Quick disclaimer: if you’re tired of the whole robotic/science fiction/evil-cyborg-from-the-future aesthetic in metal, you will hate the fuck out of this album. Do not bother. Now, moving on:
Ever since Strapping Young Lad dissolved, drummer extraordinaire Gene Hoglan (SYL, Dark Angel, Death, Testament) has been set adrift. Floating between work with schlock-metallers Zimmers Hole, thrash side-project Tenet and Brendan Small’s cartoon phenom Dethklok, Hoglan hasn’t settled fully into any one role since he parted ways with Devin Townsend and company. According to Hoglan, though, the drifting years are over. He’s found his new “main baby” in the little-heralded Mechanism. Featuring fellow Zimmer Chris Valagoa on vocals, these upstarts certainly constitute an appropriately challenging outlet for Hoglan’s talents. Built on a rigid foundation of industrial death metal (think The Amenta) but with a Meshuggah/Fear Factory-like predilection for robotic overtones and the occasional swooping chorus, Inspired Horrific makes for an entertaining but occasionally overwhelming listen.
Opening with what I’d swear is a montage of sound effects from Starcraft, opener “Machine” (really guys? Couldn’t you think of something more creative, like “Robot”?) gives the listener a forceful introduction to Mechanism’s sonic arsenal. These dudes throw around a LOT of weighty, tremolo-picked grooves, but they rarely sit still long enough to get comfortable. Just when you figure you’re dealing with straightforward, death metal headbangability, the machine-gun double bass jams for a second and the whole band rejiggers their timing or launches into frenzied fretboard antics. These tracks are dense, aggressive, and cluttered to the point of claustrophobia. Valagoa occasionally breaks from his guttural expulsions to deliver clean-sung hooks (I’m struck by how much he sounds like Townsend when singing), but they’re rare and emerge from the maelstrom only briefly.
When Mechanism’s formula works, it can be breathtaking. “Hall of the Gods,” the album’s 7-minute centerpiece, absolutely crushes with its (slightly) restrained pace and strong melodic character. In the album’s second half, “Siberia” replicates the former’s success with deep string-bending grooves amid the haywire-factory carnage. That said, Mechanism’s intense sound becomes exhausting by the end of Inspired Horrific’s 42-minute runtime. Between the herky-jerky song structures, universally virtuosic performances, and ultra-clinical production, this disc has just a little bit too much going on. Valagoa’s choruses and the Shulz/Somerville guitar team’s soloing help, but by the ninth track or so of clinical hammering, most listeners will find themselves desensitized.
But Inspired Horrific still qualifies as an incredibly promising debut, especially considering that Hoglan and Valagoa are the only band members with significant prior experience. If Mechanism can reign in their slight tendency for tech-death oneupsmanship and expand the more song-oriented element of their sound, they could become a force to rival some of Hoglan’s previous bands. Considering his publicly-stated devotion to the project, there’s considerable reason to think that the best is yet to come for these guys.