1. Welcome to the Machine, 2. My Virus, 3. We Breed Insects, 4. Venom Me, 5. Digital Christ, 6. Defect, 7. Only the Void, 8. Slave Nation, 9. Infest, 10. End of Everything, 11. My Virus (Alternate Version), 12. Stripped, 13. N.W.O
Industrial rock and metal music (called 'old-school' these days) fell out of the mainstream after Y2K. Due to this, die hard fans of these genres have had a difficulty finding many releases which could satisfy their picky tastes. Luckily however, the NYC duo behind Malice Machine (Ammo - drums, drum programing, artwork; Sepsis - guitar, vocals, bass, programming, songwriting, production, mastering) got inspired by both the 1990s guitar-driven industrial sounds and modern electro/darkwave vibes. A great quality blend of these appears on their Digital Scars album released in 2017.
'Welcome to the Machine' is the first of three cover songs here, originally released by Pink Floyd. As the album intro, it perfectly suits the purpose since it's the shortest yet the most seductive track. Its slowly pulsating tempo allows listeners to calm down, before they enter the heart of the Machine. Factory-like beats and emotional guitars bring a variety of emotions such as love, longing and sadness – all expressed towards the device.
Most industrial musicians frequently pick up topics for their songs related to contamination, radiation, global epidemics, and a zombie-like apocalypse - probably inspired by the slew of 1980 & 90's horror s/f movies with these themes. Two versions of 'My Virus' appear on the album, but they don't differ much. The song is characterized by catchy choruses and melodious arrangements with the addition of edgy guitar riffs. It also sounds like Ammo & Sepsis were inspired here by KMFDM and Sasha Konietzko's voice. To put it bluntly, 'My Virus' is the first potential breakaway hit on the tracklist.
'We Breed Insects' is a truly mighty industrial metal piece, moving listeners deeply. The slow tempo amps up the heaviness of the sound here. The song's atmosphere brings to mind the image of a hidden predator tracking its prey from a hideout, then jumping out to hunt it down. The vocals are distorted, even screamed at times, and they often open up space for instrumental parts to shine. Amazing guitar riffs in the second part of the track are followed by and contrasted with an intriguing synth arrangement which gives the sensation of relief or success (in reference to the predator suggested above).
'Venom Me' is the second hit song on Digital Scars and will surely please industrial metal fans, specifically those in love with bands such as Ministry, Bile, or N17 amongst others. The song's mood feels very aggressive, and the rhythm is fast. The arrangements sit tightly within the composition, while the sound of guitars is angry, with riffs entwined with more accented bass lines. Finally, Sepsis' vocals are almost growled, matching the instruments really well.
There's something sexual going on at the beginning of 'Digital Christ', as you may judge by female moans ending in a climax. The vibrant, goa-trance-like drum beats programmed by Ammo dictate the rhythm and support Sepsis' vile vocals. The underlined beats, danceable dynamics, easily memorable lyrics, cold synths, and edgy guitar riffs make the track another instant hit.
The dark and droning intro for 'Defect' is followed by predatory guitar riffs which additionally spin up the already tense dynamics. Invasive drums are entangled with harsh, slightly distorted vocals. A single, high pitched guitar line over rhythm guitars found at the end of the track creates an attractive contrast. Careful listeners may associate this song's specific vibe with early works of Marilyn Manson and Nine Inch Nails.
'Only The Void' is another industrial metal track with strong electro & goa-trance influences that utilizes both heavier guitar riffs and synths. The song's chorus is memorable, but the vocals fade away a bit behind the synth & drums. 'Slave Nation' is a potential hit as well, and certainly a must-have if you like spinning around inside a spiral of sounds. The track is full of looped heavy guitar riffs, darkwave synths, and industrial noises, all wrapped up into melodic arrangements and a danceable rhythm.
'Infest' in its entirety can help purging personal demons very well. As many NIN fans may recognize, the opening drum part is a straight-forward tribute to the band that brought industrial rock into the mainstream in the 90s. The song deals an aggressive, aroused vibe from the very beginning, which is then supported with a lovely wall of sounds in the third part of the composition, and followed by a neat tempo slow-down. The arrangements are spiced up with guitar riffs that the majority of industrial metal fans should admire at once.
On a different note, 'End of Everything' may be a real teaser/pleaser for lovers of electro-industrial and darkwave. Bouncy beats encourage listeners to dance without hesitation, but if you dislike dancing, this track is great for an intense fitness workout too. Skillfully written arrangements are equally distributed within the entire composition, leaving enough space for both lyrics and instrumental parts.
The original synth-driven song 'Stripped' was written by Depeche Mode. Once it became a global hit, many other bands challenged themselves to make cover versions. Malice Machine turned the track into an angry industrial rock piece through metal riffs, strongly accented drums, and twisted vocals, but obviously keeping the original song's notable attributes.
The album ends with the last cover song - Ministry's 'N.W.O.'. Malice Machine's version doesn't alter the track too much, probably to keep its famous, genuine vibe alive. Honestly, we should be thankful for such very few sound manipulations here - every industrial music fan who sees the 'N.W.O.' title will actually hear in their head a replaying memory of the iconic looped chorus: 'a new world order'. It would probably be risky to 'desecrate' it ;)
Some people worship gods, but these two musicians faithfully praise the Machine. Thirteen compositions which make for a 1 hour long album are filled with a variety of angry, dehumanized, industrialized, and 'math-mechanical' arrangements. Therefore, Digital Scars may help younger listeners discover primary industrial rock/metal characteristics, but also easily identify with some emotions brought by the classic sounds present on this release. Older fans, tired of spinning the same industrial albums over and over again, may find a few new sonic gems here. In any case, make sure you buy this release, since it is definitely worth the price of admission. Only with your help can the duo break through the corroded walls of a forgotten and largely unsupported scene and continue expressing their passion for 'the Machine' by releasing another set of songs sometime soon.
(Reviewer: Katarzyna 'NINa' Górnisiewicz, Fabryka Industrial Rock & Metal Encyclopedia, February 21st, 2017. Proofreading: Mike 'Vesper' Dziewoński)
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Reviewed by Fabryka Industrial Rock & Metal Encyclopedia