If you calculated the ratio of a band’s impact compared to length of time as a band, Of Machines would come out somewhere near the top. Their debut (and only) record ‘As If Everything Was Held In Place’ seemingly came out of nowhere and dropped this band rightfully in the middle of a hype-storm, thanks to its ambient instrumentals, clever arrangements and phenomenal vocals. Soon after though it was all over, the band splitting up just one year after the record dropped, going their separate ways and robbing us all of the opportunity to hear any more of their creative brilliance.
The band were signed by Rise Records only three months after forming and having released their record and toured the US within a year, things were looking very positive indeed. Touring in a small band though can come with some serious financial strains and for vocalist Dylan Anderson it was all too much. His departure started a domino effect, the rest of the band feeling little confidence in being able to retain their sound without Anderson and from there everything collapsed.
Listening again through this record, it’s obvious why the band were nervous about carrying on without their front-man. Anderson’s voice is incredible throughout and gave the band a distinctive, signature sound. Able to reach insane high notes, Anderson pushed the boundaries of melodies into realms unheard of in post-hardcore at the time and as you move through the tracks you’re just waiting for those moments where he pulls out the stops and belts out notes at the top of his range.
It’s not all high notes and full throttle vocals though. Anderson’s low range delivers a lot of emotionally-charged melodies that work perfectly against the ambient guitars and atmospheric lead-lines that flow through the record. Contrasting with these pretty patterns, there are plenty of heavy moments too, breakdowns and screamed vocals ensuring variation as well as moments to nod your head to. The closest comparisons I could ever draw for this band were The Receiving of Sirens and Saosin, combining the ambience and melody with catchy harmonies and more forceful drum work.
Two of my biggest regrets with the demise of this band are never seeing them live and never getting to hear them with good production behind them. Both regrets pertain to the same point: I’ve always wanted to experience their music in a natural setting, where I can hear the organic instruments. Producer Cameron Mizell has a very definite aesthetic when it comes to production and while it’s strongly against my own taste, I respect the desire of the band to opt for an industrial-sounding mix that drew parallels to their name: Of Machines. The record does indeed sound machine-like and as a result you get unnatural sounding drums and guitars that are indistinguishable from any other tone or effect, making it hard to hear the intricacies being played.
Hearing Mike’s guitar cover of Becoming Closer to Closure deepens my regret, as it’s the first time I’ve properly heard the guitar notes and it sounds great. If you’re familiar with Hands Like Houses’ debut album ‘Ground Dweller’ (another of Mizell’s productions) and the follow up ‘Unimagine’ you’ll know the impact that a cleaner, more precise sound can have on a band’s music. Hearing the same contrast on a future Of Machines record would have been very interesting indeed.
A few years ago there were rumblings of a reunion and a new crowd-funded EP. Though not substantiated, apparently Anderson “went missing” and so did the money, putting an end to any chance of this band getting back together. It’s a real shame, but while we never got to hear another note after 2009, at least we still have this record to remember them by. Have a listen and enjoy!