Gramma Vedetta – The Hum of the Machine Review

It’s been some time. A devastating trifecta of moving homes, work fuckery and family shit closed down my writing faculties for a little while, but I’m very pleased to return to this lovely little blog. Perhaps as a regression to each writer’s humble beginnings, I asked Steel Druhm to assign me a promo of his choice for my restoration. I suspect that Gramma Vedetta’s new album called The Hum of the Machine was his interpretation of a homecoming gift, leaning into my strong preference for progressive music. The record’s one-sheet boasts of its “huge progressive sound”; surprisingly for me, what this meant was really stoner metal with a veneer of prog, rather than progressive metal with a veneer of stoner.

I can’t blame the man: a “huge, progressive sound” would suggest prog to anyone. In reality, The Hum largely comprises stoner metal and is not all that progressive. Gramma Vedetta write rhythms and leads that occasionally twist in interesting ways but the song structures are typical. The ABABCB song-writing occupies most tracks (namely, verse-chorus-verse-chorus-instrumental-chorus) which doesn’t leave much room for significant deviation. Where such deviation does occur, such as on “Transmission’s On,” I’m not particularly convinced by it – see below. Moments of psychedelic guitar tones and infrequent samples tend towards something a bit more unexpected, but the song-writing is kept on a relatively tight leash. Similarly, the choruses are simple and don’t do anything shocking. I don’t hate the sound that the band strive for, but I’m left feeling that the execution here is disappointingly predictable.

Instrumentally, there’s not much to describe enthusiastically either. Considering the riff-centricity of stoner genres, the guitar leads are sometimes intriguing but never outstanding which limits overall enjoyment. More distracting are the vocals. The singer has a hint of Ozzy (as many Sabbath-inspired bands have) but he does not (or cannot) emulate Ozzy’s bluesy idiosyncrasy or assimilate other influences into his voice, so he consequently pales in comparison. And where the songs strip back a little to expose cleaner singing, such as on “A Broken Time Machine” and “Transmission’s On,” all this exposes are the frailties and thinness. Some of the longer notes demonstrate a gravelly character but given how infrequent this is, I wonder if this is a result of studio distortion and/or layering.

More than just bland, the song-writing here is also wasteful. Although 48 minutes is nominally an acceptable run-time, there’s an awful lot of repetition and bloat present which makes these 48 feel like 68. The opening 2 tracks, “A Change to Win the Orb” and “Starlight Portal Show,” both rumble through an additional minute’s worth of music after their final choruses and I can’t understand why. It feels like Gramma Vedetta struggle to write satisfactory conclusions as little that’s new is introduced. This sense of waste is exacerbated over The Hum’s final third, with 3 of the most repetitive tracks. “Transmission’s On” is the worst offender, which is a well-intentioned but boringly moody song that loops one drum rhythm under much of its duration. The quieter opening is drab and the spoken word vocals, when they hit, are dreary. All it does is degrade any momentum that the record did have for the 2 tracks which follow and conclude.

If there was any doubt in my mind as to whether The Hum should be a 2.5 or a 2.0, by the end of the final third of the record there was no doubt. While there are also worse ones, there are much better neo-Sabbath bands out there. Although Gramma Vedetta aim to be more than just that, they don’t particularly succeed in any respect. The album is bland to a fault and I can’t find a particular reason why you should listen to it. This was not the exciting release I wanted for my return.1

Rating: 2.0/5.0
DR: 9 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps MP3
Label: Mandrone Records
Releases Worldwide: May 27th, 2022

Show 1 footnote

  1. I feel regret and some degree of remorse. – Steel
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