by Sean Eric McGill
It isn’t anything new for a band to change their sound, especially in industrial music. But Machines of Loving Grace have done more than change their sound on their new release, Gilt – what they have done is totally redefine themselves and create the best release of their career in the process.
The eleven tracks on Gilt cover some of the same ground previously trodden by the band, as well as other groups like Nine Inch Nails and KMFDM. The topics of suicide, loneliness, and addiction all show up on the album, but what sets this release apart from others is the manner in which the songs are performed. On Gilt, unlike other Machines of Loving Grace albums, you get the feeling that this isn’t just a group of guys hacking around on keyboards, but a *band*, and a damn tight one at that.
Other industrial bands have made this same transformation, but very few have done it so completely and so well on their first attempt. Nine Inch Nails – now not just Trent Reznor, but a true band – have done a good job live, but their true test will come on the next studio album. For Machines of Loving Grace, the transformation has been flawless, with the band taking their already well-renowned presence as a live act and putting that on disk.
Of course, their industrial roots are still firmly planted, and show themselves from time to time, but this isn’t an industrial album. Songs like “The Soft Collision” and “Serpico” – both of which are plodding, almost relentless songs in their makeup – are offset by straight-forward, no-holds-barred rock songs like “Richest Junkie Still Alive” and “Suicide King” – which sort of shove you into a wall and keep pounding on you until you can feel your brains start to seep out of your ears. Believe me, that’s a compliment. The remaining seven tracks on the album all fall somewhere in that range, with most of them leaning towards the heavier side. But, one consistency remains: as a whole, this is lyrically a dark album.
Many of the songs deal with addictions of one form or another, like “Richest Junkie Still Alive”, whose title is self-explanatory. Others, like “Last”, deal more with personal relationships, but not the kind that have a happy ending. The band (Scott Benzel, vocals; Tom Coffen, guitar; Ray Riendeau, bass; and David Suycott, drums) do an incredible job of putting music behind these individual tales, with Benzel’s voice taking on the role of the various characters that inhabit their sonic landscape.
All in all, it doesn’t get much better than this album. Gilt is by far the best work from Machines of Loving Grace, and one of the best albums of the year.