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10 Albums You Need To Hear # 4: Damn the Machine by Damn the Machine
"Most of all I fear the fall of order..."
Damn the Machine was formed by former Megadeth guitarist Chris Poland with his brother Mark on drums. Joining the Polands in the band were bassist David Randi and Dave Clemmons on vocals and guitar. Chris Poland had released a solo album, Return to Metalopolis, in 1990 after leaving Megadeth a couple of years earlier. That album made it apparent that he was capable of branching out into varying styles, but many were still surprised by the prog-rock leanings of Damn the Machine when A&M Records released their debut album in 1993. But anyone familiar with Chris' career prior to being hired to play in Megadeth would have probably felt the album was an obvious next step considering his background playing with the jazz-rock fusion outfit, The New Yorkers.
Damn the Machine was a great album but failed to find a home at rock radio where the Seattle grunge movement was currently reigning with acts like Alice in Chains, Nirvana and Soundgarden. While the album would have fit well on some classic rock stations, those stations were, of course, focused on the classic prog-rock of bands like Rush and Yes. Metal radio showed no real interest despite the reputation of guitarist Chris Poland as perhaps the music was just a little too jazz influenced for even the more progressive rock crowd. Or maybe it was those politically charged lyrics that made radio squeamish.
As a result of this lack of airplay, the band developed a solid reputation but with only a small group of fans, most of whom were aware of the band due to following Chris Poland's career. Sadly, with only minor success to encourage them and their label providing less and less support, Dave Clemmons chose to leave the band. A new singer was recruited and the the band became known as Mumbo's Brain. Eventually, Mumbo's Brain would part ways with Chris going on to form the jazz-fusion trio Ohm.
"Can I trust a free world to care?"
As mentioned earlier, lyrically, Damn the Machine was a very outspoken band. The philosophical depth that had begun to emerge on Peace Sells, Megadeth's second outing, was in full force here with topics touching on corporate power, the New World Order, justice, freedom, religion, patriotism and more. It could get a bit heavy for some and in fact was the reason that a few people I played the album for said they did not get into it. But others loved it and the band began to develop a minor following among some fans of bands such as Queensryche, Dream Theater and Warrior Soul.
But in 1993, the music scene was in post-Nirvana mode with grunge getting bigger and "metal" of any style disappearing from the spotlight. The political hot topics of the day were changing as well with bands like Pearl Jam and veteran alt-rockers R.E.M. focusing on hunger, human rights and environmental issues. The calls for revolution against the military-industrial complex were not so much fading as being drowned out by calls to feed the hungry, clothe the poor and save the planet. Queensryche had released Operation: Mindcrime in 1988, perhaps their most politically charged release, but began to ease some of their political rhetoric with Empire in 1990. It seemed these might be the final curtain on mainstream anti-Big Brother rock.
"We walk in the damage of mankind..."
Despite the lack of success, Damn the Machine is an excellent album featuring intriguing song structures along with its lyrical punch. The album begins with it's strongest material starting with "The Mission". This song sets the tone and is followed by the two best tracks on the album -- "Fall of Order" and "Corporate Reign". "Fall of Order" is my personal favorite and is also one of my all-time favorite songs. The fourth song is also a strong one, "Honor". Both musically and lyrically, these four songs give the album a solid foundation.
The next four tracks are all excellent songs -- "Lonesome God", "On With The Dream", "Patriot" and "I Will" -- and give the album a beefy mid-section that while not quite as good as the first four songs, still are close to perfection. "Lonesome God" is a particularly haunting tune on several levels. "Patriot" is simply magnificent.
The final four songs close the album with much the same quality as it began, beginning with the fan favorite, "Silence". Following this are "Russians" and "Countryside", both solid prog-rockers that lead to another of the strongest tracks on the album -- "Humans". When the album is over, you are left not only with the lingering pleasure the music provides, but thoughts about where we are as humans and where we may be headed. Overall, a great collection of sounds from a very underrated band.