Buy Album [URL]: https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/the-hanging-tree/id777101499
Band Website: http://www.blacklightmachine.co.uk
Andy Makin – Guitar/Vocals
Chris Angelow – Guitar
Tom Williams – Drums
Jason Sims – Bass
01. When the Body Breaks
02. Inside the Outside
03. Mr. Stumpp
04. The End of Summer
05. Heavens Falling
06. The Truth
08. The Hanging Tree
09. Across the Earth
10. No Tears For Me
11. Sail Onto Me
Black Light Machine is a relatively new bunch of seasoned Swansea- based musicians formed of members from bands such as Psycho Motel and Orangefall. Describing themselves as ‘More metal than your nana’s kettle’, you would be forgiven for assuming their album ‘The Hanging Tree’ will be a blast-in-your-face offering of heavier-than-a-heavy-thing metal. One can only hope.
‘When the Body Breaks’, or more specifically, the cornflake- crunchy tone emanating from the rhythm guitar, isn’t too appeasing, but perhaps that’s a little picky. One cannot help but get a little bit of a déjà vu moment once Andy starts vocally quivering away over the track. Who he sounds like has completely escaped me, but it is not a bad thing. His vocal delivery works for this flavour of metal (and it really is just straight forward, no flouncing metal); whiney, arrogant, with just a dash of attitude but not too much. Any more attitude and they may end up sounding like a glam rock outfit, for some unknown reason. The chorus sections are slightly epic-laced but it doesn’t completely cause the desired effect, I suspect. It cheapens the track somewhat. I wouldn’t have chosen this track to open with, unless this is as good as it gets. At a ridiculous ten minutes long for no apparent reason, it is a pretty bad start as well.
The record proceeds to be littered with the same Captain Crunch guitar effects, progressively whiney vocal delivery, slightly 80’s inspired glam rock lyrics ( from ‘Inside the Outside’ “You’re not the reason, you’re not to blame, you’re not the queen of my everything, or anything”… seriously?), overall mundane rhythm shifts from section to section and forgettable riffs. There are a few tracks that start out promising but rapidly, and I mean 20 seconds later, destroy any hope of a good, solid, respectable, metal stonker, a real classic that could go on to be replayed in rock and metal club nights up and down the country. I suspect that, if Black Light Machine spent a little more time pissing about in the studio to really fine tune the sound they hope to create as opposed to following a step-by-step guide on how to produce metal music (published in 1983) and saying to themselves, “well, if it worked for them, it’s gotta work for us- let’s make us some money!”… or something like that.
The opening groovalicious riff of ‘The End of Summer’, also the name of their preceding EP deliciously continues throughout the track, which creates an alternative vibe to the rest of the record thus far. Once it transitions into the chorus (the second of which are followed by a guitar solo that begins with what I could swear is, note for note, a warm up exercise I’ve seen on YouTube), everything becomes a bit, hair-blowing-in-wind, open- shirted cheesy ( with lyrical gold such as “you and I, we’ve become, the end of summer”- classic.) and however much I love cheese, I’m not so keen on this particular variant, it must be said. And I never thought I’d say that.
I’m sure I’ve heard ‘Heaven’s Falling’ on the glam rock radio station on GTA3. I could swear it.
The lull of ‘Down’ and ‘The Truth’, the latter being far, FAR too long for a bog- standard metal song, are just that- a lull. Not much else to be said. I think I get what they are wishing to achieve with songs such as these- some sort of atmosphere and deeper attitude as opposed to plain and simple- ballsy metal. However, I think that whether you want to be ‘Opeth atmospheric’ or ‘Machine Head’ meaty, this needs to be clarified from the beginning. The two do not gel all too well unless you are mind-blowingly good at searing, demonic, heavy as hell metal, incredibly gifted at creating tear- inducing, ambience provoking metal or just hench and fierce enough to produce straight up, aggressive and honest metal. You can crossover into one or the over, or transition through all three, but only once you have mastered your starting- point within the metal genre. These guys are still a little too confused over where their identity lies exactly. I am not one for forcing the idea that you have to be one genre or another; it is less about that and more about their abilities to achieve the blend it seems they are hoping to produce and master.
Why oh why is ‘The Hanging Tree’, the title track, eleven whole minutes long? It is one of the better tracks, possibly the best track on the album as it effortlessly moves from convincingly atmospheric to relentless riffing, and the guitar effects are less ‘fresh crispy cereal’ and more ‘slightly soggy cereal’, so a little more pleasant on the ears, but still dangerously close to becoming full- blown soggy cereal.
There is nowhere near enough variation in chosen keys from track to track on this album to keep the average person’s attention; you can skip through a track and swear you are listening to the previous one as it is only the intros and sometimes the outros of songs that separate them from being pretty much the same song as the previous one. BLM need to spend a lot more time on refining their sound, finding themselves as a band and individual musicians, and really work on their lyric writing. Stop listening to so much 80’s glam and power ballads, please!