MACHINAE SUPREMACY – Overworld (2008)

Machinae Supremacy - Overworld You know who I really dislike? HORSE the Band (not the similarly named Band of Horses, who are excellent). Their take on metal is fascinating for about the three songs; listen for any longer than that, and it’s ruined for you forever. I can commend the band for trying something new, but it just doesn’t stay compelling over time. In the end, their brand of “nintendocore” comes off as a novelty.

The same is true for Machinae Supremacy…sort of. For starters, they don’t really play nintendocore (which, to my surprise, is a real sub-genre of music, and not just a one-off label invented by HORSE the Band), instead opting for a mix of alternative, traditional metal and digi-synth tones. Also, their music isn’t nearly as grating and obnoxious on repeated listens.

Both bands achieve their retro-fitted sound by way of synthesizers: Machinae Supremacy utilize an Elektron SidStation synthesizer, the heart of which is the SID chip (which was used in the Commodore 64). HORSE the Band have in the past used the Korg MS2000 analog synthesizer, the Roland Juno-D synthesizer, and the LSDJ Gameboy cart (which effectively converts the handheld system into a 4-bit electronic sequencer). I say this not because the technology itself is important to consider when listening to the music, but instead to point out that even in metal/video game sub-genres, there are basic creative differences.

You get the feeling while listening to Machinae Supremacy that they don’t take their music completely seriously. And that’s a good thing. It’s no wonder that the best song on the album is their cover of Britney Spears’ “Gimme More” – the band are having a fun time interpreting a trash-pop chart-topper, and the end result is unexpectedly catchy and enjoyable, reminding me of Tub Ring’s Teen Beat Medley (which, coincidentally, also features a Britney Spears cover).

Elsewhere on the album, Machinae Supremacy don’t mess with their musical template much. Sometimes they’re more metal than alternative (Conveyer & Violator), and sometimes they’re the opposite (the title track). Sometimes, they do a semi-ballad (Skin), and sometimes they journey into space-rock territory (the closing track Stand). The last two examples actually work best with the band’s instrumentation, but sadly, Machinae Supremacy don’t sustain these styles throughout the songs: the alterna-metal eventually kicks back in, and the songs proceed from there as they must. It’s a shame. I would’ve liked to see the band work with these styles over the course of an entire song, but that doesn’t seem to be in the cards for Overworld.

For all the talk I did earlier about synths, it may be surprising to hear that the band largely keep them out of the foreground of Overworld; they typically act as an ambient layer, periodically rushing to the surface in a flourish. Their primary purpose seems to be to introduce the songs: half the songs on the album start with a synth intro. If I didn’t know about nintendocore (which, again, this technically isn’t), I’d say that must be some kind of record.

So, all in all, this review was pretty positive towards Overworld. So why the 6/10? Well, because when you get down to it, Overworld isn’t much else besides a good alternative/metal album. Of which there are hundreds upon hundreds. Sure, it’s stylistically better than its nintendocore counterparts, but I’m just not sure what’s gained fusing the 8-bit realm to the metal one. Truthfully, if you’re going to do this, something along the lines of The Minibosses might be the best way to go.



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