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Machines Dream

Crossover Prog

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Honorary Collaborator
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. Bull[&*!#]! 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

Report this review (#1769907)
Posted Wednesday, August 9, 2017 | Review Permalink
5 stars Wow, this is the best album I've heard this year, the dark atmosphere, plus the thought-provoking lyrics, every song is great and they do the best! I do not know why this album is very little attention, but it really impeccable, I think it must be my favorite album of this year. Try it, it will not let you down. I have heard a lot of times, with Pink Floyd, King Crimson and Porcupine Tree taste, inherited their glorious tradition, but very modern. The best is undoubtedly the keyboard, the bass is also very powerful, the voice is also great My favorite album theme: against war. The first seven songs are for the twentieth century, the last one is that our confidence in the epoch, the information was in power control, this is another war. There is no doubt that five stars recommended.
Report this review (#1769959)
Posted Thursday, August 10, 2017 | Review Permalink
4 stars Review # 64. I discovered Machines Dream recently and I was very surprised by the quality of their music. They are Canadians, and their discography consists of 4 albums so far. In 2017 the band released their latest work, named as Black Science, which can be found in digital or physical (CD) version.

Black Science is dark; dark and wonderful!

The lyrics of the album are focused on the 20th Century, and especially to the 2 great wars; WW1 and WW2. As for heir sound, is solid, powerful, heavy and dark. (I will probably use the word 'dark' a lot in this piece). The strong Pink Floyd influences (among other bands) can be found everywhere, but that is not a problem at all. The album opens with the short intro Armistice Day, followed by Weimar, which is the album's longest track and one of the highlights without a doubt. After I listened to Weimar for the first time, I stopped listening to the rest of the album, and listened to it twice before deciding to continue. Yes, it's that good! The Cannons Cry that follows is a more powerful tune, but also dark and heavy. Then, Heavy Water enters, which - if I'm not mistaken - is about the efforts both sides did in order to create first the A-Bomb. Another excellent tune! Airfield on Sunwick is the album's 5th song, a melancholic but lighter tune, very beautiful as well. The 6th track is the title song, which points out some of the worst things that humanity did during the 20th Century, further than the 2 great wars. Another highlight here. As I was reaching towards the end, I discovered the first song I didn't like, which is UXB. It is not bad, but is nowhere near the previous ones. The last song is Noise to Signal which is the second song I didn't like so much. Again, it's not bad, but nothing special either. (But it is better than UXB, especially during its 2nd part). So, to sum up, Black Science is a really good album, not very easy to listen to, and certainly not so enjoyable or fun. It is heavy, dark, serious, melancholic, and great! It is a really interesting, not to say unique release. Highly recommended, but you must consider the things I wrote above. Also, have in mind that it will take some time and a few listens in order to really appreciate it. If you think that all the things you just read are interesting, then go for it! You will not regret it.

4 solid stars from me

Report this review (#1774324)
Posted Wednesday, August 23, 2017 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
4 stars This is my first taste of the Canadian band MACHINES DREAM. A very PINK FLOYD-like sound here but more powerful I'd say. Really good lyrics as well that deal with wars mainly and you really need to read tszirmay's review when it comes to the lyrics here. I like the dark atmosphere that's featured prominently along with the powerful sections but it's all good. Some guest sax really adds to the sound here. The vocalist seem to often sneer, as he sings the lyrics with attitude which isn't surprising given the subject matter. This is a real solid album.

"Armistice Day" is the 1 1/2 minute opener that features a powerful atmosphere as spoken words join in talking about war. "Weimar" opens with a beat but a full sound kicks in quickly along with piano. A calm with reserved vocals before 2 minutes. The chorus that follows has a feel good vibe all the way. The tempo and power increase before 4 1/2 minutes in this instrumental section. A ripping guitar solo starts before 6 minutes. A calm follows with reserved vocals a minute later along with piano, bass and drums. A relaxed guitar solo 8 minutes in as the vocals step aside, nice bass too. Vocals are back late followed by marching styled drums that blend into the next song.

"The Cannons Cry" kicks in heavily rather quickly along with the vocals which have some attitude to them. The heaviness subsides before a minute but it will come and go. Some spoken words before the vocals return followed by more sampled words. An angry tune. "Heavy Water" is by far my favourite but only because it recalls the sound of Kevin Moore on his piano in his band CHROMA KEY. Man I love the sound of this one and it does make me want to spin "Dead Air For Radios" this afternoon. The piano seems relentless and the vocals serious sounding but there's more passion on the chorus. So good! Love the guitar as well along with the bass when the vocals step aside before 6 minutes. Great section! Check out the drum work as well as it's quite dramatic after 7 minutes. The atmosphere rolls in after 8 minutes as it settles right down.

"Airfield On Sunwick" is a more relaxed song with a pleasant sound including vocals. The chorus is commercial sounding though and it reminds me of a band I can't quite put my finger on. I like when the vocals stop 3 minutes in and the bass comes to the fore along with synths as the drums pound. Vocals are back and that earlier sound 4 minutes in. "Black Science" opens with piano as strings join in followed by a powerful sound. It settles back a minute in and the vocals will also join in. There's a dark atmosphere and mood to this one. Some guest sax plays lazily starting before 6 1/2 minutes.

"UXB" is led by the bass and drums early on before it kicks in heavily before a minute. Vocals too and they have an attitude. Synths lead before 3 1/2 minutes then the guitar starts to light it up starting before 4 minutes. Piano only ends it. "Noise To Signal" is my second favourite track on here. Sampled spoken words at first before it kicks in hard rather quickly. A calm with vocals a minute in. "A noise to signal, a signal to noise" he sings. Love it! Nice bass too. Synths lead before 3 minutes then vocals and that powerful sound return. Synths are back after 4 minutes then a calm takes over. Reserved vocals join in just before 5 1/2 minutes as the drums and piano lead. it's building then we get a sax solo after 7 minutes as the vocals stop.

Not perfect by any means in my opinion but a very solid and enjoyable album that checks a lot of boxes for me. I'm so glad I decided to check out this band that is based about a 6 hour drive north of where I live. Highly recommended.

Report this review (#1817388)
Posted Sunday, October 29, 2017 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
2 stars Good Neo sound though both production and composition have some growing/maturing to do. Kudos go out to Craig West for taking on a commendable concept/intention behind the album (the signs and rise of fascism).

1. "Armistice Day" (1:34)

2. "Weimar" (10:41) fair though typically bombastic intro disappears for guitar arpeggi and PINK FLOYD-like vocal. Again, the intention behind this song is appreciated, it's just rendered as nothing PF, Porcupine Tree, or The Pineapple Thief hasn't already done--and here with, unfortunately, inferior sound production. The presence of a harpsichord sound excites me but nothing comes of it. Power chords, old synths, and guitar leads all sound far too familiar. (7.5/10)

3. "The Cannons Cry" (4:18) the simplicity and melodrama of this song are hard to take seriously. The best parts are the Eisenhower speech clips. (7.5/10)

4. "Heavy Water" (8:36) like an extended song from CHROMA KEY's Dead Air for Radios or a good BIG BIG TRAIN song from before 2007. (8/10)

5. "Airfield On Sunwick" (For Wojtek) (6:11) a solid song with better vocals and sound quality improved by use of heavy metal electric guitar work & sound. Probably my favorite song on the album. (8/10)

6. "Black Science" (8:17) Too predictable, too prog-by-numbers. Like the "berimbau" sound prominent in the first half and use of sax in the second. Good second half. (8/10)

7. "UXB" (4:59) A little heavier RIVERSIDE/SYLVAN-like sound works nicely! (But, that bass! Ouch!) Another top three. (8/10)

8. "Noise To Signal" (8:47) too much; as below. (7/10)

A decent album that is cursed by overpretentious lyrics, poor unexceptional lead vocals, poor sound production (especially in the presentation of the drums sound), and often prog-by-numbers song construction and performances. Still, nice keyboard and guitar play. A band to watch!

3.5 stars; a decent album but overall, not worth recommending to others.

Report this review (#1840933)
Posted Tuesday, December 12, 2017 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Canadian band MACHINES DREAM was formed back in 2012, and from 2013 and onward they have released new material at a steady pace. Three studio albums have seen the light of day so far. "Black Science" from 2017 is the most recent of these, and was released through UK label Progressive Gears.

"Black Science" comes across as a production with a broad potential reach for me, the happy marriage between late 70's Floyd and mid 80's neo progressive rock, explored in a relaxed and almost distanced manner. Subtle hints rather than stark contrasts is the band's choice when expressing themselves, and while there is a bit of an edge here it's not a cutting one. Progressive rock as explored in a subtly dark and carefully ominous atmosphere, and worth taking a look at by the audiences described.

Report this review (#1918257)
Posted Sunday, April 29, 2018 | Review Permalink

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