:Retrowerks: Machine Rox – Activate Your Anger / Shout
Review by Stephen Beck Frey
Machine Rox is a UK band that hasn’t made a lot of waves outside their local scene, but in the span of six months, they’ve signed to local indie label Static Distortion and released both a new EP and their debut album. And based on the quality of those releases, I think we can fully expect to see them rocking at the major festivals within a year or two.
The aforementioned EP, Activate Your Anger, while clearly the work of a band still finding their feet, is a really enjoyable industrial rock release. The songcraft is solid, with the four-to-the-floor beat and chugging guitars providing a constant sense of motion while the synth melodies lend a sense of buoyancy and space that keeps things danceable (rather than just moshable). The proceedings are weighed down slightly by some unfortunate mixing that loses the synths in the shuffle a bit too often, and the vocalists occasionally seem to still be figuring out how to make the male/female dual-singing style work, but neither of these things are a really dealbreakers. It’s a solid set of songs, even if it could use a little more polish.
And Machine Rox apparently felt the same way, because Shout, the band’s first full-length, is a markedly more polished effort. The whole album is tighter and more confident. The synths are not only better mixed, but actually do much more of the heavy lifting, with certain tracks being entirely synth-led. The balance between the shouted male lead vocals and the ethereal female backing vocals is better handled, each being given their own space instead of being shoved together and pushed to the front as they were on the EP.
That sense of space is really key. Where Activate Your Anger often feels weighed down and closed in, Shout sounds downright explosive. The way the synths improve the album so much is due in large part to just how enormous they sound; as if they’re lifting the songs up into the stratosphere. The guitars, by contrast, work more to fill out the low end and provide texture than to always provide the main source of propulsion (splitting that duty with the synth-lines more often than not), which adds a lot more variety than the “all guitars, all the time” approach.
Basically, Shout is an exceedingly good time. And really, I think that’s what I’m not doing justice to here; how much fun this record is. The kinetic energy and “jump around with a big goofy grin on your face” factor is hard to capture in text, but there’s quite a lot of it on display here.
All in all, I don’t know if I’d call this album a “must-buy,” but it’s a really fun dance record and it shows a lot of potential for Machine Rox. Even if you don’t pick this one up, keep an eye on these guys, they’ve got big things coming.
Activate Your Anger
01. Move Your Body (Until You Die)
02. Night Riots
03. Next Nothing
04. Where You Are
05. Time To Survive
06. Next Nothing (Remix)
01. Not Your Slave
02. Burn In Hell
03. Feel Alive
06. Who Am I?
07. Night On Fire
08. Nice Corruption
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