In 2007, during a time where plastic peripherals were all the rage, the mighty Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock embedded and shredded itself deeply into our hearts, allowing us to face off and play as rock legends Slash and Tom Morello, do battle against the devil himself, and blast through all 7-and-a-half minutes of DragonForce’s power-riffic 2005 epic “Through the Fire and the Flames.” However, deep in its 73-song soundtrack, lay a hidden gem by a two-piece act by the name of An Endless Sporadic. The catchy prog bouncefest enamored itself unto thousands with its swift changes and infectious melodies, as well as its deceptive difficulty. Though the (at the time) duo wouldn’t reach the same popularity that DragonForce saw thanks to the game, An Endless Sporadic had certainly made a name for themselves by being included in one of the best-selling music games of all time.
Their first EP, Ameliorate, which included the fetching “Impulse,” released a year later in 2008, followed by the project’s debut self-titled in 2009. In terms of progression, while solid endeavors, didn’t deviate from confines that couldn’t quite be defined, but couldn’t quite be overcome. This isn’t to say that the any of the music was “bad”—far from it, in fact. It just lacked a certain something. Perhaps it was in the production values or even deeper in the songwriting itsef or even something beyond—difficult to put a finger on, but An Endless Sporadic, while very good in its own right, needed something that was perhaps unavailable at the time.
Fast forward seven years, the now-expanded endeavor known as An Endless Sporadic gazes from the edge of their impending release in Magic Machine. This fuller, richer-sounding album readily eclipses previous works by a large margin. With contributions by the likes of Navene Koperweis on drums and guest spots by Jordan Rudess on keyboards and Roine Stolt for a solo on “Sea Voyage,” the mere star power alone is an attractive enough concept to keep giving An Endless Sporadic listens. Credit where credit is due, however, the bulk of the work comes from composer/producer/arranger/multi-instrumentalist/engineer/mixing engineer/orchestrator Zach Kamins who founded the project with Andy Gentile in 1999.
Magic Machine keeps its “core” progressive rock sound intact throughout, but figuratively draws from distant lands by cleverly incorporating non-traditional rock instruments into its melodies. A complete list of instruments would be an exhausting read, but Magic Machine makes use of banjo, tuba, erhu, cello, trumpet, glockenspiel, marimba, literal heavy metals, hand-hammered lasagna trays, violin, and beyond. The amount of variety included is in and of itself mind-blowing, but the way each piece is tastefully incorporated into each track and, more importantly, how thoughtfully each track transitions to the next is simply delectable.
Magic Machine is rife with moments, but none are haphazardly tossed into the proverbial pot hoping that they stick out in a listener’s mind. The carefully-placed woodwinds remind of Jethro Tull, while oddly-accentuated staccato riffs evoke memories of 90s pop ska tunes. There’s even a titillating part in “Galactic Tactic” about a third of the way through the song that, if you’re paying close attention, will give you vibes from another rhythm game staple (to be perfectly clear, it’s very reminiscent to Freezepop‘s “Less Talk, More Rokk”). There are even sections that take you back to the heyday of huge synth music before returning to the almost The Dillinger Escape Plan-esque chatoic dissonance. The album even concludes with a reworked version of “Impulse” titled “Impulse II,” lovingly allowing the project’s career to come full circle and paying perfect homage to where it all began.
There are some less-than-interesting lulls on Magic Machine, but nothing that will detract too harshly from an overall enjoyable experience. There is literally (read: figuratively) something on this album for everyone to enjoy. Whether you’re a longtime fan who discovered the act in Guitar Hero III or a person interested in a new progressive release, Magic Machine will almost definitely have something for you.