If you’ve been loitering in the Hall since the Great Muppet Invasion first began, you’ve probably noticed how
great I am at promo selection rarely I wander too terribly far from my tried and trve metal wheelhouses. I’ve been burned by the bin before, I’m bitter and basically all but unable to believe that things could be better beyond the blackmosphere, but the burden ov objectivity and that big bastardly bully of a boss-monkey Steel have beckoned me to bid bye-bye to my beloved blackness and embrace being the bin’s bitch. I left my fate in Jørn‘s hands this week, yo, so instead of reviewing yet another album about depression and misanthropy by yet another band not trying hard enough to be Agalloch, I’m covering an album about disgraced ex-cops and sentient houses by a band that sounds like Sumac mixed with Coheed and Cambria… say whaaat?
Striving for a succinct, straightforward assessment of Reflex Machine‘s sound seems somewhat impossible, and such would almost certainly be a disservice to the Ohioans. Sludge, post-metal, doom, mathcore and more all play a part on Reflex Machine‘s stage, to the point that categorization is a lost cause. If pressed for specificity, I suppose I’d say they sound something like the strange and spastic spawn of Isis and The Mars Volta; Sometimes things are slow and suspenseful, sometimes they’re savage and schizophrenic, and sometimes they’re simple and sorta silly. They’re certainly not for everyone, I can say that much, but if nothing else Reflex Machine are definitely one of the more ambitious and adventurous acts I’ve heard this year.
Where even to begin? Interzone is very much about itself, an album to be experienced specifically when one wishes to experience said album, rather than interspersed with other acts in a playlist of similar material. Insofar as similar material goes, one might ostensibly lump these lads in with the likes of Sumac or Neurosis, and yet any such similarities are fluid and fleeting, given the spastic stylistic shifts experienced along Interzone‘s 9 tracks. I don’t claim to understand its story1 but it’s evident that the music attempts to capture the essence of each scene. Things open on an eery, ominous note with the titular “Interzone,” crawling through dense layers of sludgy distortion, and (presumably) the progression of the story dictates the tone of things to come. Listeners taken by the story-telling aspect of Interzone are likely to appreciate this element more so than casual explorers; the artistic effort is admirable, but such drastic dynamic shifts as the leap from climactic thundering chaos into the drunken tavern canzonet that kicks off “The Descent I. Enter Jones” don’t exactly make for the smoothest or easiest of rides.
If it sounds like a lot’s going on here, that’s because a lot is going on in Interzone… sort of. Conceptually ambitious and tonally sprawling, Reflex Machine consists of but two individuals, co-vocalists Alex and James, who respectively rock a drum kit and a bass… and nothing else. That such disparate soundscapes are woven together with the relative success of Interzone is interesting in its own right, but that it comprises so few components is downright baffling and impressive. As such, the tone of any riffs or melodies is rather thick and squishy,2 yet the efficacy of this unconventional formula is undeniable. While Reflex Machine‘s is a difficult sound to pinpoint, it is also very much their own, thanks largely to the duo’s enthusiastic journey outside the box.
I’ve never heard anything quite like Interzone before, and while I’m unsure as to if I ever intend to do so again or not, I’m still compelled to urge you to give it a spin — if nothing else, I suppose I’m thankful that Steel didn’t stick me with nü-metal or olde-metal. This album’s greatest strength is its willingness to explore; Interzone is not a constant feed of mesmerizing riffs and catchy hooks, but an attempt to push the boundaries of instruments and genres alike. Looking for something that requires dissection, exploration and reference materials? While it’s not really my cup ov tea
rs, Interzone is an admirable and thoughtfully executed effort all the same, and if poisoning Sumac with At the Drive-In sounds more appealing than irresponsible to you then, by all means, give this a try.
DR: 5 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Over the CounterCulture Records
Websites: reflexmachine.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/reflexmachineband
Releases Worldwide: September 6th, 2019
- ‘…the horrifying realities of a disavowed cop named Jones facing himself and his sordid past through the absurdly demented A.I. of a futuristic force of unfathomable cruelty — a sentient building known as Interzone’ according to the promo sheet. The lyrics are available on the bands Bandcamp page, but I am confused nonetheless. ↩
- HR Team 6 on standby. ↩