Sound: "Masked" is indeed a major step forward from their previous endeavor, "The Infinity Complex". But for those who aren't familiar with Machinemade God, let me first give you a bit of a back story before I head into what you are looking for: the review. Machinemade God formed in 2003, hailing from the Rhein-Ruhr area of Germany, which also happens to be one of its, if not the, most densely populated areas. That year in 2003, Machinemade God toured with bands such as Caliban, As I Lay Dying, Hatebreed, and God Forbid as support. In 2004, Machinemade God recorded a four-track demo, landing them a spot on Pressure Fest, which made them the first unsigned band EVER to secure a spot and play at the festival. They recorded their debut album, "The Infinity Complex", the subsequent year in spring of 2005 and were soon signed to Metal Blade Records, which released the beast of an album in February of 2006. Riding on the success of the debut and immaculate reviews from fans and press alike, Machinemade God set themselves off to touring with Evergreen Terrace. After they got all the touring out of their systems for 2006 and the beginning of 2007, Machinemade God hunkered down with Sky Hoff, Machinemade God's own guitarist and clean vocalist, in the producer's seat. What was the result you may be asking? One god damned fine album!
Even though the modest folks in Machinemade God would claim Masked to be perfect, it just falls short of that prospect. However, it is still their crowning achievement! The album begins with the most beautiful, cacophonous orchestral arrangement, which leads into the sublime riffage of Forgiven. Wait, let me just reiterate again how splendid the orchestral arrangement is: imagine your favorite play or opera, let your senses soar through the stunning noises being summoned forth from the instruments of dedicated musicians, now transfuse a bit of a royal, regal, and, possibly, Spanish influence. The result is just nothing short of amazing. Well, back to the riffs. Forgiven reaches epic soaring heights that no oily guy in leather singing about dragons, maidens, swords, and wizardry could ever hope to achieve. In short, it is a great start to a great album with a great solo. GREAT! Fade out and enter a somewhat retro aspect of metal, a gallop, which begins the next track With You. A track which features a beautiful chorus, a dazzling use of keyboard in said chorus and everywhere else it is used, and a just, overall, depressing feel to it, or, at least, that's what I take from it. The next track, For Those Who Care is, in my opinion, one of the weakest on the whole entire album, but still pretty strong with a cool interlude and breakdown at the end. After the anger of For Those Who Care, we enter another nice gallop with Voices. The saving grace of this track is it's incredibly heartfelt solo and chorus. Other than that, this gets a skip, just so you can get to the mayhem of Vengeance. Vengeance sounds a bit like a great Caliban song, in my not so knowing opinion. There is a great build-up to a fantastic solo-y fretboard tapping bit, with an equally fantastic breakdown and scream. Track six is a very calming, sincere instrumental and is also the mid-way track of Masked, which is well-placed, but doesn't quite set you up for the next track. That's just another opinion of mine, though. Overall, Place Taken, track number seven, has a bit of a middle-Eastern feel to it, that I can't quite place my finger on, but gives the song an interesting sound to it. Poignant lyrics, more great use of keyboards and interludes, and an oddly soothing melody give this track a personal thumbs up. Plus, it leads perfectly into Endlessly, track two-thirds. Endlessly is one of my favorite tracks on the album, as it just exerts this passively brutal feel through it's chorus and riffs. At about 1:51 on the track, this inexplicably ominous droning chant begins with a fitting melody placed behind it. The best part of Endlessly is the gut-wrenchingly emotional near-end passage which leads into another menacing drone, effectively ending Endlessly. Track three-fourths, And Even Though You're Gone, is another instrumental which silently speaks of tragedy, disappointment, and gloom. Beauty in a dreary veil. Track five-sixths, Next to Me, begins with a stunning melodic bit, a brutal grind, a vicious grunt, and then pummels you with skull-bashing growling. However, much of the song just sounds like a gigantic breakdown. BUT the ending is something you shouldn't skip this track for. The only thing I can describe the ending bit as is a dementedly eerie theme song that you would only hear in the most hellish, murky, toy shop or music box. Track number eleven, Nemesis has a boring build up with not-so-great results, and just sounds generic compared to the rest of the album. Even so, the clean vocals make this track quite bearable. In my opinion, Nemesis is kind of like an average Soilwork song. Now, we get to the biggest payoff of Masked, and my one-thousandth word typed, Melancholy. Neat. Melancholy starts in an unimaginably astonishing way. A beautiful rhythmic guitar bit which leads into another ravishing guitar part, with an orchestral flare lit behind it. I can't even begin to unfold on how amazing this track is! I just can't! You have to listen to it to capture how excellent this song is. Singing that plucks at your heart-strings, amazing guitartistry that allows fake words describing excellent guitar work to be used, incredibly moving lyrics, and haunting growls. This is just a great track. Pure unequivocal beauty.
Did I miss something? Yeah, I did, sorry. I didn't mention how great the drums were on every single track and the jaw-dropping production. Overall, Masked is Machinemade God's best. It is metal, but with emotion that isn't faked, a feat that is insanely difficult to pull of for a majority of the metal scene. Again, pure unequivocal beauty. // 8
Lyrics: I'm not one to delve too deep into the realms of lyrical mastery, but for this album, I tried. Each track has a theme. Some are about depression, loss, anger, others are about finding hope, revenge, love lost, love found, finding forgiveness, and receiving forgiveness. The tracks that really stand out in my mind are Place Taken, Melancholy, With You, and Endlessly. Flow Velten, Machinemade God's main vocalist, and Sky Hoff, Machinemade God's clean vocalist, really get the job done on this album. I'm not particularly a wizard on matters of vocals, but I'd say that their voices really fit the music and tonality of the band. Superb writing that expresses a cornucopia of emotion, captured through the sonic pelting of music. This is basically how I'd describe Machinemade God's lyrics. // 8
Overall Impression: I honestly could never compare Machinemade God to another band, even though I did various times throughout my review of their sound, because of my lack of musical experience due to the sort time I've been on this Earth. However, I can say that this is one hell of an album, with few downs but a load of ups. I've listened to this album hundreds of times since its release, and it now has a permanent spot on my MP3 player. Another thing to mention is Machinemade God's impeccable taste in artwork, as exhibited by all of their album covers, the compact disks themselves, and the beautiful artwork featured on their websites. If this album were stolen from me, I'd buy several more copies, after hunting down the idiot who dared to break into my home for one album. I snap every bone in his, or her, body, and rip their flesh away for the hounds to eat, while I cook them to a nice tender brown. The album is just that precious to me. God, I love this album. It's just so wonderful. So wonderful, in fact, that I my eyes well up with tears every time I listen to the album all the way through. // 9