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Machines Dream - Black Science CD (album) cover


Machines Dream


Crossover Prog

3.80 | 129 ratings

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5 stars Machines Dream is my new Canadian prog love interest, a band that enthused me with their debut album and finally, the band sent me their 'Immunity' album as well as their most recent opus 'Black Science'. They set the tone with a dark, powerful style that evokes past giants like Pink Floyd, King Crimson and Genesis with dashes of Porcupine Tree, Marillion, Nine Stones Close and other modern stalwarts. They do have their own musical image that seems to be expertly led by Brian Holmes delicate keyboard artistry as well as lead singer and bassist Craig West's powerful presence.

In the true prog tradition, Machines Dream concentrate on telling stories that encompass historical events, craving a soundtrack that would only amplify the tale. On 'Black Science', the focus is on the 20th century, a wildly tumultuous slice of progression via regression, leaping forward at great cost in devastating suffering and human lives. As a military historian, I always refer to the monstrous tragedy that vehiculated unabated from WW1 to WW2 and after, as the face of Europe was marred by a massive spasm of destruction, only to return to its almost original form, at the cost of 100 million dead! What a colossal waste! Walk along the Franco-Belgian border and witness the endless military cemeteries, where many million young soldiers have perished for no apparent conclusive reason, other than human folly. It certainly erases any sense of entitlement one may have living the 'good' life and yet still complaining! Dwight Eisenhower warned us publicly of the industrial military complex that de facto rules the world and he was correct, as reprised on the track 'The Cannons Cry''. This sad reality continues today, the lessons still not learned. Finally a work of musical art that devotes itself to this horror that befell the world, twice!

First block of tracks reflect the end of WW1 with a mighty intro 'Armistice Day' (1918) when the world shuddered to a very badly managed halt of hostilities that sadly only prepared the next cataclysm. The epic 11 minute 'Weimar' reflects the growing pains of post-monarchic anarchy, puerile republican aims fueled by greed and power, fascist propaganda and Leninist revolution colliding in competition, yet equal in horror. Throw on top a great depression, millions starving in unison, thus forming the slavery concept that binds the human weakness. The piece is a masterpiece of mood and atmosphere, the sophisticated piano wrestling with rash guitars and a marshaling beat. 'Welcome to winds of prostitution' sings Craig West convincingly, shrouded in deep melancholia and imminent despair. The sudden appearance of a wild harpsichord section only preps for the multiple collisions with a tough riff, a carving bass and a bad-ass drum flurry. Lead guitarist Rob Coleman unleashes a luxuriant but disturbing solo, as West describes 'the night of the long knives', and a 'he's screaming: we need a new war' , historically recalling the beginning of the 'Ein F'hrer, ein Volk, ein Reich' fallacy that will lead to 60 million dead. Brilliance.

The gruesome 'The Cannons Cry' sheds light on the rise of Italian, German, Japanese, Spanish and Soviet military fascism, dictatorships fueled by big money and racist nationalism, control devices to muzzle the masses, in the guise of Gestapo, NKVD, Kempeitai, Balilla, SA and SS. The steamroller guitar romp, the pounding goose-stepping drum beat and the unwavering assault on sanity, only highlights the stormy lyrics that are spot on and lethal. Blackshirts in fashion, thankfully stamped out and ultimately destroyed. Amazing track.

Historically speaking, the atom bomb was being developed by both the Allies (Manhattan Project) and the Nazis (Kaiser Wilhelm Institut), while pioneer Nils Bohr was sitting pretty in Copenhagen, undeterred by both belligerents. 'Heavy Water' refers to the Norsk Hydro plant in occupied Norway that was successfully damaged by the BSC but here the onus is more specifically on the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings. Typical of our ability to venture from humanity to inhumanity, those two events came with two unheeded warnings, as the Emperor and Tojo refused to believe the existence of a Weapon of Mass Destruction. The second explosion remains the last time the BOMB was ever used, and like it or not has kept the idiot politicians at bay. The music has a slight Oriental tinge, laced with deep apprehension and mushroomed by a massive Floydian vibe. West rages like the engines of the B-29 bomber, nicknamed the Enola Gay that seared our petty universe for the first time. 'Ashes fall like snow' refers to both the victims of racist holocaust as well as the atomic version, offering pale forgiveness and doomed repentance, painted by 'the colors of hell' and the pain of eternal guilt. Coleman goes on quite a rant, thrashing, rippling, sizzling and contorting like radiation gone awry. Tremendous music.

After such dramatic turbulence, a lighter moment of humanity is found on 'Airfield on Sunwick (song for Wojtek)', a heartfelt story about a brown bear mascot named Wojtek who accompanied a heroic Polish fighting unit during WW2. While war is an appalling example of human frailty and folly, it must be stated that the fight against Hitler was a just campaign, amid all the terror and slaughter, as the valiant cause was a salvation for some kind of civilized epiphany. Maze of Sound vocalist Jakub Olejnik does a Polish vocal section that adds conviction to the upbeat piece.

The 8 minute title track sums up the whole album with the following liner notes: Looking back at the 20th century as a whole, and feeling that some of the worst things stand out more than the best. Serial killers, selfishness, neoliberal economics, the worship of money, sensational fact free news (my pet peeve and why I chose history), the destruction of the environment, apartheid, and wars on a scale unlike anything before ' . Indeed, the use and abuse of gas warfare, of total war, of genocide, of carpet bombing with phosphorus, of the mass murder of civilians (a somewhat rare event further back in time, as armies met on the battlefield and involved comparatively little civilian loss) is a repulsive reminder of how low we human animals can sink to. And then you have those sly liars who dare deny that it ever happened! In terms of performance, there is a more bombastic approach to the arrangement, Craig West's pugnacious bass pushing forward like a main battle tank, the synths grandiose and the moody rhythmic cannonade. The pace is deliberate and despondent, a funeral hymn for the victims, with the sombre sax coming in to do some serious emotional damage and further the desolation of history repeated over and over again. Are we that dumb? YES.

'UXB' recounts the maddening injustice of the 'troubles' , the northern Irish war pitting Catholics and Protestants, republicans and monarchists, led by hypocrite idiots like Rev. Ian Paisley (a man of god? right!) and the IRA assassins led by Martin McGuinness. All in the name of the same God and the same prophet. Bullshit! Bloody Sunday, Grand Brighton Hotel, Crossmaglen, Enniskillen, Shankill Road, Loughinisland, Docklands in London, Omagh, and countless other useless tragedies, only to find Paisley and McGuinness sharing power and shaking hands. Gruesome. Musically , the twirling bass guitar sets up a harsh barrage of doom and gloom, an explosive hush of 'danger creeping from all sides', and a raging, spewing and eruptive venom from West's lungs , 'without cause, without voice' . The style is modern prog, slippery synths and strident guitar that tortures nastily. A gentle piano announces a return to peace, a completely unexpected event that was one of the rare times when money was thrown at a problem and somewhat solved (Thank you Bombardier).

We finally arrive to the 21st century with 'Noise to Signal' and history is being repeated once again, lessons never learned and hence, the calamities of the past seem unable to disappear and vanish. Economic, social and spiritual values have been taken over by sly politicians and billions of internet pundits who slice and dice their preferred slogans in the most mystifying way. That the word 'fascist' and 'commie' are still bandied about today is reprehensible. These are historically proven outright failed institutions! Is there a leader on our planet who is trustworthy? Is there a media source that is reliable? Where is the truth? 'Shut down the noise, become the signal 'bellows the beleaguered West, sax egging him along in confusing apprehension. The track is an absolute cracker, deeply resonating and passionate, lyrically and musically.

If I ever would have the talent to make an album, it would undoubtedly resemble this masterful piece of progressive rock, with a source subject that I have studied for over 50 years. Machines Dream has made an album that should be in every rock collection, not just for the music but the message as well. There will be a salvation, a new beginning, a just golden age. Just please remember the past or else we are all doomed.

5 Obscure learnings

tszirmay | 5/5 |


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