The HAARP Machine – Disclosure (Sumerian Records)

Wednesday, 27th March 2013
Rating: 7/10

As the Sumerian era grows in intensity and presence, so too do the variety of acts that come to bear their flag. One of the mainstay aspects of this era is the hyper-technical and schizophrenic world of ‘progressively minded’ metalcore. For the HAARP Machine and band mastermind Al Mu’min, it’s the varying degrees of integrating middle-eastern musical themes that work to separate the band from the samey sea around them. The results vary in their success but on a whole, Disclosure wins out more than it loses.

That regional influence is apparent from the word go with opener “Esoteric Agenda.” The familiar gnarled and technical mastery across all instruments, all genre common, is married with a variety of ethnic sounds and atmospheres. Guitar pyrotechnics erupt elsewhere (often rampantly and/or arbitrarily) on songs “The Escapist Notion” and (with lesser impact) “From Vanity to Utility.” Softer ‘hey let’s throw in the cleans!’ sections erupt and soar as though an obligation from sections of every song, though admittedly the title track and closer “Machine Over” do make especially good use of them.

The problem lies in that across the eight tracks and 30-odd minutes that make up Disclosure, there isn’t a great deal to separate The HAARP Machine from what is already a swollen sea of neo-prog also-rans. The music is challenging, technical to end, and readily up for indulgences in either side of the harsh/clean spectrum, but what else? Perhaps it’s the pain inherent in a long-gestating debut, something that will rapidly evolve one way or the other on subsequent releases as the band finds its real voice. As it stands, there is quality here if you’ve got half an hour to spare, but the shelf-life is extremely limited.

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