Mechina – Xenon
Release Date: January 1st, 2014
Mechina. This is a name that I remembered well from the previous year. Mechina had surprised many with the release of 2013’s Empyrean, which impressed me, but for some reason it just didn’t have that lasting effect that stayed with me to the end. With the dawn of the new year beginning its pass, Mechina release the third chapter of their six album double trilogy, Xenon.
The universe surrounding this project, helmed by guitarist Joe Tiberi, is massive, complicated, and absolutely beautiful. Xenon only encompasses a small part of this story, by creating a chapter that depicts the visualizations and concepts of future worlds and civilizations. You become propelled in a world that describes Earth in 2152 A.D., where war rages, an escape must be made, and a new adventure begins to unfold. As someone who loves conceptual albums, I’m already sold on the album before listening to it. However, I’m not exactly aware of what has happened up to this point. Should this stray you from listening? Of course not. Even without understanding the story, the music can still be enjoyed.
Illinois-based Mechina have been hailed as industrial death metal but can also be described as a symphonic band incorporating orchestral and electronic elements with a slight progressive spice sprinkled on top. It might be simpler to call them, space metal. When it comes to the orchestral and symphonic details, I tend to be pretty picky as it seems few bands have a hard time figuring out the right balance. Some put too much emphasis and others barely give it enough umph to really give the main sound a kick in the rear. There is a solid sprinkling of heavy beats from drummer David Gavin, and a good mix of clean and harsh vocals from David Volch. Bassist Steve Aramantos holds down the back-end quite nicely, and Tiberi seems to be spreading his wings a bit on the guitar for this record.
The title track kicks things off with an unknowing, atmospheric, and cosmic introduction that soon sends the listener into an energetic volley of drums and guitar. Vocals, electronically enhanced, immediately sets the album into the futuristic setting mentioned before. When it comes to vocals, I’m usually not very picky and I definitely love to hear a vocalist use their raw talent but I also have a soft spot for anything that digs into electronica. The “autotuned” vocals may turn some folks off right at the forefront, just a warning for those that aren’t into that sort of thing in their music. Joe Tiberi, who also handles programming, has already outdone himself, with Xenon creating a lasting impression within this first piece.
“Alithea” demonstrates the use of harsh vocals more so than the previous. The continuous onslaught of vocals, stabbing guitars, and drumming destruction sets an ominous tone that can be very difficult to set. The soundscapes in this record are pristine, giving this record an edge against others with the replayability that can be obtained if you want to hear something different with each listen.
“Zoticus” contains a beautiful introduction that features string instruments that feed fluidly into an electronica melody. The comparison of natural life feeding into a technologically run way of living is easily identified and flawlessly translated to the listener. Although there is guitar placed within the composition, I feel this track to be more that of the electronic variety than metal. Xenon proves to be in a class of it’s own. The intensity and atmosphere are awe-inspiring, giving the listener a whole new outlook on how metal can be composed, into that of an epic soundtrack fit for sci-fi movies.
Xenon may be daunting at first, considering these tracks aren’t exactly short in length. Be prepared to spend a bit of time listening to this, especially if you’re one of those folks that likes to inspect every aspect of an album. Xenon is also an album that may be difficult to get into with just one listen, as there is a lot going on at the forefront and background. If you have some doubts, try to give it one more listen before judging. It is worth it.
Mechina pushes to the front of the pack with this release. However, I feel many will push it aside because the project is not well-known. If you’re a fan of symphonic bands, soundtracks, or concepts, give this a listen ASAP. I haven’t heard many musical projects reach this caliber of powerful and engaging in quite a while. I don’t see anything changing that soon.