One Machine – The Final Cull
Release Date: September 18, 2015
The Final Cull is the sophomore album by international metal band One Machine. For those not in the know, One Machine is the brainchild of guitar virtuoso and metal veteran, Steve Smyth, who has played in bands such as Testament, Dragonlord, Nevermore, and countless others. Also, if you’re a fan of Metalocalypse, you’ve probably heard him as the voice of Snizzy Snazzbullets, the guitarist of Snakes and Barrels.
One Machine cover a lot of ground over the course of this album, going from fast and thrashy to slow and groovy, with an obligatory ballad through in for good measure. While they do have a diversity of styles, they also manage to carve out a distinct sound wholly their own. The riffs are more driving than complex, which makes for good head banging, and are offset by blazingly fast solos from Smyth. The songs sound thoroughly composed, like they sat down and made sure that each part of the song ‘worked’ instead of just blindly throwing riffs together. The vocals are prominent in the mix, with newcomer Chris Hawkins providing some very strong operatic clean vocals as well as aggressive shouts, with the rest of the band providing either harmonized vocals or gang vocals accordingly.
There are some parts of this album that really caught my attention. The harmonized guitars in “Summoning of the Soul” were pretty awesome, as were the main riffs in “Forewarning” and “Born From This Hate”. The riff from “Forewarning” is especially brutal because it sounds like its setting you up for fast-paced head banging then the drums come in and well…it was more head lurching than anything (if that’s a thing). Even though I’m not really a fan of anthemic choruses, the chorus for “The Final Cull” made me raise my fist in solidarity (even though no one was around). It’s surprisingly catchy.
The solos on every track were impressive. It’s obvious Smyth knows his stuff as he tastefully navigates through chord progressions instead of just blindly hitting every note as fast as possible, (as some metal guitarists have been known to do). He doesn’t steal the spotlight though, as his solos are relatively short and well placed. I don’t want to give him all the credit though, as the rest of his bandmates; guitarist Jamie Hunt, bassist Stephen Wild, and drummer Michi Sanna are clearly not slouches.
While this album had its moments, there were a few things I definitely didn’t like. For one, aside from the obvious stand outs, most of the riffs aren’t very fresh. They aren’t bad riffs, per se, I just feel like I’ve heard them before. Some of the songs, such as “The Grand Design”, attempt to be slow and heavy but just end up being kind of dull. The new lead vocalist Hawkins is definitely a step up from the last singer, but there’s something about his style that wore on me after listening to the album a few times. He’s got this classic Dio/Dickenson kind of vibe which is decent, but there’s something about his over the top delivery that I don’t like. If you’re a big fan of classic 80’s metal, you’ll probably like him more than I.
Overall, this album was better than I had expected, but it still didn’t really blow my socks off. It definitely had some great solos, but those alone do not make an album. If you are a big fan of late 80’s thrash or prog metal, you might get a kick out of it. For those who are into more contemporary metal, check out the video for “Forewarning” and go from there.