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JJ's Bizarre Blog #20 - We Were Born to Conquer the Stars

Joan

Salutations folks! The Bizarre One is continuing the roll with the next entry in the Bizarre Blog series, the anniversary No. 20 so a huge milestone indeed! This time, I think our space mission from last time isn't finished yet, some far reaches of the cosmos remain unexplored. I also promised you a little something something at the end of that entry. So, let's truly conquer all in our way with a very special band focused blog entry about one my most monumental discoveries in recent years, my top artist of 2023, one of the most fascinating and ambitious musical projects ever, the story driven symphonic industrial metal titans, codename: Mechina!

 

So what makes Mechina so special? Well, first of all, their musical style is exceptionally unique! With heavy industrial metal inspired by Fear Factory as their basis, with chugging riffs and double kick drum beats galore, they combine this with rich symphonic and electronic elements that create epic and atmospheric music that is downright cinematic in its presentation, often compared to Warframe or Mass Effect. This is not by chance, because the most fascinating thing about the band's discography is that it's entirely conceptual. All albums link together and tell one coherent story, called "As Embers Turn to Dust". It's a grandiose tale of humanity colonizing distant planets, man-made gods and city-sized machines called Titans, as well as the dramatic conflict that unfolds on humanity's new home. Every album is a concept album, flowing as one coherent experience and the albums flow from one to the other as well. Plenty of ambience and soundscaping is used to create the environment and tell the full tale. There are some singles between them that bridge the gaps between albums and fill in story details, but these aren't on Spotify sadly, fingers crossed they get added soon.

 

Not much public info exists about the band, but what we know is that they were birthed from the bustling metal scene of the Illinois area in the early 2000s, with 2004 cited as their official founding year. The band consisted of guitarist, keyboardist and primary songwriter Joe Tiberi, vocalist David Holch and various bassists and drummers that never seemed to stick around very long. As a classic four piece band, they released some demos during this time and eventually worked up to dropping their first record in 2005, the monolith known as The Assembly of Tyrants. This is a more rough and straightforward record, very heavily Fear Factory-inspired presentation, and it's clear that the band hadn't truly found their sound yet. This is also the only album to exist outside of the main storyline, although theme-wise it very much feels like a prequel to it. The story is more grounded, figuratively and literally, the epic space battles predated by societal issues and technological collapse. There is more focus on the guitars, the riffs are more meaty and Machine Head-esque, the vocals are more in-your-face and nu metally, the keyboards and symphonics are much more minimal and serve a more background role. Nonetheless, this is an incredibly fun and catchy album that has grown on me immensely. Fun drinking game, take a shot every time David shouts out "MaAaAaAaN"

 

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After this record, the band would go on a bit of a hiatus, but only because something big was gestating. In 2011, the quartet came back in full force and truly put down Chapter 1 of their grand saga, the mighty album Conqueror. This record is where the established style truly begins to take shape with more advanced symphonics and soundscaping, as well as making this their first true concept album. Still though the songs are more cut-down and approachable. The story of this record tells of a distant future and an Earth tortured by a global quasi-religious war, as told through the eyes of a regular soldier out on the field. Eventually, nuclear Armageddon is brought forth upon the entire planet, destroying everything forever, with our protagonist managing to escape into space aboard the spaceship Andromeda. Our interstellar odyssey begins.

 

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Keeping up this epic streak, in 2013 Mechina released their next opus, the almighty Empyrean. While the production quality leaves a bit to be desired on this one, the songwriting is stellar and the musicianship has ascended to even higher levels. This is also the last album the band would record as a full four piece. The first half is dedicated to our protagonist's contemplations of the ultimate fate of the Earth and his desire for a new beginning driven by justice. The latter half is a huge plot twist of how our friend finds himself on the new home of humanity, the technologically linked twin planets of Empyrean and Acheron. A new conquest is about to take place. 

 

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The band and story evolution would continue and reach one of its most important zeniths - the 2014 opus Xenon. At this point, the band would transition into only a duo of Tiberi and Holch and become a studio-only project focused entirely on producing and distributing their music all on their own. With this record, the band truly found their footing and established their one-of-a-kind sound. The symphonic elements have advanced to the point of John Williams and Hans Zimmer-esque grandiose soundtracks and the guitar riffs have become especially heavy, catchy and powerful, especially after Joe got his hands on his first seven-string. To this day, this record is the favourite of many fans. Story wise, this is the true peak, where we find out the truth of humanity and what we have created in our new world and why a mass scale conflict has become a necessity. However, something else must be done first. 

 

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The very next year, the next chapter would come forth, a personal favourite of mine, Acheron! This begins a series of prequel records that contexualize the complete lore of this new world and of how the planet Acheron was invaded by their neighbours from Empyrean, sparking the interplanetary war. Sound-wise, the record is amazingly epic, fathomlessly vast in its sound, entrancingly melodic and beautifully produced. Here we can also find the first ambient "ballads" that the band likes to occasionally engage with.

 

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In 2016, we arrive at probably the most monumental record in the band's repertoire - Progenitor! This album is the perfect midpoint of their stylistic evolution and it seems that it was a pure lightning-in-a-bottle moment. A lot of fans, including myself, first discovered the band here. It's a perfect blend of epic symphonic elements, mighty electronics, crushing riffs, blistering blast beats and amazing blend of heaviness and melody. Some tracks even include samples of Bulgarian folk music which was something I wasn't prepared for! Also this is the first record to feature Melissa Rosenberg, aka Melrose, who adds some fantastic variety and emotion with her amazing voice. Lore-wise, we go even further back in time to show how humans got from Earth to their new homes of Empyrean and Acheron, how they were terraformed and how the travellers to these places became the Titanborn, cybernetic warriors with near God-like power. 

 

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With the arrival on the new planets, the terraforming process proved more challenging than expected and this whole adventure is detailed in the next record, 2017's As Embers Turn to Dust. Deliberately named after the overarching plot, this album is the quintessence of what the story is about - humanity reaching new places and going beyond limits, figuratively and literally. The record itself is a mix of proggy lengthy compositions with a variety of styles and sombre ambient ballads. By far the most atmospheric album to date.

 

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We would return to a more action packed sound with 2019's buzzsaw banger Telesterion. Detailing the formation of the Titanborn, this record is heavy, proggy and epic in scale. While the production quality is a bit dubious, the songwriting remains top notch. This is also where Melrose first started getting songs all to herself, starting a trend for future albums. 

 

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After a brief break, the band would return to form with the mighty Siege in 2021. This is a very heavy and violent record and the production quality was back up to scratch. This is also the first entirely female-led album. It's also very interesting from a story point of view, showing events we've seen before but from different perspective, adding even more depth to the lore. Also, this album started the tradition of the band dropping new releases on January 1st, for an awesome New Year's prize.

 

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Riding this momentum, Mechina had truly found their stride and continued it with Venator the next year. Sound-wise, it's more of the same, which is great, because what they already had was incredible. The only notable thing is the triumphant return of David Holch and his classic vocals, duelling with Melrose on many tracks as they sing the gruesome tales about how the war between Empyrean and Acheron broke out.

 

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Finally, this brings us to our latest chapter thus far, Cenotaph from 2023. A wartorn monolithic masterpiece, this album delivers on everything the band is known for and expands the lore with epic conflict full of triumphs, defeats, twists and turns. Banger after banger, Mechina don't miss.

 

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And thus, this is where the story leaves us today. Soon, we will make our way back up to Xenon and resume where we left off, inevitable destruction. Everything this band does is so epic and fun, I just cannot get enough of it. Few other acts can consistently transport me to another place with their music quite like Mechina. And honestly, even if all the story stuff isn't your cup of tea, they are so damn excellent that you can appreciate them either way. I cannot wait to see where we go from here. Until then, I can always go back to the past ideas and immerse myself in this unique space fantasy epic. I hope you will want to do so too now. Stay strong and see you again soon! 

 

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