The Machinist: Letters In Red

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All Is Not Well is an apt name for the second album by extreme metal enthusiasts THE MACHINIST. For the past three years, the New York City group have watched as the world has gone mad, and the chaos has left a lasting mark. They’ve taken all the anger and frustration that they felt and turned it into a searing 34-minute burst of aggression. It’s a vicious state of the union address; commenting on the pandemic and all the upheaval that came with it. THE MACHINIST aren’t a band who steer clear of politics; this album is about as subtle as headbutting a corrupt senator. If you’re after escapism in your music, it’s probably best to stop reading now.

So, we were a little intimidated when they agreed to a Zoom chat. Yes, we were separated by an ocean, but these guys were tattooed veterans of the New York hardcore scene and they’d just delivered one of the most pissed off records of the year. We certainly weren’t expecting singer Amanda Gjelaj and guitarist Josh Gomez to be delightful company. They were easy-going, cheerful and a lot of fun to talk to. And yet this upbeat, effortlessly likeable duo wrote PIG, a song about police brutality that makes NWA look like Blue Lives Matter supporters.

“Being a minority in New York city is not easy,” Josh tells us while Amanda nods along. “Even the neighbourhood I live in, a pretty quiet neighbourhood, not a lot going on. When I was growing up the police were extremely hostile towards the younger generation. They were extremely brutal and I’ve had friends across the country dealing with similar things. And that song was written about the time of the police brutality in this country. It was rampant, it happened throughout the city.”

PIG is a monstrous opener. It’s a short, brutal introduction to the album and it doesn’t shy away from uncomfortable opinions. The police force of this song aren’t the jovial, well-meaning characters of Brooklyn 99. They’re violent thugs motivated by racism and corruption. It’s not a pleasant song, but THE MACHINIST aren’t fazed by any possible backlash.

“I know a lot of people won’t be happy with the message, but this is metal. We should be able to share our beliefs and our upbringings and all. I think that’s what makes the culture so unique,” Josh tells us. “There’s not a lot of outlook on police brutality in the metal world, if we have to be the band that speaks about it, so be it.”

“My fiancé and I were at the BLM protests, we saw how the police behaved. I think everyone’s entitled to their own opinion but seeing what we saw made me want to write these lyrics,” Amanda says. “If this makes others feel safe and heard, that’s good. That’s what I want to do!”

It’s but the tip of a very angry iceberg. All Is Not Well focuses on political instability and the evils of the misinformation industry, but it doesn’t just look outward. THE MACHINIST also explore mental health issues and aren’t afraid to go to some dark places. So, if you listen to only one song, give the title track a spin. It’s basically a snapshot of the entire album.

“That song explains the whole album. It’s a little bit of everything that’s wrong in this world. It goes from mental health to political statements but it’s open to interpretation. If you’re feeling something while listening to this, then I’m glad you’re feeling it, whatever it is.”

It’s another violent and heavy song. For about ninety percent of the runtime, All Is Not Well drips with venom. It’s a minor shock then to hear Hourglass, a far more sedate number that shows off their sensitive side. And it’s even more surprising that it’s only the fourth track on the album. According to Josh, we can thank their producer DL Laskiewicz (singer for BAD WOLVES) for this. Hourglass has existed in one form or another since the band’s earliest days, but it’s only just come together into its final form:

“Initially it was written as a ‘part two’ to a song that was on our first record. It’s one that was constantly going through the ringer; I’ve been trying to get it on an album but it’s not really worked, and when we were working on it, DL – shout out to DL – he had this idea of making it into a ballad. It had the same chord structure but it took on a new form. I was petrified! We’ve always had elements of singing and melody, but this was, oh man…”

“Think how it was for me,” Amanda interjects with a laugh. “I remember hearing the song and being like ‘what am I supposed to do with this?’ I sang a little bit here and there on the last record, but not like this. I was like ‘I HAVE TO SING A BALLAD?!’

It’s brave sticking a song like Hourglass so early in an album like this, but that’s part of what makes THE MACHINIST so exciting. They may have grown up surrounded by hardcore, but they’re not afraid to push the boundaries and test themselves. All Is Not Well has elements of death, thrash and even nu-metal mixed into it. They’re a band who’ll appear to skinheads with straight-edge crosses tattooed on their hands and long-haired death metal enthusiasts alike. “We like a mean two-step,” Josh tells us. “But it’s a real treat to be able to walk between worlds.”

All Is Not Well is out now via Prosthetic Records.

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The post The Machinist: Letters In Red appeared first on Distorted Sound Magazine.

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