by Clifford Shane Franklin
After an extended tenure with Universal Records, 10 Years has made Minus the Machine their first release under Palehorse Records – their own independent label. This album is largely a chance for the band to experiment beyond the boundaries of mainstream hard rock music and offer listeners a chance to witness 10 Years raw, sans-filters, and in their true element.
The album’s opening title track starts off strong, coming off an ambient intro with some solid riffing and singer Jesse Hasek’s unmistakable vocals. The interplay between the pensive, melodic verses and crashing choruses is simply incredible on this track and will have longtime fans banging their heads early. The track has traces of A Perfect Circle and even some shades of Dream Theater at the bridge, but the sound remains unmistakably 10 Years.
From there, we hit the album’s second track, “Battle Lust,” which continues on with the band’s heavier side –tracks like it and “Backlash” display structural shades of heavy hitting bands such as Breaking Benjamin and Crossfade while letting Jesse Hasek’s dynamic vocals ride over the top – lending an intensity that goes beyond screaming.
As the album progresses, the band’s experimentation comes through in their ventures to break into new territory on two fronts – the previously-mentioned hard rock sound and slower paced pieces – allowing them to test the boundaries of brutality and contrasting ambience as seen in tracks like “Forever Fields,” “Writing on the Walls,” and “Soma”.
Breaking up the push in extremities, “Dancing with the Dead” and “Sleeper” provide some fresh perspective from the band with heavy electronic vibes that take the listener into very new territory with the group. While the band’s production values for layered vocals and added effects remain present, the intensity behind these pieces is simply staggering.
The last few songs of this album carry with them some of the band’s deepest experimentation. From “Tightrope” on, Minus the Machine takes some serious detours from mainstream standards that dominated some of their previous albums.
The dark aesthetic soundscapes for the album come out strongly through “Tightrope,” a synth-heavy track loaded with some incredibly emotive moments, including a mournful guitar solo that echoes the song’s call for peace in a world that’s been holding its breath for far too long.
As the piece ends, we have a transition into “Knives,” where we see a bit more heat from 10 Years before entering the last two tracks: “Birth-Death,” and instrumental interlude, and “…And All the Other Colors” to finish off the album.
The album’s final lines, “Become one with the energy… and all the other colors are leaving this body of mine behind,” end the track abruptly, shutting off the sound as quickly as an unplugged cable.
Overall, Minus the Machine is a solid mixture of the band’s newfound freedom and mainstream upbringing. While the back-and-forth changes in intensity can come off as unsettling at times, the band does a good job of introducing some new elements to their classic sound, making this a solid first step on the band’s journey to break from tradition and can really do with full creative control.