Sound — 7
The HAARP Machine are a progressive metal band (with a degree of integration of technical death metal) formed by guitarist and lyricist Al Mu'min. After several demos and a few line-up changes, their debut full-length album - titled "Disclosure" - was released in 2012 under Sumerian Records. Interestingly, this is both the first and last album recorded with this line-up of the band, as vocalist Mike Semesky and bass player Ollie Rooney, along with drummer Craig Reynolds (and his eventual replacement, Alex Rudinger) all left the band a year after "Disclosure"'s release, citing "irreconcilable personal differences." As of May 2014, Mu'min is the band's only member, and it is unclear whether or not The HAARP Machine will continue to exist as a project.
The album's mixing is solid - each instrument is audible but occasionally sounds overbearing. The actual instrumentation is by no means weak; there are some memorable riffs to be found - for example, "Lower the Populace" and "The Escapist Notion," with intriguing - yet short - solo parts to be found on tracks such as "Extension to One." Additionally, the album's rhythm section lets loose some impressive parts - former drummer Craig Reynolds (whom left the band after recording) plays at blistering speed, as demonstrated on the song "Pleiadian Keys." Overall, the instrumentation is solid and composed in such a way that it contains a few opportunities for each member of the band to shine.
There is one element of "Disclosure" that piques interest, however. The use of instruments usually considered foreign to heavier music, such as the sitar, gives the album a unique and exotic feel. The unorthodox pairing of such instrumentation with album opener "Esoteric Agenda" is a great example of this.
Lyrics — 4
Mike Semesky performs both his cleans and growled vocals exceptionally well, switching between the two with relative ease. This is demonstrated on tracks such as "From Vanity to Utility" where his vocals are particularly varied. The lyrical subject matters penned by Al Mu'min, however, do not excel to the same degree, by any means. The lyrical content from album opener "Esoteric Agenda," for example...
"There were no weapons of mass destruction
Or mobile biological weapons labs
The agenda was to remove Saddam Hussein
To reap the oil and establish a base
The Bush administration made a series of claims
Prior the Iraqi war, abuse and misuse of intelligence
There was no collusive relationship with Al Qaeda"
And similarly on the track "Extension to One":
"Redesign society from the ground up
But this time make it actually humane
Be the change that you want to see in this world
Believe that we can achieve this in our lifetime
Free of outdated, convoluted notions
Outmoded political systems and religion"
The lyrics do not come across as particularly intelligent and completely lack in all forms of subtlety. They really do just state his perhaps extreme beliefs, and while Mu'min is certainly entitled to an opinion, the fact that he so openly spouts lyrics such as these - while certainly gutsy - ultimately works to the band's detriment on "Disclosure."
Overall Impression — 6
Overall, The HAARP Machine's debut record manages to blend unorthodox instrumentation with tasteful brutality well, but is let down by its unsubtle and controversial lyrical content. Their unique addition of such elements to their sound proves to help with distinguishing the band from the thousands of other metal musicians out there - and this can be found in tracks such as "Esoteric Agenda," "Pleiadian Keys" and the album's title track.
Aside from the lyrical content, the largest complaint to be found is in regards to the album's short length - reaching just over 30 minutes, around the length of most EP's - is a relatively small complaint, but since the band could have easily squeezed an additional song or twelve onto the album if they so wished (especially when taking into consideration that Mu'min has no shortage of political matters to write about) it is a slight concern nonetheless.