When I agreed to review Netherlanders 3rd Machine’s new album “Quantified Self”, I wondered what they could possibly have produced next, following their excellent 2012 EP “The Egotiator”. Placing expectations aside, I was immediately intrigued by the promotional material explaining the subject matter that inspired this release – “the perils of our modern digital age”.
I’m fascinated by discussions on the topic of advanced future technologies, how they will be used and how they can affect our modern lives, so I was prepared to be intrigued and challenged by the lyrics. Whether you’re interested in this or not, “Quantified Self” is a fascinating listen. Just make sure you play it loud though, because it’s a powerful beast of a record.
The opening track “Curveball” wastes no time, crashing through like a sledgehammer, with an infectious riff, precision blast beats and a ballsy bass-line. Much like this song’s namesake and not intent on remaining one-dimensional, the heavy sections suddenly alternate with a clean vocal chorus and melodic guitar passage, bringing with it plenty of atmosphere. This chop-and-change style keeps things interesting throughout.
Next up is “Reboot Initiate”, with its ominous intro leading into another dose of Modern Death Metal, however this time featuring a distinctly Middle-Eastern style within the chorus. Once again, this track’s heaviness is juxtaposed by some sublime melodic guitar work and is filled with atmosphere.
One of my favourite songs on this album is title-track “Quantified Self”. The riff at the beginning stirs the emotions and the haunting accompanying violin melody provides a sinister edge. Vocally outstanding, this track introduces a rhythmic, staccato style that compliments the Djent-like guitar sections, before switching between soft, lamenting legato refrains and raucous, vitriolic growls. There’s something almost chaotic about the music and the use of spoken word samples filtered through gritty distortion effects amplifies the tension, to the point where it feels as though it could all ‘kick off’ at any moment.
“Ultimate Intelligence” is an intense, yet darkly emotive song featuring guest vocals from Mark Jansen of Epica fame. John & Mark’s distinctive vocal styles compliment one another excellently, lifting the spirit of the song by injecting additional melody into the mix to accompany the guitar work.
So far so good, however the creative peak for me has to be “System Idle”. Whilst not the heaviest track, it is by far the most emotional and atmospheric. The crushing, cinematic blast effects add plenty of dramatic flair and the soaring synths are just sublime. The melodic guitar riffs express the narrative of the song’s lyrics very effectively and are beautifully performed.
Vocally, the style is mostly well-balanced throughout the album, moving effortlessly from clean singing to tonal growls. Whilst the vocal delivery is diverse and solid, there are some rare moments where it feels as though they could be a little more melodic, as they almost verge on becoming a little monotonous in places, though not enough to dampen the enjoyment of the song. Despite this minor criticism, it doesn’t detract from what is largely a terrific album with an angry, caustic energy flowing through it.