Retro-review: Damn the Machine’s self-titled album

Back in the early 1990s, Megadeth was on fire. They may not have been quite the meteor that Metallica was, but they were definitely a respectable No. 2.

So, when Chris Poland, who played guitars on Megadeth’s album Peace Sells… But Who’s Buying as well as its predecessor, Killing is My Business… And Business is Good, announced that he was going to release an album with his own band, people were excited.

That band, Damn the Machine, released their self-titled album in June of 1993 … and not much else happened. They released a video, toured some and before you knew it, Damn the Machine had became Damned to Obscurity.

What happened?

Well, one listen to Damn the Machine will tell you what happened.

Damn the Machine features, of course, Chris Poland on guitar and backing vocals. On vocals is David Judson Clemmons, who sounds like he may be as comfortable singing with Journey or Kansas as he is Damn the Machine. On drums is Chris’ brother, Mark Poland.

The other standout performer, aside from Chris Poland, is bassist David Randi. He’s a skilled bassist and his performance lifts him above the rest of the band, save Chris Poland of course.

So, with all that in mind, why was Damn the Machine so damn uninteresting?

Well, let’s take a look.

The album

Going into this, it helps to keep in mind that this is not a thrash metal album. Instead, it’s a progressive rock album with some hard edges. You’re not going to find any of Megadeth’s speed or “come at me bro” attitude here.

Instead, you’re going to find a rather morose-toned album without a lot that distinguishes it from other progressive rock bands.

Things start off with the album’s single “The Mission.” It sets the tone for the album. It’s not an in-your-face metal barrage. Instead, it’s an intricate mid-paced song making use of melody, tone, tempo and rhythm at all levels. Lyrically, it’s probably the catchiest track on the song, with the line “what a weapon” and “this mission can be won” sticking with the listener.

Things actually slow down with the second song “Fall of Order,” a song that lets bassist Dave Randi Shine. It’s not a bad song, just kind of an awkward place, not really building on the energy of “The Mission,” causing things to stumble a bit. It’s a track that would’ve fit better somewhere else on the album I believe.

Things pick back up with “Corporate Reign,” a song which I’ve found typical for the album. Slower-pace verses, with the guitar and vocals almost sounding alone and then more power choruses and bridges. There are flashes of Poland’s old band Megadeth, but not enough to say “hey, that sounds like Megadeth!”

“Corporate Reign” also shows the main problem I have with the album. It feels like everyone is given a moment in the song to show their stuff. Individually, the parts aren’t bad, but as a whole, it feels kind of disjointed and unnecessary. You feel like you’re listening to a bunch of individuals doing their own thing instead of concentrating on making the songs themselves stronger.

It also causes the effect of feeling like you’re listening to variations of the same song over and over. Which means there’s not a lot that’s memorable on this album.

There are a couple of standouts, like “On With the Dream.” This is the first song after the mission to actually have some punch to it. Sure, there’s the slowdowns that are typical to the album, but the beginning of the song and the choruses have some punch. The shouted harmony of the band works really well too, making it pretty memorable in a sea of gray listening.

Patriot” is also another standout with Randi really carrying the song with his clear base and a hard-hitting rhythm. The vocals are great and the song is where the band actually shows some slightly faster pace. It holds together well and feels like the band is working together instead of trying to fit in each of their bits.

Russians” is another good song, thanks to the really cool guitar rhythm that Poland plays throughout the chorus, supported by Randi’s rhythm. It’s got punch, and that’s why it works.

The rest of the songs on the album just fail to stir the listener. No matter how long one steps away, time just doesn’t improve these songs, and in some cases, leaves them weaker.

The verdict

When one hears this album, they will hear a lot of potential in what could have been.

Damn the Machine is just brought down by its lack of cohesiveness and lack of distinction. Progressive metal has never been popular and releasing an average album in that scene just doesn’t bid well for long-lasting success.

There’s a distinct lack of unoriginality bringing the album down as well. Throughout, you hear bits that remind you of Rush, Megadeth and occasionally early 80s arena rock like Def Leppard. Considering this was marketed as a heavy metal album highlighting Chris Polland’s ties to Megadeth, it was doomed to fail.

I don’t recommend listening to the album aside from the songs I highlighted. It’s an example of an album that can only be called “just another album.” Despite its bright spots, Damn the Machine never really shines.

 

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