Album Review: MACHINAE SUPREMACY Into the Night World
The melding of metal music with another avenue that seems unrelated initially seems like a gimmick. Yet, when specifically examining the mesh of metal and video games, the notion isn't an utterly new concept and has been proven to work to an extent. Groups like Last Chance to Reason or Emmure have flirted with the idea of being the "video game metal band" conceptually and lyrically. Yet in the case of Machinae Supremacy, the group has fully embraced such a title as they attempt to clash the two components musically. Admittedly, the proposition where video games fully meet metal has me interested, but certainly one could have a broad interpretation of what it means to integrate two equally diverse topics together in a cohesive manner. For this review, I encountered many questions needed of an answer including if this particular blend is an accurate depiction, similarly if it is possibly a gimmick, and most of all if this style is even a successful creative decision.
As I previously brought up the aspect of a broad interpretation regarding "video game metal," I'd simple summarize Into the Night World, the group's sixth studio album, as music which fuses melodic power metal with 8-bit electronics. While the band's presence is new to me, I'll acknowledge that this experimental blend is not all too far out to the band itself as they have been using technology replicating the sounds of a Commodore 64 since the early 2000's. Previously releasing multiple records via the well known label, Spinefarm Records, the group made the decision to put out this LP on their own Hubnester Records.
For starters, the vocals take awhile to get used to as the Robert Stjärnström's high register is abrasive at times. But, perhaps I'm a power metal noob who hasn't yet adjusted to such a vocal range. While vocals are a largely crucial component of these compositions, I'll brush off my dissatisfaction with them as preference rather than actual skill. On a related note, I find it also crucial to point out that Stjärnström can actually conjure up a catchy vocal melody quite quickly in a majority of these tracks.
Although the vocal aspect falls out of my comfort zone at parts, if one is to identify as "video game metal," I believe the main focus and expectations are placed rather on the music. The opening three songs: "My Dragons Will Decimate," the title track, and "Twe27ySeven" are all essentially power metal in its most modern state with pop chorus hooks, guitar shredding, and some glitchy transitions. "Remember Me" breaks this formula and pace by going the ballad by the numbers route, where I began questioning the need for such a dated style. While the ballad isn't exclusively tied down to the cheesiness of the 80's, the way Machinae Supremacy presents the song has more nostalgia behind it then originality.
As the tracks stated above didn't fully impress me as far as I'd hoped, there were redeeming moments in the latter half. During the midsection of "Stars Had to Die So That You Could Live," I found the band in a more powerful place. Their self-proclaimed objective of making heavy music equal to the immersive scores featured in video games peaks here as they finally expose an experimental soundscape. "Sid Metal Legacy" is another piece that met my "video game metal" vision with melodic synths beside riffing guitars. Lastly, it seems necessary to give major props to Jonas Rörling's guitarwork and solos, which felt immense and excel each track to the immersive qualities they deserve.
To recall the questions I brought up in the intro of this review regarding the accuracy, validity, and necessity of video game music meets metal concept, based off the majority of these songs, I would say there are interesting 8-bit synth progressions as the intro for each track, but the actual meat of these songs drifted towards simple power metal. Therefore, I'd say the "video game" title is a tad off center for most of these songs, but I can respect the band's hope to push boundaries in some direction. If I was to provide some form of constructive criticism, I'd hope for more consistency of synths in the future to better develop the video game metal identity. Furthermore, I can certainly conclude that Machinae Supremacy and their music do not apply to the term or label of "gimmick" as I previously pondered as I view the potential of this music to hit that sweet spot of creativity and originality that many modern acts miss. Conclusively, I can claim this style as inevitably successful and necessary if the band finds more room for their unique flavor to seep through.
In the end, I will admit that there are parts of this record that simply are not my cup of tea, however I believe that there are also aspects that could be much improved to more accurately portray the identity of "video game metal." In theory, I respect the idea that Machinae Supremacy were aiming for, but I don't see this as completely reaching that goal yet. Truly though, Into the Night World is filled with some hidden musical gems to discover and distinct experimentation with the capacity to allure fans of both video games and metal.