Every Hour Kills – Fragile Machine
A Review By: Matthew MacDermant
Futuristic progressive metal just hit the streets. Every Hour Kills released “Fragile Machine,” a ten-track piece, split 50/50, each song playing a lyric and instrumental version. This is a concept album set in a time after the technological singularity. Organic human life has ceased and digital immortals live inside a massive tesseract server containing the uploaded consciousness of the once primate species. The band explores big questions with this one. What does it mean to be human? Are we still human if we are no longer bound to our physical shell, but instead a digital version of our former selves? Is that digital version us or something else? The album is surreal and powerful, waxing and waning between depressing and triumphant, while remaining positively otherworldly throughout. Each track is layered, complex, and technical, taking the listener through a range of emotions, to places that currently exist only in the speculative imagination.
As an avid fan of post rock and instrumental music, I appreciated the inclusion of both lyrical and instrumental tracks. It is tempting to brush off what seems like a duplication, but let me assure you, this is not the case. The complex and layered instrumentation is less accessible once vocals are placed on the track. Attention must be split between vocals and instruments and thus, we cannot fully appreciate everything on offer. To truly hear everything and get the complete story crafted with this album, both versions are needed. It was a good choice.
The music sets us within a sterile dystopian world. The science fiction themes (The Singularity, mind uploading, digital immortality, “post-human” futures), the matrix-like world, the pain and anger of the human experience are beautifully illustrated here. I found myself pondering: How would I feel if I knew I lived inside a computer? Who would I be? Am I me or am I a copy? Is any of it real? “Fragile Machine” will surely appeal to all who spend their time reading/watching sci-fi and contemplating life, the universe, and everything.
Let us take a trip together into the Uncanny Valley and explore the songs a bit more in depth.
“Numlock” starts off the album, switching between heavy riffs/progressions and a more atmospheric dreamscape piano and synthesizer. This sets the tone, awakening us to a new digital reality. Its as if we have just come online and in this very moment, the world has come into existence, enveloping us in the simulation. Then, at the end we are treated to an incredibly angular solo. After witnessing this explosive solo, I know there is a resistance in this world.
“Aldebaran” enters with an immediate guitar breakdown and aggressive riffs, followed by a continual build up, and free fall in the tempo. The more aggressive tone is offset by the clean lyrics which assure us of the transcendence of love and humanity. Even if we may be a simulacra of our former selves, we are not alone and something of us remains that cannot be taken away.
“Illusorian” features some well-timed screaming amidst a sea of clean vocals. The emotionality of the song is palpable. The screams feel like a temporary head above the water, a look outside the code constructed world. My favorite part though comes in around 2:45, when the song fades into a mystical dream for a moment. Peering out across the vastness of the tesseract, awake for the first time, we know the truth of our digital prison. The atmosphere is mesmerizing, beautiful, and sad. We are all trapped.
“Fragile Machine” enters with an anxious frenetic ambiance. It is a love song, but also a comment on the uncanny valley. For those unfamiliar with the term, it is the state at which a simulation or an AI feels real, but not exactly real. It’s close, but something is off. There are parts we want to accept, but our minds reject it. The lovers in this song are in a tragic qualm. They want to reject the world, they want to wake up, but their love is part of the simulation. They are “waiting in this digital dream” together and they know it is a lie, but they cannot escape the artificial likeness without escaping their love. Their love is real, but the world is fake? Is it a portrait of the real mocking us? It is hard to say, but there is a killer guitar solo.
“Death Song” is a fast and furious last stand. Atmospheric dreams are layered behind guttural lyrics, punishing drums, and technical guitar. The harsh vocals are the anger and indignance at the lies and deceit. The clean lyrics are the pain and sadness amidst the emptiness. It is tragic yet triumphant. This is a track with a lot going on. It is definitely the most metalcore in structure, while simultaneously being the most emotional. I am left in this place at the end where I question if it continues or if we should just exit now and forfeit eternity. This is a powerful one and a good album close.
Every Hour Kills put a lot of thought and emotion into this album. It is complex and philosophical. It is well executed, instrument heavy, progressive metal. Fans of the genre will find it part of their repeat playlist. Deep thinkers, sci fi fans, and connoisseurs of other rock/metal genres will find “Fragile Machine” a very welcoming and meaningful entry into the world of technical metal.