Released By: Self-Released
Release Date: January 1, 2014
Genre: Symphonic/Industrial Metal
David Holch – Vocals
Joe Tiberi – Guitars, Programming
Steve Amarantos – Bass
David Gavin – Drums
Once in a while I’ll experiment and listen to bands that seem out of my comfort zone, and while sometimes these experiments fail completely, they often lead to me being completely blown away and realizing how wide my taste in music has become over the years. Other times I’ll be amazed by a band that takes elements I’m familiar with, and combines them into something that sounds unlike anything I’ve heard before. Mechina, a symphonic industrial metal band hailing from Chicago actually fits into both categories, as I typically don’t like industrial metal very much, but reading about similarities to Fear Factory convinced me to check out their third album Empyrean. Of course, it took no time for me to discover that those comparisons were mostly misleading, as aside from the clean vocals the bands really have no similarities at all. Instead, Empyrean ended up being somewhat of a revelation to me, as it combines elements of industrial metal with symphonic metal, a genre I’m much more comfortable with, in ways I had never heard before, and as unique as it was, the band pulled it off brilliantly.
When I heard that Mechina was working on a new album to be released on January 1st of 2014, exactly one year after they released Empyrean, I was very excited to see what they’d come up with next. Apparently Empyrean was the end of a trilogy of albums, meaning the new album Xenon would be the start of something new. Well, as much as Empyrean impressed me, I have to say I’m even more blown away by Xenon. In fact, even as a fan of Fear Factory I’d go as far as to say that the initial comparisons I saw are an insult to Mechina, because what they do is something entirely more ambitious, more unique, more daring and more complex. It’s really hard to make any accurate comparisons, but if anything I’d say they fit in more closely with an emerging style of extreme symphonic metal. Of course, even then nothing can quite prepare you for Xenon, as it really is a one of a kind album, and as intense as it often is, it’s also very beautiful and relaxing at times, especially during he three track combo of “Zoticus”, “Terrae”, and “Tartarus”, where they mix together lead singer David Holch’s clean vocals with some very nice female choral vocals that add a really nice effect to the music. This is especially noticeable on “Terrae” and “Tartarus”, while “Zoticus” has all male vocals, but instrumentally it’s by far the most melodic and peaceful song on the album (aside from the outro), and also possibly my favorite.
Of course, one thing that makes this album so awesome is how well it all flows together. Most albums consist of individual tracks that maybe share some lyrical themes or at least have some overall similarities, but that can be enjoyed just as well separately as together, while other albums have overarching concepts that dominate the album, while still allowing for individual tracks, but Mechina does something entirely different, in that on their albums each track feels like it’s simply one part of a much bigger picture, with transitions between tracks sometimes being so sudden that it’s often hard to tell what track number you’re on. This doesn’t mean that the album sounds the exact same all the way through, as obviously I already mentioned some highlights, but it certainly flows together in a much smoother way than most albums do, and it definitely feels like an album that’s best experienced on the whole.
Describing the music on this album is really tough to do, as I really haveb’t heard anything else quite like it before. The guitars sound very raw, very intense and very powerful, pretty much what you’d expect from an extreme metal band, except that they’re countered by some excellent symphonic sounds which are programmed so effectively you could easily be fooled into thinking it’s a real orchestra. These symphonic elements can be heard constantly and serve as a perfect contrast to all the chaos created by the rest of the music. It’s an incredibly epic album the whole way through, and the symphonic elements often make it sound like you’re listening to the soundtrack for a big budget Sci-Fi movie, so when you put that together with the offbeat rhythms, intense riffs and complex arrangements, the result is something truly unique and spectacular. For the most part it’s an album that perfectly balances very heavy sections with epic cinematic symphonic metal, though as I mentioned above, there are times where even the guitars calm down, and the band is so talented that I think even symphonic metal fans who are less open to extreme metal than I am should be able to appreciate much of this album.
The one and only thing about this album that sounds like Fear Factory are the clean vocals, and while it’s clear the band has used some computer effects to make David Holch’s voice sound the way it does, the result is so fantastic that I’m never bothered by it at all, even though I usually prefer vocals to sound as authentic as possible. His harsh vocals are even better, though, as he manages to combine the kind of low, creepy tone you’d expect from a death metal vocalist with the extreme anger and intensity you’d expect from a thrash vocalist, and so the resulting vocal style works extremely well for the band’s sound, and makes some of the most intense moments of the album all the more impressive, especially on the penultimate track “Amyntas”, which is so overwhelming that the excellent and very calm outro “Acteaon” feels like it has to be there. I won’t go into as much detail as normal in regards to individual tracks, because I really do believe this album is best experienced on the whole, but along with the five tracks I already mentioned, I think the epic length title track and “Phedra” are also major standouts.
If Empyrean pushed the boundaries of what you could do with existing genres, then Xenon completely tears them down to create its own sound that exists completely separate from anything else. Simply put, it’s an incredible, very unique and very complex album that is highly recommended for anyone who wants to hear something different. Fans of symphonic metal, industrial metal, or any kind of extreme metal who don’t mind having the genres mixed together are also recommended to try it.
Written by Travis