This is my second review of a Progressive Gears release. A new label dedicated to the promotion of progressive rock. The first one was the new album from the British band IT. Now we will have a listen to the third full length album “Black Science” of the Canadian formation Machines Dream. An album that thematically explores the dark side of humanity and technology. The music for “Black Science” was written collectively. Lyrically, the album is a look back at the 20th century with the feeling that for every leap forward there is usually a dark flip side.
Rob Coleman - electric guitar; Ken Coulter - drums; Brain Holmes - keyboards; Jake Rendell - acoustic guitar, backing vocals; Craig West - bass guitar, vocals
Chris Belsito - backing vocals on Airfield On Sunwick (for Wojtek)
Jenny Gauvreau - backing vocals on Heavy Water
Josh Norling - saxophone on Black Science and Noise To Signal
Jakub Olejnik - vocals on Airfield On Sunwick (for Wojtek)
The album starts with the triptych “Armistice Day” / “Weimar” / “The Cannons Cry”. A suite about conditions that lead to making fascism seem rational. The last moments of WWI, economic destitution and desperation in the Weimar Republic, and the constant hunger for war profits that fuels so much of modern economies. “Armistice Day” is a short atmospheric opening ... floating through the battlefield ... that flows into the longest (10:41) track of the album entitled “Weimar”. It has a lovely instrumental opening in which you can find a nice piano, guitar and synth melodies before the first vocal lines are sung ... “Welcome, ladies and gents, to the winds of prostitution”. On top of a delicate instrumentation of piano, acoustic guitar and keyboard orchestrations you can enjoy a lovely vocal part with nice vocal refrains. Further on the music becomes more powerful with nice synth and guitar solo's. But the whole composition stays on the mellow side of the (Neo)progressive rock spectrum. Beautiful composition with lovely melodies. This flows into the song “The Cannons Cry”. Besides the vocals the music is also supported with narrative voice-overs and the sound of stamping boots of war.
The next track is called “Heavy Water” and deals about the first atomic bomb. The song is an attempt to imagine and personalize what the airman in the Enola Gay might have been thinking and feeling just before they dropped the bomb, and then what a survivor on the ground might be going through the day after. The piano plays a beautiful and important role in the music of the band and in this song the vocal harmonies are influenced by Pink Floyd. The way of singing just reminds me of this famous band. In the last instrumental part of the song we can enjoy a melodic guitar solo, great drumming and nice keyboard carpets. The next track “Airfield On Sunwick (for Wojtek)” is about a Syrian brown bear named Wojtek that accompanied the 22nd artillery supply company of the Polish II corps in WWII. Jakub Olejnik from Polish band Maze Of Sound added some vocals and sings the outro of the song in Polish. This piece has a lighter character than the rest of the album. Also in this track the piano is playing the main melody. A nice track with a lovely bass line and a delicious synth solo.
The title track “Black Science” is looking back at the 20th century as a whole, and feeling that some of he worst things stand out more than the best. A slow song with a dark atmosphere. Guest Josh Norling plays a delicate saxophone solo in the closing section of this track. “UXB” is about the experience of growing up in North Belfast in a fiercely nationalist/republican stronghold. The military/police presence was both constant and heavy. The worst part was after a bomb had exploded. The proverbial deafening silence - then - the screams of the dying and the wounded. All of this done in the name of a cause. History is repeating itself! Musically this piece is more heavy and progressive as the rest of the album. The vocals are also more aggressively sung. In the end there is nice synth solo but this is expelled by a heavy and aggressive guitar part. The album closes with a track called “Noise To Signal”, a song about the internet, media over-saturation, alternative facts and fake news. Leading to a population that is confused and disconnected from other people and from reality. But the song ends on a positive note, to communicate the truth and bring people together. A dark piece with heavy guitar parts but also with some lighter synth melodies. When the piano returns in the music becomes lighter and more uplifting. “Shut down the noise, become the signal”.
Machines Dream positively surprised me with their third album “Black Science”. The album is presented in a beautiful digipak with photography, design and art of Monique Holmes. As a designer myself I would like to mention this because she did a wonderful job and the booklet makes that the concept has even more impact. You can find some wonderful pieces like “Weimar” and “Heavy Water” on this album and I love the use of the piano on this album. The vocals of Craig West and the guests are also excellent. I enjoyed this album very much and I am curious how the music of Machines Dream will develop in the near future. A fresh new sound in Prog land.