“There is no art to find the mind’s construction in the face”
Sorry for hitting you with some Shakespeare in a rock review but this quote from King Duncan in Macbeth pretty well sums up the Ape Machine experience. On the face of it Ape Machine are a hard hitting blues rock band with a distinctly retro appeal but on listening to this, the band’s third full length and their first on Ripple Music it become clear that there is a schizophrenic beast lurking behind the façade.
Ape Machine take the retro kick of bands like Rival Sons and Clutch and mix it up with a twisted, scattergun approach to song writing that, in some respects, defies the traditions they’re trying to uphold. For starters this album was initially recorded in one 45 minute session straight to tape…yes 45 minutes in which the band played the album straight through from start to finish before adding overdubs. This is definitely a band with their shit firmly together as is displayed by the exceptional performances contained herein. The album is similarly sequenced with no breathing space between tracks as they merge one into the other. This just serves to highlight one thing about Ape Machine and that is how their song writing follows more of a linear pattern that convention dictates. This is a band who often apply a “use once then destroy” principal to song structure. While there are discernible verses and choruses that emerge from their sonic soup, the band is more often given to chopping and changing riffs on the turn of a sixpence and heading off on stratospheric tangents that touch on free jazz, crazed psychedelia, progressive rock before touching base with their bluesy rock and roll foundation.
This eclectic and confusing approach to their song craft may not necessarily make for the catchiest listening experience…if you’re looking for that maybe check out their previous album “War To Head”. What it does do is grab the listener and demand a more involved, concentrated listen. While they’re not throwing titbits of familiarity they compel with a sense of “well, what’s next then”. Lose concentration and you will most likely miss another killer riff or a dazzling snatch of lead guitar.
Overall the performances here are exemplary. Vocalist Caleb Heinze possesses one of those passionate, soulful classic rock voices while guitarist Ian Watts throws his weight all over this record chopping from spasmodic, lurching riffs to all out boogie to dizzying soloing worthy of any posturing 70’s guitar hero. The rhythm section of Brian True and Damon Delapaz on bass and drums respectively nail things down with telepathic pinpoint precision. The rich, vintage production lends them particular weight throughout and belies its essentially live genesis.
Ape Machine’s previous album was a head scratcher on first listen but by the second listen its hooks dug deep and pulled you in close. “Mangled By The Machine” is a far less forgiving piece of work, it demands you invest your time and work with the band. It may not grab you on the first listen, or the second or even the third or fourth but if you have the faith to stick with it, it will grab you and from that point there is no turning back. From the start though it is apparent that you are listening to a band that has an almost supernatural ability to create music that is equally soulful and heart warming as it is challenging and often baffling. Truly a special band and a special album.
Scribed by: Ollie Stygall