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Review: Machines Of Grace - Machines Of Grace
Machines Of Grace
Machines Of Grace

Label: Independent
Year released: 2009
Duration: 56:00
Tracks: 14
Genre: Heavy Metal

Rating: 4.5/5

Review online: March 12, 2011
Reviewed by: Bruce Dragonchaser
Readers Rating
Machines Of Grace

Rated 4/5 (80%) (5 Votes)

While most Savatage side-projects have become well known entities in their own right, a sadly overlooked release from Machines of Grace finds Zak Stevens and drummer Jeff Plate hammering through material first recorded by Wicked Witch, the band Stevens fronted before being hand-picked to sing on Edge Of Thorns and so on. Complemented by guitarist Matt Leff and bass player Chris Rapoza, this muscular quartet skirt the periphery of the Stevens-era sound, pushing the bluesy and more commercial aspects of it to the fore, and thus, leaving the theatricality (or for lack of a better term, the Oliva-ness) out of the picture. In fact, Machines of Grace and their self-titled debut have more in common with Circle II Circle, except they aren't quite as metal, with many of their choruses being candy-coated and catchy as hell. This is certainly the most mainstream album Stevens has sung on, and his vocals throughout are nothing short of stellar. The guitar work of Leff is also a highlight, as for once we can hear Zak's soaring majesty over riffs that don't try to imitate Criss Oliva. As a result, everything here is light, melodic, and extremely soulful.

Opener "Just A Game" is one of the tunes left over from Wicked Witch, and it is a good indication of what the album has to offer. Strong melodies, great musicianship, and a chorus to die for. "Psychotic" leads with a crushing riff and "Innocence" is a laid-back acoustic romp that reminds me of Jon Oliva's Pain, only without the vitriol. Later tracks such as "The Moment" are more radio-friendly, but there are more complex tunes in "Soul To Fire" and "Bleed", which opens with a classic Savatage riff before uniting it with the bluesy themes that permeate the album. Production is nice and crisp (much cleaner than on recent CIIC releases), and the songs are all worth a listen, as they show Stevens at his most comfortable.

Fans of Zak Stevens and his time in Savatage will find much to devour here, though without Jon Oliva's touch it does stray far from the Edge Of Thorns/Dead Winter Dead model. Still, we have Circle II Circle for that. Machines of Grace are tuned to a different frequency.

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