I love the opening to this album; so unexpected, so bold. Brent McCormick’s resonant voice swoons from the speakers, in a good 30 seconds of A-Capella. And on first listen, if you’re unfamiliar with the band, you really don’t know what to expect, what’s going to happen next, even what kind of music it’s going to be. It builds some very nice tension, and then what does happen? It explodes with rock power, into the propulsive groove of blistering opener Colour Outside the Lines. And it’s a thing of wonder and beauty.
In fact, the words ‘boldness and beauty’ kinda sum this record up. From the cover, which is basically a bold, beautiful black and white depiction of the wing of some great, majestic bird of prey. The title of the album is powerful and yet enigmatic. The sound is huge, the songs are massive slabs of anthemic rock, but with some real dynamic, more unexpected and even some tender moments in there as well.
This band has been on a real journey, musically and personally, over the course of its eight or so years of existence. Musically, it has morphed from a dark, heavy, Karnivool and Middle Eastern influenced progressive rock outfit on their first two EPs, to a more accessible rock act on their debut of 2013, Beautiful in Danger, to what we hear on Machine Made the Animal. Which is, somewhere in between, a pretty ideal combination of the two. This album takes the heaviness of the early days and makes it as catchy as the debut.
Musicianship, and production courtesy of Dan Murtagh (Karnivool, I Am Giant, Full Code), absolutely exemplary. However, this is first and foremost an album of songs. And songcraft. As we all know, no amount of production polish can cover up bad songwriting, and the tunes on this record are powerful, dynamic and memorable.
I’m very happy to see that the middle eastern influence hasn’t disappeared completely, there is a brief, teasing moment during powerhouse album closer, The Fix, where it raises its head, and then it’s gone again. If there is one minor gripe I have with this band it’s that I want them to go back to more of that. It was what made the first two EPs so unique.
That’s probably just me though.
Machine Made the Animal is an ultra-catchy beast of a record, an athematic juggernaut that gets you slamming your fist to the sky and singing your heart out to its memorable lines at the same time. And the work of a supremely confident rock act with multiple releases and some seriously hard assed touring miles behind them – An Aussie rock classic.