Machinae Supremacy – Phantom Shadow (Spinefarm)Tuesday, 12th August 2014
A Swedish band performing in a self-appointed SID metal style? Intriguing to say the least. SID stands for Sound Interface Device – one of the first sound chips infamous in the Commodore 64 home computer of the 1980’s, making particular sounds unique to the video games of that generation – and a significant part of the dynamic nuances that makes Machinae Supremacy very special in the alternative/power metal community. The quintet’s seventh studio album Phantom Shadow is a 16 track, 68 minute extravaganza that while conceptual in themes has an alluring, exhilarating mood montage from cut to satisfying cut.
You can never tell when SID passages will infiltrate the Machinae Supremacy landscape. It can be immediately after an opening electric power riff on “Beyond Good & Evil”, or something more alternative and building during the chorus, such as the dramatic, almost soundtrack-like “The Villain of This Story”. I almost feel like Berlin enters the Faith No More/ Fair to Midland-ish template on another early highlight “Perfect Dark”, as if you are going through time travel in terms of the keyboard sounds, while the 7:04 ballad “Europa” contains angelic female melodies, a power/symphonic riff appeal, and percussive acoustic guitar during the mid-section and final instrumental moments.
Do not fear though, there are plenty of more speed/power oriented numbers that contain great electric harmonies and entertaining vocal melodies. Check out “Throne of Games” that has a lot of current Helloween circularity and the heads down charger “Versus” to satiate your metallic aural needs. Another strength of the quintet is singer Robert Stjärnström as he has a distinct left field delivery that recalls a touch of Mike Patton amidst the natural melodic choruses. You’ll get 11 main tracks intertwined around 5 interludes or transitional movements that set up the story line in a narrative or thematic way. And for those of you who love a little folk/cultural melodies in your heavy metal, enjoy the 6:40 closer “Hubnester Rising”, a fitting conclusion as the guitar harmonies drive home this see saw soft to loud arrangement.
I remember Machinae Supremacy impressing me initially on their third album Overworld, but I believe Phantom Shadow could be one of those hidden gems for a multitude of metal factions and 80’s video game enthusiasts.