19 July, 2013
Message To The Machine - Self-Inflicted
01. Screamer Number Four, 02. I Am Effigy, 03. Your Eyes My Lies, 04. Pariah, 05. Reclaimher, 06. Your Sex, 07. The Desolate Beat Of Tarquin Pain, 08. My Little Psycho, 09. Edens Laboratory, 10. Patiently We Drown, 11. The Engineer, 12. Demon Creeper
The third album of Message To The Machine that was written, performed, mixed, mastered and produced by British musician James Orez brings a lot of experimental electronica mixed with ambient and industrial tunes. The overall sound is also heavier when compared to the Endlessly Copying Ourselves EP released in 2012.
You'll probably notice a specific, hidden duality in most of the songs. It's a result of mixing aggressive, disturbing and noisy arrangements (including vocals) with initially innocent and sweet sounds. Clamorous repetitions are typical for industrial music as they are purposely utilized to mimic either working or broken machines but also heavy industry workers using hammers, drills and other tools. Message To The Machine operates with similar sound effects quite often, giving compositions a noisy vibe. Not only that, James also skilfully utilizes silence as well as dissonances.
"Screamer Number Four" opens with whispers and an arythmic tempo. As the title suggests, you will hear a lot of hard-hitting, hardcore-like vocals yelling the lyrics out, though they are interlaced with infantile voices as well. "I Am Effigy" brings rebellious punk moods mixed with electronic arrangements.
The composition of "Your Eyes My Lies" is based on repetitive arrangements built upon beats and synth driven tunes enriched with alternating aggressive and delicate vocals. Catchy yet complex, the song has the feel of early Nine Inch Nails music. 'Glassy' ringing sounds (as if played on bottles) and irregular beats in a cloud of oneirism characterize "Pariah". Stretched, groaning vocals sound as if James was murmuring a very creepy story to scare you.
"Reclaimher" starts with a quiet vocal part, reminiscent of The Cure songs. Soon after, it's followed by a noisy industrial turmoil in the style of Einstürzende Neubauten. The lyrics are almost declaimed with a voice full of hatred. In addition, you will also hear many cool sound effects and samples within this composition.
"Your Sex" sounds angry but an accented and thus irritating synth leitmotif may be stealing too much of your attention. The song seems to be a bit too long, as well (6:20). A similar remark could be pointed at "My Little Psycho". It's a tad annoying, pushy track which due to numerous repetitions seems to be longer than it actually is (04:11).
"The Desolate Beat Of Tarquin Pain" marks the first of the two ambient tracks on Self-Inflicted, not lacking in industrial flavors. The sound of an irregular heart-beat goes well with buzzy beats and gentle, oriental-ish backgrounds. Sonically rich and full of very well-thought arrangements, it speaks well for James' talent with making experimental ambient music.
The other instrumental song is called "Edens Laboratory". It brings lots of thriller/science-fiction motifs, ripe for use by the movie or video game industry. The dark ambient atmosphere will undoubtedly affect your imagination. In "Patiently We Drown", high quality experimental electronica is characterized by a non-disruptive, pumping tempo and gentle, high tuned piano chords. The vocals sound different here; they are dark and controlled as if you were listening to the famous Vincent Price retelling his eerie experiences.
"The Engineer" does not only include great lyrics (mind the memorable chorus: "I am the only engineer who can rewire"), but also an almost theatrical performance enriched with matching, mechanical music. The atmosphere feels a bit psychotic and delusional.
The closing song, "Demon Creeper", sounds a bit different when compared to the others. The opening, velvety sounding guitars may soothe your senses after the noisy tracklist so far, but the deeper you go into the track, the more of the industrial vibe comes back. You should also pay attention to the excellent mix of levelled guitars and low tuned synths, which comes up when the chorus begins.
James has a good voice (often powered up by filters and effects for the sake of the mechanical mood of his music). He also seems to have good theatrical skills allowing him to perform the songs in an animated way. At times smooth, then unexpectedly rough, he sounds unpredictable and a bit unbalanced on this album. Surely, it's a perfectly planned artistic manifestation and the final result will draw your attention.
These are not easy-listening compositions and will require your brain to focus. According to James, the idea of Self-Inflicted is related to self-doubt and self-loathing due to the reappearance of second-guessing and the fear of losing control (as in "Demon creeper lurking in the darkness, demon creeper trying to control (…) too many words are running through my mind, too many demons are trying to hurt me" /"Demon Creeper"/). Lyrically, the songs speak of frustration arising when false hopes meet sheer reality ("Drowning within our very own lonesome pathetic, apathetic so called lives staring blindly into, mind saturating screens filled with false hope and pre tense" /"Patiently We Drown"/).
A bit of criticism at the end. Some of the lyrics were seemingly written before the music, thus they were adjusted to the musical arrangements. The final result is that the lyrics sound stretched in a few spots ("Demon Creeper", "My Little Psycho").
Secondary, the drum machine sounds too automatic, loud, stiff and basically maintains the same depth in most of the tracks. However, while the beat may hurt you in "Screamer Number Four", "I Am Effigy", "Reclaimher", "The Engineer" or specifically in "My Little Psycho", it works in "Your Eyes My Lies" and "Your Sex" very well.
It'd be great to see a live performance of Message To The Machine if it included a screenplay, unique outfits, maybe some masks and make up too, as known for instance from Nivek Ogre's (Skinny Puppy) shows. Self-Inflicted is a great album to buy if you dig experimental industrial music with screamy vocals and brooding moods.
(Katarzyna 'NINa' Górnisiewicz, Fabryka Music Magazine, July 19th, 2013. Proofreading: Mike 'Vesper' Dziewoński)
You may also like: Message To The Machine - Endlessly Copying Ourselves EP review.
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Reviewed by Fabryka Music Magazine