|Review: No Return - Machinery|
Label: Nuclear Blast
Year released: 2002
Review online: December 19, 2002
Reviewed by: Hogworth
Rated 3.1/5 (62%) (10 Votes)
Thank God (or Satan, or your diety of preference) that things old are new again. And, in this case, that rediscovery has initiated renewal, even reinvention. Thrash greats Exodus, Forbidden and Testament forged a tempestuous, frenzied, brutal, yet sinuous and elegant form of metal, which, tempered by the alloys of subsequent contributors, has survived stronger, sharper, and more balanced than ever.
The latest revisioning of the Bay Area sound is the French outfit No Return’s "Machinery," a cyber-concept album with the rhetoric of a loud and angry jeremiad against the postmodern condition. This is, surprisingly, the quintet’s fifth full length release. Only the French, in their smug solipsism could keep such a rare jewel secreted in their cloying bosom so long. However, after several years of releasing mainly death-inspired LP’s in Gallic obscurity -- under the auspices of American death-meister Tom Morris -- the band broke through with a thrash-infused offering, 2000’s "Self-Mutilation," released on a minor French label, Kodiac records. Unequal to the more brutal toil of their death-metal past, like a racecar forced to travel dirt roads, the creative engine of No Return found an avenue down which it could cast off ballast and the callow trappings of death metal and accelerate toward 2002’s brilliant and malicious thrash metal masterpiece, "Machinery."
Signed now to Nuclear Blast, No Return unleashed a ravening 12 track beast upon an unsuspecting world audience unused to such variegated and sinuous riffery, having had an abeyance of some fifteen years since such music was birthed in warehouses and garages along the San Francisco Harbour. If Glen Alvelais had shared an apartment with Eric Peterson, and Gary Holt and Rob Cavestany had stopped by on weekends to jam, one might expect this cabal of thrash metal to conspire such a razor sharp, piledriven assortment of tunes as featured on "Machinery."
I have an unusual way of organizing a review. I generally put a CD on, usually on my CD walkman, sometimes in the gym, and wander about my workout listening. When I hear a memorable track, I write the number of the track down on a post-it note on the CD cover. To do this, I generally have to stop my exercising and walk back to my bag, fetch a pen, etc etc. While listening to "Machinery" I did this some eight times, spending more time in cataloguing the great songs on this album than actually exercising! My favourite song on this album is "Resurrection." It’s one of those unassuming tracks, much like a hidden rattler in the grass, which because of its camoflauge, lurks unseen, until it has you around the fucking neck and injects its infectious venom into your bloodstream, never to leave until you submit to its mortal agency. God, I wish I could see this one live. It begins slowly, a synth pattern weaving in and out of staccatto riffing, a woman’s voice lamenting her dying moments to a pulse- pattern. I imagine this as a perfect entrance tune, until at about 1:15 a long beep is heard (I assume here the woman dies) and the song erupts in a jet of bilious, old school riffing. Sounding sometimes like Slayer-on-steroids, and, at other times, a caged, mechanized Forbidden, the song pulses and pounds through four minutes and twenty three seconds of Bay area bedlam.
This band clearly knows how to groove, as well as grind and thrash. The songs are tuneful and inspired, almost always delivered with a an eye to balance: between technogroove and thrashery; between crunch and melody; between mechanistic riffing and power-down groove; between pace and slack. The only two complaints I have are that the production, overseen by Kris Belean at CCR Studio in Belgium, is a bit chirpy and trebly – it should be meatier and darker especially in the guitars – and that the singer, Steeve "Zuul", elects to favour rasping over his more euphonic singing voice. This tends to detract from the elegant harmonizing and interweaving inflections of the guitarists, Benoit Antonia and Alain Clement, which blazes forth in savage refulgence across such tracks as Violator, Synthetic, Biomechanoid, Virus, and the aforementioned master-track Resurrection.
Conflating the European technicality of thrash-masters Artillery and Coroner with the Bay Area pandemonium of Forbidden and Testament, admixtured with a kind of French elegance and technosensibility, this one is well worth the search.
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