Machinae Supremacy, Luleå, Sweden’s number one musical export, are releasing their seventh full-length album in Into the Night World. A little over two years after the release of Phantom Shadow [review], the power metal/chiptune fusion band, self-branded as “SID Metal,” continue their somber themes on Into the Night World. Stepping away from an overarching concept, each track comes as a self-contained, straightforward jam, with a good majority clocking in at under 4 minutes, though some slower-paced track do reach into the 5+ minute area.
Phantom Shadow‘s creation saw the addition of guitarist Tomi Luoma, as well as vocalist Robert Stjärnström removing himself from rhythm guitar duties. The shift in structure also came packed with a shift in musical identity, as the band finally chose to pursue a concept that had been floating in their collective aether for some time. With Phantom Shadow, the conceptual unification brought out something within the band that was missing from their previous work. The arcing story lent itself to building cohesive themes within the music, as well as pulling from previous concepts in order to further the story (i.e., the ties from “Indiscriminate Murder is Counter-Productive” from A View From the End of the World and “The Second One”). By the end of the album, with its closing track in “Hubnester Rising,” the anthemic six-and-a-half minute acclamation strongly stated that the titular character had found a dawning of a new day and, perhaps, this echoed the sentiment of the band as a whole. A new life with which to pursue, perhaps a new direction, and a spirit stronger than before.
Into the Night World is not that.
Though it continues the huge sound they band has slowly been establishing over the years, coalescing the strongest on Phantom Shadow, the album seems to fall short of where that sound was moving to. It’s not even necessarily a regression, as previous Machinae Supremacy material was littered with “fight songs” (a.k.a. songs that short, quick, and often about physical or spiritual combat). Into the Night World features a similar somber tone to Phantom Shadow, but encapsulates that emotional value into songs that are more reminiscent in length to those “fight songs” that made the band popular. The juxtaposition doesn’t lend itself to creating a record that really draws a listener in, instead creating experiences that are over almost as soon as they’ve begun.
There are bangers here, however, as listeners are met with “My Dragons Will Decimate,” the album’s lead single. The soaring chorus is enrapturing, while the familiar SID tones hook in between the pounding instruments and vocals. The comically titled “Twe27ySeven” is also one of these obvious bangers, its more quiet verses interestingly betrayed by intensifying music in all aspects.
Engagement drops off after the melancholic “Remember Me,” its wistful presence almost seemingly saying farewell to any and all captivating appeal. Songs like “Space Boat,” “Stars Had to Die So You Could Live,” and “Beast Machine” just don’t seem to “do it” on the whole, though “Beast Machine” does have one of the sickest guitar-chip grooves on the whole album and should definitely satisfy. It’s difficult to explain, but these songs seem to lack the same heart that the beginning of the album carried.
“SID Metal Legacy” is a two-and-a-half minute instrumental that attempts to recapture the same enchantment that brought in fans, but doesn’t really do much of anything. It certainly sounds like there were some ideas that couldn’t find their way into a whole song, but were instead left to the elements and became an instrumental instead. Thankfully, the end of the record is very much saved by “The Last March of the Undead,” the fifth and seemingly-final part to the “March of the Undead” series that began when the band was still known as MASUGN. This mid-tempo anthem is classic Machinae Supremacy in tone, but serves to fuse that methodology with their modern sound in an engaging and interesting way. There’s even a radical stacked lead part that segues into a very groovy polyrhythmic section at about the 3-minute mark.
The biggest continuous failing on Into the Night World is that songs end kind of abruptly. They come in, do their thing, and then leave without a really heartfelt goodbye. Despite not having a grander theme at play, the self-contained storytelling falls short of what could be by having strong introductions and hearty meats to the songs, but leaving before the denouement really comes together. It almost speaks volumes to the album itself, as the heart and soul of Into the Night World seems to reside at the beginning and slowly tapers off near the end, save for “The Last March of the Undead.”
Into the Night World is by no means a lousy album and will surely enchant longtime Machinae Supremacy fans. It does, however, seem to betray a spiritual awakening that began with Phantom Shadow and shows that maybe Luleå’s quintet isn’t quite wholly ready to evolve from their roots. Whether that’s good or bad is up to you, but after such a concerted effort in Phantom Shadow, Into the Night World is particularly lackluster.