Feed The Machine review by Nickelback

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  • Released: Jun 16, 2017
  • Sound: 7
  • Lyrics: 6
  • Overall Impression: 7
  • Reviewer's score: 6.7 Neat
  • Users' score: 6.1 (63 votes)
Nickelback: Feed The Machine
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Sound — 7
It can be said that Canadians have a few national pastimes: hockey, arguing with Americans over the quality of their beers, and apologizing, mostly for unleashing Nickelback upon the world. The Albertan hard rockers have been providing the world with the squeakiest of clean, safe rock songs possible, tailor-designing every song they write to be a potential hit single, working with only the most famous of pop and rock producers to ensure that every song is as overproduced as possible.

...Or at least that's how most people seem to see Nickelback. While the band's material since at least 2008's "Dark Horse" (and possibly even 2003's "The Long Road") has tended more towards blatant pop appeal, the band has had a history of harder-hitting guitar-centric rock music, full of generic-but-still-endearing riffage. At times, it almost seems that the hate the band receives is completely undeserved when you consider tracks like "Side of a Bullet", the band's tribute to murdered Pantera guitarist "Dimebag" Darrell Abbott, and even "Edge of a Revolution" from the band's most recent album prior, "No Fixed Address".

On "Feed the Machine", Nickelback seems to have seen these heavier prior moments and expressed a desire to cease the funk-pop experimentation that plagued their recent albums in favour of heavier guitars and an overall tougher personality. Let's start by getting one thing straight about this album: if you're expecting supremely technical riffs and off-kilter song structures, "Feed the Machine" is not going to be a very inspiring listen. But you might find yourself surprisingly headbanging away during the opening title track, which almost seems to take as many cues from modern metal bands like Periphery and Tesseract as it does from classic metal and grunge bands like Metallica and Soundgarden. In fact, this track is a downright good song, no matter which way you slice it. Chad Kroeger belts out a compelling and excellent chorus melody, while the instrumental performances provide an excellent backdrop, even giving us a guitar solo that, while economical and not particularly epic, does really hit the spot. "Coin for the Ferryman" continues in this darker hard-rock vein, utilizing downtuned guitars (either a 6-string tuned to a low B or a 7-string, as guitarists Chad Kroeger and Ryan Peake are wont to use recently) for a heavier, riffier experience, but still maintaining the slick production that made Nickelback one of mainstream music's darlings. "Song on Fire" represents one of the softer moments on the album, a ballad that's a bit more along the lines of Nickelback's expected style. But even for a Nickelback ballad, musically, it's not a bad piece.

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"Must Be Nice" continues the band's penchant for dance-rock riffing, mixing pop-style melodies and choruses with harder guitar playing. "After the Rain" does the same thing, but without the funk, instead being more of a typical pop/rocker that overall is an okay song, but nothing particularly interesting, and for me, is a particularly weak point on the album. "For the River" is a harder rock tune, and even though it's a rather generic tune overall, a couple of wicked guest solos from Nuno Bettencourt give this track a bit more credibility. "Home" starts off with a really cool, moody intro, but quickly turns into a rather uninteresting Nickelback rocker, and sadly, another weak point for me. This is, however, followed by the aptly-titled "The Betrayal: Act III", perhaps the closest thing to a "prog-metal" track you'll ever hear from Nickelback, with a great acoustic intro and a surprisingly excellent groove and some of the best vocal performances on the album. The solo plays around a bit with meter, and that's a rather surprising element brought into Nickelback's music. "Silent Majority" brings us back to more of the same kind of plodding hard rock, though the very beginning of the song almost kind of seems reminiscent of some of Devin Townsend's most straightforward works (think "Addicted" Devy, not "Deconstruction" Devy), which isn't all that far of a comparison considering Townsend considering Nickelback's "Dark Horse" an influence on his production style. Sadly, "Silent Majority" is just nowhere near as compelling or interesting of a track. "Every Time We're Together" is another major-key pop/rocker that will do little to inspire confidence in the band's originality, but it's not really a terrible track, and will most likely become a big summer radio hit in my native Canada. Closing the album is "The Betrayal: Act I", a largely acoustic guitar-led instrumental piece that's kind of pretty and ends the album on a rather interesting note, but isn't really that great of a piece, with string arrangements that kind of pop in out of nowhere and don't really do anything for the piece.

So in terms of songwriting, the album is a bit of a mixed bag. The heavier pieces are kind of generic and safe at times, but frankly, they're rather decent. One doesn't go to Nickelback expecting progressive song structures and noodle-y musicianship. The lighter songs run the gamut of being either yawn-inducing to actually being pretty decent tunes. The production is as slick as ever, being accomplished by Chris Baseford and the band, with Chris Lord-Alge mixing and Ted Jensen mastering, giving the album a sheen that makes it perfect for radio airplay, but surprisingly without neutering the band when they get a little heavier.

Lyrics — 6
Nickelback are known for many things, but deep, forward-thinking lyrics are not one of them. When the band attempts to sound political, they definitely seem to be trying to appeal to those who consider themselves "woke", and while there isn't really anything wrong with lyrics like "The gears forever turn to grind the mice/Will you become the fuel for sacrifice?/Power absolutely all for show/The piper blows his flute and off you go" (from the title track), it does seem a little cringe-inducing when you consider that on this same album are lyrics like the very un-clever "Jack be nimble, jack be quick/Jack wound up with a broken neck/Humpty Dumpty, do your thing/Daddy's gonna buy you a diamond ring" (from "Must be Nice") and the sappy "'Cause you should have seen the size of the guys we were fighting/And we shouldn't be alive at the speeds we were driving/But Mama always taught us to never tell a lie, ooh/And every ten-yard pass always turned into twenty" (from "Every Time We're Together"). Lyrically, there's not much wrong with tracks that seem to wax a bit more personal, like "After the Rain", where Chad sings "Choose your friends, carefree and kindly/Choose your words, careful and wisely/Always be there to lend a comforting shoulder/One will be there to share a day when you're older", and these seem to be the better-written lyrics on the album. And while the band's political statements are often kind of flaccid, if I take the lyrics of "Silent Majority" to be a rumination on the vast numbers of people who don't vote in elections, I can actually say that I agree with the sentiment of lyrics like "So what if we all stand up?/What if we don't give in?/What if we traded all complacency for a voice that won't be ignored?/How can we just give up?/How can we just give in?/What if the silent majority wasn't silent anymore?"

Chad Kroeger's vocals are practically unchanged from the band's early material, and I do strongly suspect many tracks on the album of pitch-correction, but his delivery on certain tracks like "The Betrayal: Act III" can actually get quite decent for some of the song's more aggressive parts. And a few of his vocal melodies are also worth mentioning, such as the chorus on the title track, which is definitely an earworm if I've ever heard one. But if you've heard other Nickelback albums and did not care much for the vocal work, this album is not going to change your mind.

Overall Impression — 7
Though it's always been in vogue to poke fun at Nickelback, the whole idea of it has kind of taken on a life of its own, in such a way that I think even if Nickelback released something that could stand up to some of the greatest bands, that aspect of their existence would remain undiminished. Fact is, they're an easy target for criticism and name-calling.

But considering the often terrible things said about this band, they do occasionally prove that they can do some very good music. Talent is not an issue for this band, and there's even a bit of a scientific genius to how this band can compose such perfectly safe, bland rock music and still manage to sell out stadiums worldwide. This album... well, it's like a lot of Nickelback albums. A majority of the tracks are rather typical post-grunge/hard rock tunes, plodding along in their mid-tempo way, with a couple of sappy ballads that show the band's country-rock side.

But strangely, there are a few tracks on this record that show a side of Nickelback that actually warrants a bit of attention. A heavier side that's not afraid to tune down a little and branch out. Tracks like the title track and "The Betrayal: Act III" would be perfectly serviceable numbers by any other band. And let's be honest, even the album's safer, more "generic" tunes aren't really that bad. A few of the tracks are rather yawn-worthy, but overall, this is not a completely terrible album. I'd honestly rather hear a track like "Song on Fire" on the radio than pretty much anything by Drake these days, and for guitar-oriented mainstream rock music, you can do much worse than the new Nickelback album.

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58 comments sorted by best / new / date

    joplambrix
    Hating on Nickelback has become a thing nowadays. This album is great. Tracks like: - Coin for the ferryman - For The River - The Betrayal Act III - Feed The Machine - Must be nice They are the reason I got into Nickelback. Catchy rhythms, cool riffs and a great vocal line. Their lyrics have never been very sophisticated, but that's not why I listen to Nickelback. The touchier more sensitive songs are not really my thing, but they do exectute them well. This is just a cool album, great on the ears, and does well at parties as I've experienced a few days ago when someone was playing this at their party. 8/10
    hansklaus
    Fanboy! This band actually only gets bad reviews, because it´s what it is: Pop radio with shitty lyrics and boring  arrangements!
    KennyM79
    Ironically, bashing Nickelback is just as "trendy" and "popular" as they claim their music is.
    rsgtastar
    I like this album much more than the last two albums . Its not as good as dark horse and all the right reasons but its good . and in my opinion political lyrics is the best thing that nickelback can do . feed the machine and silent majority are awesome . 
    travislausch
    Honestly, I kind of like the "go out and vote and make a difference" message of "Silent Majority".
    rsgtastar
    nice answer ))) no I prefer this especially in my country & countries like mine  
    BwareDWare94
    Easily their best album in quite some time, and "Feed the Machine" followed by "Coin for the Ferryman" might be the best pairing of songs on any album they've ever released. I'm really quite fond of heavy Nickelback, and I wish they'd just make an alternative metal album. The ballads are way too soft. Give me some deep power chords, some muted sections, a chugging palm-muted note for all I care. Just give these songs some balls. "Song on Fire" is fine, and contrary to what the review said, I actually quite like "Home." Anyway, it's a great Nickelback album, but not necessarily a great album. Songs like "After the Rain" are just too hard to overlook as downright failures. 
    weelittle
    Best Line "Its a great Nickelback album, but not necessarily a great album".
    BwareDWare94
    In the context of other Nickelback albums, it's great. In the context of other great albums, it's not lol. The softer songs are way too sanitized. 
    JimBonJovi
    I really enjoyed this one much more than 'No Fixed Address'. Slowly, they're returning to their 'Long Road' days. But again, I feel the production; however really well done, is still too slick. More listens are needed but I'm happy the band are not afraid to get heavier once again despite their more recent pop leanings in particular their last album. Superb review Travis!
    TheBlisterer
    In contrast I loved their last 2 albums because they had good heavy Nickelback style tracks on them...did we listen to different albums? I don't get why a lot of fans turned their nose up at the 2011 and 2014 releases, they have some killer tracks on them.
    Breakingpoint56
    I think people are expecting too much from rock bands anymore. Rock music was never about strong technicality. It was about getting your head to move. I always see the same complaints. "Generic" "Safe" etc. Some of the lyrics are cringy for sure but most of the songs are enjoyable.
    jerryschubrin
    The lyrics are embarrassing to listen to. There's a big gap between using vague analogies and being so simple that you'd expect to hear similar schemes in a kid's album. I really tried to like this album and I dig some of the music. Lyrics, vocals, and the sheer predictability of it all don't leave offer any room for the guitar to redeem anything but maybe the title track on this album.
    ReplicantSix
    There is no such thing as "overproduced" Recordings are about capturing the best performances possible and this band consistently does just that.
    GR84
    This is the 1st time i have enjoyed one of the albums they have put out, it was surprisingly entertaining and had some respectful riffs. I've never heard Dark Horse, but a lot of the time the issue i had was the lyrics, to cringe a times. I didn't cringe at all during this album, there are some questionable moments, but over all its a good listen, i've gone through it three times
    HugoPan
    My favourite album is still Here and Now, but this one is really damn close. it's not on par or even better because the mellow section wasn't as good as in said album. Hope they keep improving in this direction.
    frasercurrie
    The title track is great in my opinion and I'm a fan of things much heavier. The lyric video that goes along with it is pretty cool, very Tron-esque. I've had the lyrics in my head for days and for me it stands out as one of their best tracks in an awful long time. At the end of the day, they are making the music they like and while some may be heavy(ish), it's not all they want to make. I'm glad they haven't disappeared, it must be tough to constantly be mocked by the uninformed or the trolls.
    stefan_771
    Why do people hate these guys so much?
    travislausch
    Here in Canada, when "How You Remind Me" came out, they got oversaturated on the radio to the point where the song was playing once an hour or so on pretty much every radio station, and I guess it just rubbed people the wrong way. Either that, or just because the band is the epitome of "generic radio-friendly hard rock" and that makes them an easy target for critics.
    JorshWarsh
    I felt like they were being forced upon the masses.  Almost like we were too stupid to think for ourselves.  
    MrPsych
    Hmm gave it a listen after all these reviews and nope not at all what these people are saying lol this stuffs sh*t kinda glad my ears didn't bleed. Save your time unless you like that early 2000s gross metal sound. I have heard so many bad things about these guys and how they disrespect WomEn they should be shamed.
    TheBlisterer
    AC/DC sang about the same things but look how far and popular they got...food for thought. Anyway, so you didn't like the title track Feed The Machine? Not even a little?
    MrPsych
    Well It's not terrible (the title track) it but idk its just not my kind of music I probably really shouldn't fill the comments up with hate but yeah not everyone loves it. btw I never liked AC/DC either. Also my mom made me listen to this kinda of music when i was little and my ears have been trained to hate it. 
    TheBlisterer
    Doesnt that normally work the other way around? You end up liking it cos you grew up with it? Or did she overplay it big time?
    MrPsych
    Yeah I don't remember I guess I used to like when I was little. I currently don't like anything my mom or dad played for me when I was little. It wasn't until i was in grade 6 that I started listening to music that I personally liked.
    TheBlisterer
    Anyone else feel that the title track has become an instant Nickelback classic?
    jerryschubrin
    Is Nickleback their own genre now? I'm okay with this.
    TheBlisterer
    Erm...to be fair I can't think of a band that they sound like. They sound like a mixture of a lot of different genres so I would say they are in a bit of a genre of their own. A bit like Queen.
    areese82
    Theory Of  Dead Man is essential a carbon copy of Nickelback and surprisingly even shittier!
    daveytwardy85
    It's almost as if Theory of a deadman knew of a house party the singer of nickelback was at and were fans so they threw him a demo, and he helped with the first TOAD record. 
    DaniArrow
    When I checked out the first track on iTunes I thought I was listening to a pretty decent Metallica cover band. Very predictable mainstream metal.
    JimBonJovi
    There's nothing wrong with mainstream Metal. Lets get that straight. Anything heavy as shit in the status quo's world these days is nothing but a good thing. 
    Hal-Sephira
    Nickelback needs to disband and then Chad Kroeger should work at the movie theater as an usher.
    Air_Stryker
    "Occupation : IMAX Theatres Worker" Why, because he's a chill dude and you want to work with him?
    SSympathy
    ohhh so that's why he brought up all of the corey taylor shit, gotta drum up some press for the new album. 
    daveytwardy85
    Ya cause Nickelback needs to ride off the coat tails of Corey Taylor lol, that's like saying Metallica needs to start beef with A7X to stay relevant 
    hanzekrobert97
    The hate pointed towards them is really unnecessary. I'm not a fanboy, I know about 20 of their songs, I dislike all of their poppy songs and not because those are in pop style, but because it's way too commercial and it's totally not them! But anyway, even though they were in that pop period, they do not deserve all the hate. Guys, what the f, there are genres outside of rock and/or metal, and those genres, though you may not like them, exist and are well spread, that's why it is pop-culture. Shit, chill the f out! BTW I love the thing they returned (partially) to their old style. Thumbs up for that!  
    TheBlisterer
    To be honest Travis I don't feel that a funky/pop sound has plagued previous albums at all. In fact I don't know what people have listened to when they say that. Here and Now was a solid rock album with a TONNE of heavy tunes and No Fixed Address had more of the same albeit slightly less heavy tunes. Get Em Up from NFA is one of my favourite Nickelback songs. Anyway, I thought you gave a fair review for the album, it's a bit higher rated for me personally though.
    Anjohl
    Side A of that album is fantastic, and if that was how most of their stuff sounded, I'd be in 100%. I did buy FTM, and am keeping it for now.
    87nicksupreme
    If they'd embraced the metal path completely, this would've probably been the best thing the band had ever done. Title track and both "Betrayal" tracks are really good. Coin for the ferryman and For the river quite good, Must be nice decent, but beyond that it's more of someday clones... still the band's best album since at least The long road though, and certainly beats the shit out of the new linkin park (and the last Nickelback album)
    daveytwardy85
    To whoever wrote this review, it's ok man, it's ok to say you like Nickelback, no need to show your love in 1 sentence then try to distance yourself as a clear fan in the next. Haters going to hate.
    Drapte
    Best metal album of 2017
    jerryschubrin
    I like how everyone else is just scared to touch your post. Your opinion, sir, is shared by no one. Not even Nickelback. Not even any of their mother's who might listen and lie to the band about how good it is. It's an okay rock album.