James Murphy - _Feeding the Machine_
(Diehard, 1999)
by: Paul Schwarz (8 out of 10)
I would be lying if I said that I had -not- expected James Murphy's newest solo album to be technical work-out. Despite penning a number of great riffs while doing stints (often short) in such bands as Cancer, Obituary, Death, and more recently Konkhra, it has been James' often ridiculously good and, particularly, complex leads which have, in a Spinal Tap-ish kind of way, become his trademark. It is hard to know what I should have expected from _Feeding the Machine_. Despite making quite a name for himself in the death metal scene, James has shown over the years that he is also heavily thrash influenced as a guitarist. It is the thrashy side which shows itself on _FtM_, which to some extent is one of my regrets about the album. Groove-ridden thrash is what one might term the musical extreme of _FtM_ riff-wise. Songs like "Feeding the Machine" and "No One Can Tell You" have the hardest riffs and the hardest vocals on the album, and there is still a considerable amount of melody in these. The majority of the time, though, solid chugging riffs are not what James opts for. Many of the tracks are instrumentals and the riffs on these are rarely basic metal ones (except in cases like "Race With the Devil on Spanish Highway", where a simple riff is used to bring attention to complex percussion). "Oddesy"'s acoustic passages are reminiscent of Rush and on this track and "Epoch" (in fact, on most tracks, a singer is forsaken), riffs are almost not present and are replaced by technical runs. This often works very well, though the runs can boggle the mind. Progressive elements, like "spacey" keyboards and guitar synths, as well as jazzy breakdowns, also show themselves in the instrumentals. The sung songs, which contain the simple repetitive riffs (though they also usually feature exceptional technical backdrops), can be the weakest tracks. The vocals and lyrical content on "Visitors" are both very poor and the song itself is ponderous. "Feeding the Machine" and "No One Can Tell You" get the best mix of the two and feature my favorite vocal performances, from Clark Brown (Geezer) and Chuck Billy (Testament) respectively. Assessed as a whole, I find the album good, and of course technically stunning, but lacking in flow and also confused. The basic riffs are never that stunning and the technical passages are often only good to marvel at and less easy to actually enjoy in the proper sense. James doesn't get close to capturing the mix of death metal, progressive elements, jazz and technicality which Cynic completely mastered, though I wish he had, and I think that if he were to intentionally go more in this direction in the future, he would, judging by _FtM_, be one of the most likely people to succeed as Cynic did.

(article published 13/2/1999)

10/11/1996 D Schinzel 6 James Murphy - Convergence
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