By: Aidan Clucas
Deus Ex Machina | website |
It has been eight years since Deus Ex Machina last graced us with their presence through Imparis, a live DVD/CD. Now, with their eighth album Devoto they look to present a greater conceptual depth than they have achieved previously, discussing mankind, humanity and the reconnection with the Earth. They present this with their classic progressive sound, combining elements of rock and jazz which was so popular in the pre-synth age
Vocalist Alberto Piras stated a loss in energy, ‘in part, due to Fabrizio Puglisi’s departure,’ and the time since Imparis. He went on to say that the band wished to ‘test different ground … but with a more straightforward, simple musical language.’ The sound of Deus Ex Machina on Devoto is certainly more “straightforward” than one may expect on a 21st century progressive rock album. The title track (which translates to Devoted) is very heavy on constantly altering guitar riff playing in unison with the keys; the participation of the violin is probably the most enjoyable member of the group, however, because of its more traditional sound.
The album isn’t confined to sounding like a 60s/70s album in the 21st century, however, it does branch out. Although only a small interlude, ‘Sotterfugio’ (Subterfuge) shows the inclusion of synthesiser sections, before ‘Multiverso’ (Multiverse) turns this inclusion into a full song. One of the peaks of the album has to be the proglonged instrumental sections in the middle, and towards the end, of ‘Distratto Da Me’ (Distracted By Me), which when translated is an apt title. It may be a more predictable part of a progressive rock album, but when the patterns are matched they can sometimes become the most essential part of the album. This is no more evident than in ‘Più Uguale’ (More Equal), the albums longest song at over ten minutes.
The latter half of the album is less intense than the first, ‘Transizione’ (Transition) aptly demonstrating this shift in tone, so much so it seems to draw on 70s The Who, with added theatrics. ‘Autore del Futuro’ (Author of the Future) further strips back the progressive elements, resembling more a lengthy jam track between all the members of the band.
There are elements of nostalgia for those who are familiar with Deus Ex Machina, and too for those who are familiar with progressive rock. It is not ground-breaking but, rather, subtle in its innovation. The traditional instrumental lines and 80s synthesised sections flow well throughout the whole album, and the vocals do not stagnate any passages, and nor do the instruments overindulge, which can often be the case with progressive releases. Piras said he wanted the songs to feel more ‘from our guts than from our heads’ and this more primal-passion can definitely be felt, generated a more natural, earthy sound.