The HAARP Machine
01. Esoteric Agenda
02. Lower The Populace
03. Pleiadian Keys
04. From Vanity To Utility
06. The Escapist Notion
07. Extension to One
08. Machine Over
After much hype, delay, and a bit of controversy, the latest band to capture the hearts of many tech metal fans — The HAARP Machine — have laid their first offering Disclosure on the table. Taking up influence from an array of bands one would expect to be cited — The Faceless and Necrophagist, for instance — The HAARP Machine’s initial signing to Sumerian Records last year came with the inferred promise of a new group of rising stars in the prog world. The slight mystery surrounding the band and their music until the album’s release helped to fuel this interest and curiosity as well, but after all is said and done, The HAARP Machine’s debut album Disclosure won’t exactly propel them to new heights for the genre.
On a musical front, the band’s driving sound seems to rise from the bedroom-born music scene where guitarists (in this case, HAARP head-honcho Al Mu’min) create projects that eventually transform into full bands and touring acts. As such, Disclosure aligns itself with the djent and tech-metal aesthetic in production and songwriting. What makes The HAARP Machine stand out among many of their faceless contemporaries is Mu’min’s embrace of his Arabic heritage as he brings in an interesting Eastern musical influence into Disclosure. The more exotic sounds of sitar, koto, and piano weave themselves into the compositions to make a comparatively more memorable and unique listening experience, though to some, the world-music passages may come across as gimmicky. It all works well in context however, and any outside influence that makes the oft-treaded sound flourish as it does on Disclosure is wholly welcomed.
Disclosure takes a bit of a misstep on its lyrical approach, unfortunately. Throughout the history of the metal genre, it has been known for lyrical subject matter to take political stance, but Disclosure becomes almost obnoxiously concerned with conspiracy as it stands firmly atop its soapbox. The opening track ‘Esoteric Agenda’ in particular is a hamfisted approach at a call to arms, sporting the lyrics, “There were no weapons of mass destruction or mobile biological weapons labs. The agenda was to remove Saddam Hussein, to reap the oil, and establish a base… Open your eyes and see the world is not what it seems. Free your soul from the ties that bind us all. Time is upon us to wake up.” The whole record feels like an angst-ridden critique of modern society and government, which would be fine had it not been written in a way that spoon-fed listeners the message while abandoning any notion of poetic depth or metaphor. The only thing that keeps much of this record from being indistinguishable from the rantings of a conservative conspiracy theorist is its lack of the word “sheeple” from being used in the liner notes.
The saving grace for the lyrical front is Mike Semesky’s vocal delivery. Semesky — known for his involvement in the bands Vestascension and Ordinance — is a brilliant and under-acknowledged vocalist whose incredible cleans make much of the album, with his work on leading single ‘Pleiadian Keys’ and the title track being record highlights. Though, as a late addition to the group after the album was written, his performance, while great, shows signs of being highly directed and restrained. The band’s longevity and consistency have yet to be seen, but assuming Semesky is left to write his own lyrics and vocal melodies moving forward, the band can reach soaring new heights when utilizing his full potential.
Disclosure is the type of album that makes for a pleasurable listening experience within the moment, but lacks much in the way of compelling hooks that stick with the listener in the grand scheme of things. Disclosure is more of a passing fling and has little staying power as we move forward, despite the expectations from fans of the genre had anticipated. Perhaps a greater integration of their psychedelic Eastern musical influence and less emphasis on gimmicky conspiracy theories can put them there. Disclosure is a good record to be sure, but the band have some growing to do before they can truly make their impact on a scene so desperate for a new savior.
The HAARP Machine – Disclosure gets…