Moon Machine by Moon MachineRelease date: July 30, 2021
I have a mixed relationship with progressive metal. There are times that I like it, and there are at times that I don’t. Now I didn’t use the word “hate” because it is such a strong word to use at times, and it would be wrong of me to use that. There is plenty from the genre that I really enjoy; Haken, Voivod, Opeth, Diablo Swing Orchestra, Ayreon, Mastodon, and of course, the masters of the prog metal genre, Rush. There’s also Dream Theater, their fifth studio album Metropolis Pt. 2: Scenes from a Memory is a stand-out. Now we have Moon Machine.
Moon Machine are a Boston, Massachusetts-based band that unleashed their self-titled debut album in the latter part of pandemic year 2021. This is a group that shows that the Prog Metal genre is more than just a nine-letter word.
Eric Hochwald, Jon Sirota, and Angel Castillo are like space cadets taking listeners beyond our universe and if you are into prog metal circa the late 2000s to early 2010s then you’re going to want to make some space in your prog metal collection. This band will probably be on your radar at some point.
The first track on the album titled ‘The Cave’ jumps into light speed. Heavy guitars and synthesizers soar throughout our solar system with some slowed-down rhythms, it has these Astra-like grooves that the band honor the San Diego masters of the genre, followed by blaring midsections and mournful piano arrangements that come at you with a heavy punch.
The track ‘Reckoning’ soars through Tool’s Undertow-era draped in these ‘Schism’-like sequences, punching riffs, Spaghetti Western trumpet fanfare, and Eric channeling Paul D’Amour’s bass lines with Keenan’s vocal exercise while tracks ‘Demon: 05’ and ‘Left to Wander’ are tackling insanity and struggling to move forward.
With Demon: 05’s’ complicated take on a waltz in its opening, it encourages the listener to face their demons and be free from the past and present. It then becomes a cat-and-mouse guitar chase with a nod to Rush’s 2-part epic of ‘Cygnus X-1’ that soars to the black hole of the explorer’s emergence as Olympus.
While Moon Machine honors the Canadian trio, ‘Left to Wander’ seems to tackle the question of what to do next in your life and of never looking back and moving onto the next chapter. The guitars and drums cry throughout the stormy sections in the song before it ends with the three-part epic ‘Post-Upgrade’.
‘Post-Upgrade I – Discovery’ is a continuation of Eric’s voyage to see where Olympus’ story had left off during the events of the first part of ‘Cygnus X-1’ with a surreal nightmare. Indigenous tribes drumming, Manuel Gottsching-esque guitar lines, and a choir setting up the scene, while ‘Post-Upgrade II- Grief’ becomes a loophole featuring some of the most intense textures. It’s like the missing pieces of the puzzle, with some funky midsections and climatic mellotrons to give the brutal tonality thrashing all over our solar system before the Moog sets up the alarming effect inside the ship. The last-minute of ‘Post-Upgrade II- Grief’ and as it segues into the last track ‘Post-Upgrade III – Requiem’ is like walking into a mysterious garden between Diablo Swing Orchestra’s ‘Justice for Saint Mary’ and Pink Floyd’s third and final part of ‘The Narrow Way’ from their Ummagumma period as they fade in and then out with crowd noises and chaotic structures that make this epic journey come to a screeching halt.
Listening to Moon Machine’s debut album is like taking another route in another part of the city, and not knowing what to expect. Their sound is amazing and it kept me going back for more listens to see what I might have missed.
So, will I be looking forward to the next Moon Machine album? Yes, and who knows what the roaring ‘20s will have in store for them.