Maschine - NaturalisThings are getting worse. The seasons are becoming more unforgiving and natural disasters on a colossal scale are becoming more common. Species and their habitats are being pulverized into extinction at a rapid rate and humanity, instead of looking for a solution, seeks to jump ship to other planets. How are we, the powerless, going to solve this? What can we really do? Well, we can curl up into a ball and listen to Maschine’s second full-length that focuses on the ramifications of our disregard for Mother Earth. Let us channel the majority of our outrage internally and verbalize the smidgen of frustration that remains via online forums. It’s the only way. Naturalis is a 51-minute prog-rock adventure that moves through moments of joyous natural harmony to moments of devastating disregard. The story that unfolds in between, as with all prog-rock releases, is complicated.

Naturalis begins with the excellent 11-minute journey, “Resistance.” A progressive track in the truest sense, the song moves through various unique yet interconnected sections that merge eerie electronica, Steven Wilson­-esque heavy riff work, 70s prog-folk touches, and celebratory pop melodies expertly. The electronic elements, in particular, enhance the instrumentals greatly: synthetic choir chants mimic riff shards as the siren-like vocals of keyboardist Marie-Eve De Gaultier drift through the mix.

Here we get the first taste of the male-female vocal harmonies that make up a vast quantity of Naturalis. Lead guitarist and main composer Luke Machin resonates with a smooth baritone that harmonizes wonderfully with the serene singing voice of Gaultier. Their tranquil and bewitching voices interweave and flow like a flock of starlings on a twilit eve, and they’re given the space to waltz thanks to a wonderful production. Their harmonies are more evident following the dramatic shift from the dark guitar-driven first half to the hopefulness of the second. Following a folky flute interlude and a bridge of pure silence comes buoyant acoustic strumming and bubbly pop melodies as Machin and Gaultier passionately combine in one of the most upbeat and smile-inducing musical moments I’ve heard in a long time.

This upbeat quality continues into “Night and Day.” Following warming guitar work, wobbling bass lines and expressive drum grooves, Gaultier and Machine’s vocals circle one another whilst twinkling guitar notes, pulsating electronic noises and aggressive Chris Squire-esque bass resonances bubble beneath. The song builds to its conclusion not through heaviness but through gradual progressions of sound. The dynamic fills and forthright drumming of Vader’s James Stewart intensify as the song progresses and the vocals build to their measured crescendo. Just as with Vader, Stewart’s drumming contributes masterfully to the various tones and moods that circulate throughout Maschine; death-metal fills and double-bass pedalling make an occasional appearance at the heavier moments, however his ability to fluently switch to jazz fusion-esque fills and grooves alongside more measured yet equally powerful pop sparsity puts him up there with some of the best today.  

The remainder of the album, however, is much the same as the “Night and Day” and because of this the album stagnates. “Make Believe,” despite its attempt at building an immersive atmosphere, is over seven minutes of easily forgettable material that lacks the dynamism and variety to justify its length. Similarly, the first five minutes of “A New Reality” are essentially a carbon copy of sections of “Make Believe” and “Night and Day” and it’s not really until the song transitions into a smooth mock-improvised jazz section that things become even remotely interesting.

Maschine 2016

Maschine suffer from repetitive placidity and the middle period of Naturalis really drags because of this; this is a real shame because the album is bookended by two prog-rock epics that I’ll be listening to for a long time to come. Obviously, this middle-section of the album is supposed to reflect the semi-calmness before the storm that is final track “Megacyma” (Greek for great wave) but the purposeful calmness and harmony of the songs that build up in juxtaposition to “Megacyma” are all too alike to really flourish. “Megacyma” is the climactic storm that follows calm; Naturalis needs more storm than calm to really succeed.

Naturalis is so close to being a great album, however, it’s let down by a mid-album slump that it struggles to get up from. Maschine have the technical ability and an ear for melody and progression, however, their approach to the album as a whole is lacking. “Resistance” and “Megacyma” will stay with me for a long time and I will stay with Maschine for a long time to come because their musical development could be very interesting indeed.


Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 9 | Format Reviewed: 192 kbps mp3
Label: InsideOut
Websites: maschineuk.com | facebook.com/maschineuk
Releases Worldwide November 18th, 2016

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  • Iain Gleasure

    Jezus CH- rist. This site needs to fight its gloom and all the bad news recently! All the reviewers are down in the dumps it seems. Druhm needs to let them out of the chains in the basement and see the sun.
    And everyone here who’s bummed about anything needs to know: there is no defeat in getting knocked down, the only defeat is in giving up and refusing to get to your feet. The world turns WITH you and you can overcome.

    • I’ve never felt better!

      • Iain Gleasure

        You’re part of the problem.

        • I’ve heard that before and it always hurts.

          • Reese Burns

            Drain the swamp..?

      • Carlos Marrickvillian

        Typical media elite ignoring the issues that effect we the anonymous people!!

        • Filthy sheeples….

          • Carlos Marrickvillian

            I prefer lemming if you don’t mind

          • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

            I prefer Lemmy

    • Oscar Albretsen

      I agree. I’m still a little annoyed about the lambasting they gave to that Hermina album primarily because it didn’t have depressing lyrics/album art.

      • GardensTale

        Hey, I’m still a little annoyed that no one seems to read the comments in which I explain that I actually like upbeat music but I did not enjoy the way it was executed there. But I guess neither of us is getting what we want.

        • Oscar Albretsen

          Everybody Wang Chung tonight.

  • Oscar Albretsen

    Definitely have a unique sound that I support. The embedded track was a bit of a mixed bag, though. A couple cool riffs and good parts but they jump ship so quickly. You just don’t even have a chance to enjoy something before they’re playing something that sounds like a totally different song. This could be something that grows on me, but I’d probably have to spend a TON of time on it.

  • robpal

    Gave this album a couple of spins and was pretty pleased with what I heard. Nice, coherently written album with little “something” missing that would separate it from the horde of progressive bands. Still enjoyable!

  • METAL OTTER

    “How do I spell the plural of ‘machine’?”

    “I think you have to add an ‘s’ to ‘machine’.”

    “Ok, I got this.”

    • Gelhoth

      Underrated comment right here!

      • GardensTale

        21 upvotes is not underrated.

        • Gelhoth

          It had 0 when I commented.

          • GardensTale

            That’s okay. Premature commenting affects 4 out of 5 men sometimes and 2 out of 5 regularly.

    • herrschobel

      you are aware its german for machine ? so Germans won´t find this funny :-P … but then again, what DO Germans find funny ?

      • tim.o

        “… but then again, what DO Germans find funny?”
        President-elect Trump!

      • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

        Germans find it funny when Pink Bubbles Go Ape. Or something.

      • METAL OTTER

        “How do I say ‘machine’ in German?”

        “Maschine.”

        “Danke.”

        Yep, doesn’t quite have the same zing to it.

        • herrschobel

          :-)

  • The Unicorn

    This is good. Im enjoying it so far quite a lot.

  • M Rizal

    Can you guys review metallica and avenged sevenfold new album?

    • Reese Burns

      Metallica’s newest – It’s alright, too much filler.
      Avenged Sevenfold’s newest – It really rocks.
      Well, at least that’s my opinion on them. :)

      • Oscar Albretsen

        I agree with this completely.

        A7X- Great comeback, outstanding album.

        Metallica – Don’t bother.

    • The Nerd.

      Avenged Sevenfold- Kickass album of the year quality.
      Metallica- Pretty good minus a few songs.

    • A7X – Surprisingly good. Slips a little bit on vocal harmonies.
      Metallica – Fist 4 songs are great, then it goes downhill with boring long songs except for the last one.

  • Innit Bartender

    Too many odd tempos for me. I couldn’t make it past the second song. Prog for me is all about soaring and breathing space, these convoluted 9/16s or whatever they are sound too claustrophobic for me.

    • MelbCro

      A prog fan annoyed by too many odd tempos? You my good sir are the devil.

      • Innit Bartender

        Tell you what: I’m surely handsome, the other thing I don’t know.

  • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

    Really nice embedded track! Listened to it like 5 times in a row.

    It also made me realize Prog is like porn: you must be really dumb to think it’s about artistic expression when it’s actually all about having fun wanking off.

  • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

    My very own 2-word review: BUY IT!

  • Barry Neilson

    Their debut album Rubidium is a real hidden gem.

  • beurbs

    Even the mid-album slump is pretty good. I keep comparing this to Haken and the main advantage of “Affinity” is the total lack of any filler. But the worst songs on here are still enjoyable.