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Machines Dream - Machines Dream CD (album) cover


Machines Dream

Crossover Prog

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Like many of us I got my early musical education at the hands of older siblings and - thankfully for me - a fair slice of classic progressive rock was included. And I lived quite happily with bands like Rush et al over many contented years. Until. The Internet gave me access to new artists and new ways for me to hear their music.

It was during one surfing expedition that I found myself listening to this album. I was intrigued by the artist name with its connotations (for me) of Philip K Dick/Blade Runner. I am sure that there are many other strange reasons to start listening to any band!

And I'm glad that I did for this is an excellent debut album by a set of very accomplished musicians.

Album opener Boundaries has a brief almost Eastern opening before the guitarist starts with some shred riffing. The vocals come in fairly quickly and tell a wistful tale of memories before a very uplifting chorus break. Overall, though, it is quite a heavy track that offers a lot of promise for what is to come.

This is followed by a killer track in Toronto Skyline which seems to be about the real sense of alienation in a large city. After some intro vocals there is an explosive guitar solo underpinned by nice keyboards. The lyricist excels himself in this song and perfectly tells a tale that will be familiar to many of us. The last 1/3 of the song is the lead guitar player letting rip with some lyrical playing - I just loved where it took me - reminded me in places of Steve Rothery.

Track 3 London By Night follows a similar theme - another city, another lost soul. There is an FM feel to this and I imagine it would sound very good on a radio station. Once again the latter part of the song has some nice psychedelic guitar playing to close things out.

The next track Unarmed At Sea feels very much like the centre piece and is probably the most cohesive song on this album. There is a dramatic keyboard-led opening before the vocalist begins his plaintive tale of being alone in some desolate place with rotting boardwalks. Things do take a heavy turn mid-way through with another great guitar solo that reminded me of Neil Young in rock out Crazy Horse mode. The keyboards dominate the end of the song and you feel it is going to end quietly until the guitarist reminds you that he is still there!

One of the two 'long' songs on the album is next. Mad For All Seasons reminded me of Garden Party by Marillion and has a stomping riff to get some prog dancing going. The middle section quietens a little with some guitar/keyboards interplay before the vocalist starts to get a heavy groove on again encouraging the rest of the band to show their rockier side.

Song 6 Waiting For Miracles is a straight ahead rocker with some of the best vocals on the album and more great soloing from the guitarist. Less of a classic progressive feel, but none the worse for it.

Quiet keyboards introduce Locust before the guitars announce themselves. The overall feel of the song is quite psychedelic throughout though there are some great power chords to remind you that these guys are not totally laid back!

Colder Rain returns to full blown classical prog with guitars/keys underpinned by some tub thumping drumming to start before quickly slowing down to some atmospheric vocals with understated backing. The sound levels are then cranked up again and I found myself shaking my head to the crazy Moog (?) solo around the mid point. The guitar then joins in with the motif - some excellent drumming behind this section - before wandering off on a solo journey. Things are brought down several levels where I started to imagine the colder rain on some dark street as I made my way home from a night out.

Penultimate track Everybody Says Goodbye has that recurring psychedelic theme in its opening musically. The lyrics repeat the lost/alone feel of other tracks. I did feel that this was a weak track given what had gone before. I hesitate to say 'filler' but it had that feel about it and probably cost the review a star.

The longest song closes the album. The Session starts off with some vocal soundbites before the guitarist pops up to say hello everybody with a cracking riff. I imagined the band all wigging out behind him as he goes headbanging crazy with his axe. The keys come in to provide a wandering lead line behind the vocals telling a further tale of leaving/emptiness. What follows is quite an eclectic mixture - Moog (?) solo, shredding, crashing drums, quiet acoustic plucking, even the bass comes to the fore - before the song/albums winds down to one last thought:

"I'm afraid of everything."

That's the closing line! Well the vocalist may well be, but fans of great music have nothing to fear from this album.

Report this review (#1212928)
Posted Sunday, July 13, 2014 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Machines Dream is going to be one hell of revelation to avid prof fans out there, having flown underneath my radar and discovering its existence only via candidacy into joining PA within the crossover sub-genre. This talented crew are based in tranquil Sault Ste-Marie, Ontario, Canada, not exactly a hotbed of prog, but it becomes apparent that these lads have definitely passed their exams on progressive rock, a clever blend of harder-edged Pink Floyd influences, perhaps similar to Norwegian band Airbag or German band RPWL in taking the highly-schooled style into different horizons.

Scratchy needle opens the book on a glittering prize, as 'Boundaries' evokes a particular interest in cool lyrics , motored by tremendously effective vocals (a consistent trait throughout the disc) from bassist Craig West , some spectacular guitar slinging from Keith Conway, Brian Holmes keyboard colorations are spot on, while Ken Coulter drums with authority. This is a bruising and heavy affair in order to get the juices flowing and the attention firmly on the upcoming features.

To prove the point, "Toronto Skyline" has a hook, line and sinker that could easily propel this song and its creators to legendary status, a true prog anthem for the eternal ages. Firstly, build a solid melody with a soaring and hummable chorus, an incandescent guitar solo and enough mood and space to sink deep into one's pleasure nodes. West sings brilliantly.

The nearly 5 minute "London at Night" is a completely different feel, perhaps more of a basic rock ballad, adorned with swoon and groove courtesy of a rollicking bass furrow, slide guitar frills, good propulsive beat and more seasoned West vocals. There is a more Roxy Music, Bowie, Peter Murphy-like feel here (bands they used to cover in their formative period) than, say KC, Floyd or Genesis. In fact Conway sounds more like Manzanera than Gilmour (which is funny because the two are close friends and collaborators).

This poppy respite only serves to elevate the torrid "Unarmed at Sea" , a mellotron-drenched epic that simply takes the listener's breath away, a sublime lead vocal within churning symphonic waves, 'gradually going tornado' into more passionate fury, like some storm of melancholic solitude unleashing the deepest pain. Conway then blisters on the fret board, curdling bolts of electric despair as it fizzles onward and upward. The somber piano keeps on playing the same desperate, forlorn and vulnerable lament.

The jaw-dropping "Mad for All Seasons" goes beyond the 10 minute mark and as such, is one of the more constructed epics presented here, Craig West has the uncanny ability to modulate his voice into unending variations, sounding here like the perpetually angry Derrick Dick (Fish), while the band does a fair flattery of Marillion by the book. The impossible guitar prefers a screechy tone, the overall mood ominous, vaporous and beguiling. There is a barely suppressed sense of rage that makes this piece feel like a shaken champagne bottle ready to blow its cork to kingdom come. But instead of the expected splashy eruption, the piano and bass veer into more tremulous mid-section that felt almost like the Legendary Pink Dots, before a tempestuous Manzanera-like solo scours the skies like some rough cleaning implement. "Closing time again", West bellows.

We then are witnessing two shorter tunes that showcase a more accessible slant, I must admit that they , while very pleasant and well-constructed, really do not highlight the band's strengths. "Stop Waiting for Miracles" is best described as the most immediate song on the album, a straight ahead boomer, constructed in very basic form, direct vocals and clinical playing by all aboard. "Locusts" opens with a familiar piano refrain, some the Who-like guitar phrasing, early rock 'n roll meets psychedelia that, again caters to the poppier side.

Things revert to haunting and majestic with the rather amazing "Colder Rain", a blustery hurricane of sound and vision, propelled by a Manfred Mann-like synth solo as well as profound symphonics, roaming bass and devastating sonic drums. A totally unexpected electric piano solo only compels one deeper into amazement.

"Everyone Says Goodbye" is another briefer ditty that has more of a blue-rock feel, almost hints of Robin Trower. As stated before, very good but not essential within the confines of the longer pieces.

All is well that ends well, and "the Session" is the perfect finale, suggesting nearly a dozen minutes of intense cinematographic prog, loaded with tons of delicious detail, quirky synth bubbles, rash guitar slashes and , once again, a new vocal modulation from Mr. West, a voice to be reckoned with. The essence of progressive rock is caught within its grooves, a sense of unexpected luxury and divine expression fluttering at the fingertips of the players as they manipulate their instruments. Fantastic debut , a band we all need to keep an eye on.

It is not uncommon for debut albums to showcase some diversity and that is why it's called a debut, a need to provide all the tendencies which make artists want to express themselves. I am sure that their next effort , the soon to be released 'Immunity' will concentrate on what Machines Dream do best, an album of longer, well-thought out compositions that extol the virtues of smartly crafted music and present a vocal performance that only serves to further enhance the talent on display. The artwork, production, arranging and playing are world-class.

4 android hallucinations.

Report this review (#1220052)
Posted Wednesday, July 23, 2014 | Review Permalink
5 stars An album of contrasts and high production values. I heard the epic Toronto Skyline on an internet radio station and decided to check out the band.

The album is available as an uncompressed (WAV or FLAC) free download at the Aurovine site and is impressive on a decent Hi-Fi system or good quality headphones.

Unarmed At Sea, Boundaries and The Session have enough for hardened prog fans to get their teeth into. It's much more Floyd than Dream Theater so don't let the 'Crossover' labelling put you off.

As a debut, the album stands up there with some of the best and it will be interesting to see if they can follow it up with an album delivering the same impact. I would, however, like to see the boundaries (no pun intended) pushed a little in terms of putting their own stamp (or definitive sound) onto the next collection of songs.

Report this review (#1266401)
Posted Tuesday, September 2, 2014 | Review Permalink

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