Mechina – Siege
A few months back when I first heard Mechina, I was instantly intrigued by their sound and their unique ability to engulf the listener in their world and stories. But I never sat through a full length until 2021 kicked off with the release of “Siege”, their 9th studio release. This is an hour-long journey that will completely engulf you in its majestic aura and imposing persona. So buckle up and get ready for an epic sci-fi futuristic adventure!
After my brief previous encounters with their music, I was under the impression that Mechina is based primarily on futuristic electronic sounds and modern progressive metal. But this album really took me by surprise. Yes, they sound technical and futuristic and all that, but their music is also incredibly atmospheric. The album starts off slow and menacing and gradually creeps around you. Listening to the intro and first track I kept waiting for the teasing to end and the metal to eventually “hit”, only to find myself listening to a maelstrom of technicality, not being sure when exactly that came about.
Then I realized, this is their jam. The aggressive, technical aspects and the immersive atmosphere are so well fused together that you can hardly find a border between them. The music gradually transcends from one state to another, so subtly that there’s no breaking point. And the fact that all the atmospheric elements persist throughout the technical sections makes them the glue that keeps the entire album together, connecting different movements as well as the songs themselves through clever use of fade-ins, fade-outs and lots of teasing to build suspense through various sound effects.
As you go through it, the album gradually unwraps different parts of its character. When it takes off it’s all anticipation and by the time it’s over, the big picture becomes clear. It’s like all its faces are unveiling themselves throughout the stream, coming together and providing a character for the story by the time it’s over. I’m quite certain that it’s a concept album but the narrative is unclear to me since I assume that it’s connected to previous records and I am not familiarized with their universe, but they spell it out clear enough for me to get an idea of the flow. As the first two songs develop, an impending military force seems to be gathering its strength and then step by step, song by song, war unleashes on a cosmic scale.
But the artistry of Mechina doesn’t just paint the war. It also builds the image of honor, glory and beauty that is attached to it by some form of doctrine and propaganda. This is even visible on the artwork, with the two contrasting sides to the environment and the imposing posture of the character in the center.
The way for them to bring this image and persona to life is unique and truly ingenious. I’m astounded by the way they could bring different contrasting elements together so well in the music and direct them towards envisioning this environment, filling it with life, action and emotion. The backbone of the music consists of extremely technical drums and massive down-tuned cyber-riffs. I think the drums are programmed, but that is not a problem since the mechanical, robotic sound is the perfect ingredient to build all the technological and futuristic elements of the imagery.
The level of drum-rolling, strumming and drilling double pedals mashed together, cut-off and constantly ripped apart and reassembled constitutes the foundation of carnage that invokes all the battle scenes. Setting a rushed marching pace put in contrast against the cinematic electronic elements, this evokes a powerful sci-fi movie vibe, massive in scale and beautiful in its dynamism. The electronic djenty guitar riffs bring the low-end impact and robotic texture that makes the imagery seem almost palpable.
Looking at these parts, it feels like being caught in the middle of the battle and seeing all the chaos unfold around you. Then, the atmospheric and melodic elements seem to bring a different view to the same images. The vibrant, uplifting energy of the electronic synth effects as well as orchestral elements and the melodic, almost serene voices present a big-picture perspective that focuses less on the destructive action and more on the glory of the battles and the triumphant glory that emerges on the other end. It’s quite enraging to see this view as it seems narcissistic, blood-thirsty, and evil, triggering your empathy for the countless victims and contempt towards the assailants. But it presents itself as righteous and divine. I’m starting to wonder whether the wielders of the war are humans or machines because they seem genuinely soulless…
The evolution of the music through each song is what keeps the album engaging for the full duration. The mix of cyber-technical and industrial metal with the epic atmospheric and melodic stuff is a superb recipe but it can’t sustain an hour of music on its own without some creativity, especially given that the vocals tend to get a tad bit monotonous. There’s both male and female vocals and both are somewhat serene, having more power on the male part and more delicacy (yet somehow less emotion) on the female part, which seems to be the more robotic one. I must give as an example the female vocals in ‘The Worst of Us’ which are beautiful but ungodly eerie.
So to maintain the energy and interest, each song seems to bring a surprise element to the table. ‘The Worst of Us’ is the most marching, ominous and atmospheric at the same time and it reaches a climactic moment that only intensifies the anticipation rather than releasing it. ‘Shock Doctrine’ is more fast-tempo and straightforward in structure (the colossal sounding bridge section is so juicy). ‘Purity Storm’ is somehow more dynamic in pace but more serene in emotion and brings these weeping violins that so beautifully contrast against the military pace. It’s also a song that comes in waves of soft and heavy to keep you on your toes.
‘Siege’ is the explosion of the album, heavy, dramatic, epic and brutal. And it also features guest harsh vocals from Anna Hel, which bring the aggression into the forefront. ‘Blood Feud Erotica’ is the most technical, fast and shocking in drum performance (those snare-kick strums in the beginning are simply insane). And the epic finale ‘Freedom Foregone’ brings a liberating feel but also a heavy tragic tone, over which the curtain falls (plus more weepy violins).
I admit, it is a bit difficult to sit through the entire stream as the constant drum drilling and visions of carnage take their toll emotionally and in energy levels. But it’s also very captivating and rewarding! I consider “Siege” to be one of the most majestic and impressive musical creations of the new year, and also one of the most original and surprising. Especially if you’re into inhumanly extreme metal or modern sci-fi effects, I can’t stress it enough that you need to spin this right away!
- King Breeder (03:01)
- The Worst of Us (08:24)
- Shck Doctrine (04:33)
- Purity Storm (09:47)
- Siege (06:40)
- Claw at the Dirt (09:23)
- Blood Feud Erotica (08:04)
- Freedom Foregone (11:39)