals find a home in self-consciously progressive song structures, with lots of odd meters and unusual arrangements. Thankfully, unlike much progressive rock and metal, the song lengths never get out of hand; the longest track clocks in at 5:40 and there are many hovering around the three-minute mark. Damn the Machine is a band that seems to have at least one foot in the rock and metal scene of the '80s; the chorus of "Patriot," for example, wouldn't seem out of place on a Journey album. The arrangements are all organized for maximum drama, with lots of opportunities for lead singer/guitarist Dave Clemmons to ride a high note while the band drops into a bruising metal riff. Clemmons' voice is not terrible, but neither is it terribly distinctive, and his lyrics and phrasing are often downright silly. However, there are some nice moments where the background vocals of the other members of Damn the Machine harmonize with Clemmons and create interesting textures. Chris Poland's lead guitar is ultimately the best thing about this album. He has a dark, rounded tone unusual in metal lead guitarists, and he plays with a singing quality that resembles a cross between Allan Holdsworth, Yngwie Malmsteen, and Jan Hammer. His lead breaks are extremely impressive. Poland and Clemmons do a good job of splitting up guitar chores, creating some nice moments of contrast between them as opposed to hammering away together at the same riff. The rhythm section, consisting of Chris' brother Mark Poland on drums and David Randi on bass, is not as heavy-handed as you would expect, and they often break up the beats in an interesting fashion, as on "I Will." Although this is an inconsistent album, there are some really nice moments on Damn the Machine. One of these is "Lonesome God," which features lots of quick changes between riffs and tonalities in a very coherent song that is only three-and-a-half minutes in length. Everything that is good about this band is on display here: quirky arrangements, great lead guitar, and interesting vocal harmonies. In the end, Damn the Machine is an album that is worth more than the sum of its parts. It is a shame that this record is the only thing that this promising band left us with.

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