Supermachiner is the short-lived project of Jacob Bannon of Converge and Ryan Parker where they eventually enlisted the input of fellow Converge member Kurt Ballou as well as Seth Bannon. And before anyone gets excited about the possible likeness to Converge, this outfit is a much different animal that is more in line with Jacob's much more recent solo work that was released earlier this year. Rise of the Great Machine is the sole album which Supermachiner produced during their time (though there is a planned compilation release of multiple CDs that will gather much more material some time in the relatively near future entitled Rust) and contains enough surprises for unsuspecting listeners or rather those who have pre-conceived notions as to what this sounds like. Originally released in 1998 on Undecided Records, this reissue by French label E-Vinyl is a welcome release as Rise of the Great Machine seems to scream to belong on vinyl, and even though this is a pretty limited reissue, getting a chance to revisit this album is a unique opportunity.
The grand sounding intoning (even the vocals have a similar quality) which dominates the entrance of the album is impressive as "Rise of the Great Machine" builds slowly to a vicious and punishing conclusion that releases listeners right before the tension completely takes over the senses. "I Am Legend" is another intriguing composition from the gentle plucking of the guitar strings to the explosive introduction of the vocals, bass, drums, and continuing straight through the body of track; Supermachiner pulls out a completely unexpected piece of music which toys with an individuals senses with dramatic dynamic shifts and a sound that sounds like the record production occurred in a cavernous room. These types of pieces find accompaniment with subtle ambient snippets (like "Flight of Vultures," "Declaration One," "Vicious Circles," "I Am Oblivion," etc) which dot the album and provide an excellent counterpoint to the more realized tracks. Other types of short-form compositions like "Above You" further flesh out the musical vision of the group on Rise of the Great Machine.
It is the songs like the emotionally charged "The War We'll Never Win" which prevent the album from being pigeon holed into the ambient genre while still having its feet firmly planted there; this song evokes a breadth of emotions from listeners that range from a real sense of sadness, to nostalgic loss, to numb realization while not completely burying people in heavy moods. In contrast, simple pieces like "By the Roadside" and its insistent bass progression that locks the rhythmic support for the slide guitar and "Treading in the Wake of it All", with its subtle melodies and mostly calm demeanor, provide excellent breaks in the headiness of other songs on the record. The menace of "Below You" can leave listeners floored with pounding beats, distorted guitars (which contrast well with the strumming of the acoustic guitars that somehow provide an eye in the storm effect to the track), and wailing vocals. Quite possibly one of the more disturbing moments on record can be found in the track "Bitter Cold." The screaming woman juxtaposing with the ominous plucking of guitar strings can send chills down one's spine given the right atmosphere.
Rise of the Great Machine is a borderline document ambient sound that contains some fairly impressive dynamic shifts that at times prevents it from being considered a full on ambient record, although the atmospheric elements present definitely make a case for such a distinction or designation. It really is a shame that Supermachiner never caught on or that Bannon and company did not pursue it further because there is a great deal of excellent material on this lone, dense album It is equally a shame that some have considered this a vanity project of sorts. The pacing of the album and the quality of the material stands on its own in many respects. As a reissue, this release does not add anything new to the original version of the album and is mostly geared toward vinyl obsessive audiophiles, which is unfortunate. But as previously mentioned, Rust will be compiling more Supermachiner material than just this release.
7.7 / 10
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