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[Review] Circle of Dust – Machines of Our Disgrace

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Circle of Dust – Machines of Our Disgrace
Genre: Industrial Rock
Year: 2016

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I’m not a longtime Circle of Dust fan. In fact, I’ve only been listening to the project for about a year. I am very familiar with the self-titled but I haven’t listened to much of Brainchild and I know even less about Disengage. Though the remastered versions of all the old albums may have evoked nostalgia for many, they were simply an improvement upon an already good sound to me. Likewise, I cannot claim that I have been waiting for this album for close to twenty years. Despite that, I was looking forward to it quite a bit. Whenever I anticipate an album, I tend to overrate it in my mind at first until eventually settling into my actual opinion of it. I believe I have reached that stage with Machines of Our Disgrace after playing it in my car several times.

On the surface, this album may sound quite similar to old Circle of Dust, but its differences become more apparent with time. Bizarrely enough, this album feels both heavier and more mainstream than some of the older material. This is caused by the massive variance in style (and quality) from song to song. The album has some metal-driven songs (“Machines of Our Disgrace”, “Contagion”) that are reminiscent of Brainchild. Those are my two favorite songs on the entire album, and had the rest been produced at that quality, I would consider this a masterpiece. There are a lot of songs that are electronic-driven (“Embracing Entropy”, “alt_Human”, “Hive Mind”, “Outside In”, “Neophyte”). The guitar isn’t absent from those songs; it just plays a less significant role. These songs feel slightly more mainstream than the metal tracks, but they are very enjoyable and well-made. Fans of the electronic elements in Disengage might especially like these tracks. There are also a couple industrial interludes (“re_Engage”, “k_OS”, “Malacandra”) which seem to feature zero electric guitar. Once again, Disengage fans should enjoy those (and I do too, despite Disengage being my least favorite of the original Circle of Dust albums). Lastly, there are some heavier tracks (“Humanarchy”, “Neurachem”) with greater use of harsh vocals than the other songs. Now that I have established the four main types of songs that appear on this album, I’ll analyze them all separately.

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The metal songs are simply fantastic. The major riffs in the title track and “Contagion” are both catchy and wonderful. The title track is a little faster and more aggressive than “Contagion”, creating even more musical diversity. These songs are classic, “Telltale Crime”-esque Circle of Dust material. Both songs are driving, energetic masterpieces. Sadly, the rest of the album isn’t as good as these two songs.

The mostly electronic songs are each interesting in their own way. They all create a mood of their own. In general, the electronics sound much more EDM-influenced to me than past Circle of Dust albums (except perhaps Disengage), which is both a pro and a con. It does cause the tracks to have a poppier feeling to them, especially during the choruses of “Embracing Entropy” and “Outside In”. Despite that, I still enjoy both of those tracks, but they certainly don’t feel like old Circle of Dust. There is also variety within the electronics, as “alt_Human” features heavier, distorted electronics, and “Outside In” is much softer. The other three songs feature a mix of the two. However, it is worth remembering that this is still industrial rock, and it still feels sufficiently industrial. These five songs are good, and in one case (“Neophyte”, my favorite of the five), almost as good as the metal tracks. The vocals are a mix of clean and harsh, just like the metal tracks.

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The interludes are unique and awesome. “Malacandra” creates an eerie, post-apocalyptic atmosphere that still has a twinge of hope. I like Klayton’s use of the acoustic guitar towards the end of it. “k_OS” is generally on the more aggressive side of things, gradually creating a buildup to one of the best songs on the album, “Neophyte”. “re_Engage” basically does the same thing for the title track. There’s not much else to say about these three tracks other than that they’re good and I’m glad that they were included, but it would have been nice to have one more full song.

Lastly, we have the worst two songs on the album: “Humanarchy” and “Neurachem”. They both feature low and heavy guitar riffs that feel stale. “Humanarchy” is particularly bad and easily the worst song on the album. It has its stale riff going during the verses, accompanied by subpar harsh vocals. The chorus softens things up with some clean vocals. There is a pretty good riff that has melody towards the end of the song, but other than that, this song is simply bad. “Neurachem” is slightly better, mostly due to its greater use of electronics, but its guitars and vocals are just as inadequate.

Overall, I enjoy it, but not as much as the self-titled, and probably not as much as Brainchild (I need to get around to listening to more of that…). Worth the buy unless you dislike the electronics. The only thing really holding the album back is the presence of “Humanarchy” and “Neurachem”.

83/100

-CrimsonWarrior

Buy it from FiXT:
http://fixtstore.com/products/circle-of-dust-machines-of-our-disgrace?variant=30818964236

Buy/stream on Bandcamp:
http://circleofdust.bandcamp.com/album/machines-of-our-disgrace-2

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