Artension - Machine

Year of Release: 2000
Label: Shrapnel
Catalog Number: SH1139
Format: CD
Total Time: 48:59:00

Artension's latest, Machine, is a much warmer release than last years' Forces Of Nature - Vitalij Kuprij's keys don't seem to be quite as harsh as I found them on that earlier release, and that has made all the difference to me. There is a little bit of a mixing problem; most noticeably on "Madness Calling," which, ironically, has the effect of enhancing the theme of madness, as there is a certain chaotic feel to it. However?everything seems up front. The keyboards that open this track either intentionally or coincidentally seem to quote a few notes from Andrew Lloyd Weber's "Phantom of The Opera." In fact, his keys are more piano oriented than keyboard oriented throughout and this what adds to the warmth of the disk.

Rarely do the arrangements allow space for breathing as there is almost always something going on, whether it is the frenetic drumming of Shane Gaalaas, the driving bass of John Onder, or the "every-which-way at once" keys of Kuprij, who occasionally illicits a Emerson-like tone or riff. While Staffelbach is a dynamic guitarist, it is Kuprij's keys and West's vocals that get the focus here, and will be the instruments that most stick in the mind. The keyboard riff of "Evolution In Reverse" especially (here I'm not too fond of the way the chorus is delivered, a little over the top).

John West (Royal Hunt) is in fine voice here, though oddly there were moments on the opener "Machine" that made me think of "Message To God" which, while a Royal Hunt tune, is one with DC Cooper on vocals, whom West replaced. Artension is a bit harder than Royal Hunt, though both have their softer moments (which doesn't equal mushy, just that the edges are rounded off a bit more).

And so, one look at the cover tells you this is (or could be) an Orwellian take on Metropolis (the Fritz Lang movie, not the Dream Theater concept album) in the post-Industrial age. "Mother Earth" is a tune with an odd juxtaposition of a mournful arrangement, including West's plaintive vocals, and lyrics that hold out hope (a love song to a neglected planet). Ironically stated I wonder? Determination in the face of incredible odds? Too bad the lyrics weren't included in this package - but I say that about every release that has vocals but doesn't include lyrics.

"Wings of War" has an interesting arrangement, but also seems very typical during the choruses - has an Iron Maiden feel about it, with the addition of keys. I do like West's vocal performance on this though.

"As Time Slowly By" is Queensryche-like (around the Empire period) power ballad, with just enough sluggishness in West's delivery to underscore the sense of time passing by. And I suddenly think how West sounds a bit like Corey Glover (once vocalist with Living Colour) and Stevie Wonder (just a tad). This isn't the most effective track, though Kuprij does give his keyboards a workout. And Staffelbach gets a few moments in the spot light before Kuprij kicks in.

Quite a nice release overall by Artension, and recommended to fans of melodic metal.

Machine (5:24) / The Way (5:54) / Madness Calling (5:00) / Mother Earth (5:16) / Wings Of War (5:07) / Evolution In Reverse (4:53) / Time Goes Slowly By (6:10) / The Loser Never Wins (4:55) / I See Through Your Eyes (6:20)

Shane Gaalaas - drums
Vitalij Kuprij - keyboards
John Onder - bass
Roger Staffelbach - guitar
John West - vocals

Into The Eye Of The Storm (1996)
Phoenix Rising (1997)
Forces of Nature (1999)
Machine (2000)
Sacred Pathways (2001)
New Discovery (2002)
Future World (2004)

Genre: Progressive-Power Metal

Origin VA

Added: March 1st 2000
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Artist website:
Hits: 899
Language: english


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