The HAARP Machine - Disclosure
Earlier this year, London-based progressive tech-metallers The HAARP Machine gave us Pleiadian Keys, a song that raised eyebrows on a global scale within progressive metal circles. Named after the research project that has sparked numerous conspiracy theories and rumours, the band have finally released Disclosure upon the world, their long-awaited debut album.
The intro to opener Esoteric Agenda sees fret-demon and band visionary Al Mu'min picking up a sitar prior to brandishing his guitar, adding a whole new dimension to their sound from the off. It soon makes way though for a barrage of technical savagery, as vocalist Michael Semesky throws his gutturals into the mix along with Alex Rudinger's insane drum fills. As the song title is hollered over a moment of solid Meshuggah-esque riffing that would provoke the most subdued of granny-filled bingo halls to headbang in unison, the clean vocals suddenly appear out of nowhere, and The HAARP Machine reveal themselves fully.
Lower The Populace is an all-out technical metal assault, if a slightly uninspired one. The closing forty seconds however sees Al Mu'min laying down his guitar and enthralling us once again, this time with the delicate oriental twang of the Japanese koto. Moments like this are where The HAARP Machine really come into their own, adding shards of uniqueness that envelop their sound. The aforementioned Pleiadian Keys towers over the rest of the album with its huge chorus and melodic hooks, although when it comes to the more riff-heavy moments, highlight Extension to One delivers the goods with gusto.
From Vanity To Unity is all over the place with a fusion of tech metal and, amazingly, a slightly cheesy yet uplifting piano lick to conclude. The title track sees an entirely melodic performance from Michael Semesky and the result is a powerful, spacey rock number, whilst HAARP Machine oldie The Escapist Notion follows one of the emerging patterns on Disclosure, morphing from lamb to lion and back again without blinking. As such, the ideas heard on this album never feel like they're given ample chance to air themselves and really open up into anything more than that; a good idea only half-executed. Perhaps the length of the songs themselves is a contributor to this; the brilliant Machine Over is the only number to breach the five minute mark, which doesn't really give the band much time to explore the more progressive elements of their music.
Disclosure is a startlingly accessible journey, considering the complexity of much of the song structuring and fretwork. The strength of Semesky's clean vocals go some of the way to making this happen, although as a consequence, calling this band extreme is somewhat of an exaggeration. The slightly stifled production doesn't help matters either, although it complements the more progressive elements and the melodies. The lyrics read like a political essay, which is sure to divide opinion and will probably give them a bit trouble getting into the United States of Gawd Bless America. In the world of music, however, the sword is usually mightier than the pen, and what The HAARP Machine have created here is a thirty three minute burst of riff-caked tech metal, as listenable as it is intense; a huge brimming cauldron of ideas, but one that feels disjointed at times. It is an entity that contains moments of brilliance, but also moments of uninventive deathcore that start leaning towards mediocrity. Thankfully it never actually falls flat, and the wash of creativity in other areas is its saving grace. The ever present wail of the sitar sits neatly in the background, adding an air of the mysterious and consequently contributing to the overall listening experience. The heavier moments are for the most part less interesting and inventive than the melodic ones, but that's not to say they don't shine at all. There are fantastic riffs to be found dotted amongst this album, both the intricately carved and the face-melting; you just have to keep an ear out for them.
The band have a whole universe of ideas and concepts at their fingertips and their next steps may be very important ones. Their immense technical ability is never going to be questioned and Semesky's vocals are impressive at both ends of the spectrum, so they just have to decide what to do next with these powers. Fans of technical and progressive metal are likely to slaver all over this disc, although those same people are probably already eagerly anticipating new material after this brief but infectious foray. Some might call it a bit of a guilty pleasure, but take it for what it is, not what you think it should be, and it's a fine ride indeed.