- Album Reviews

Taipan- Metal Machine

“Music is my first love and it will be my last, music of the future and music of the past”. You wouldn’t, normally, expect some Barry Manilow in a metal music review but, I think it sums up my attitude to music in a nutshell. While we tend to concentrate what’s going on in the here and now, there is so much rich musical history out there that can influence how we see and hear music now and in the future. Take some proper, old school heavy metal, it started in the 70’s, became huge in the 80’s but then, took on somewhat of a decline until recent times. It might just be me but, I feel the advent of good natured parody bands like Steel Panther have helped this re-igniting of interest in good, old fashioned metal. Taking a similar, tongue in cheek, view of the metal genre to that taken by Spinal Tap but adding fantastic musicianship to the mix, it seems to have got people remembering what they listened to in the sepia tinted glory days of heavy metal. Now we have some of the greats re-forming or releasing new material, Kiss and Black Sabbath for instance and fans of the genre, old and new, flocking to buy the records and see the bands live. In the 80’s I was never a big fan of heavy metal but, now, I have come to see the light thanks to fantastic music that has its heart back in the 80’s but is thoroughly up to date. Australian metal band Taipan epitomise this perfectly.

Shall we hark back to 1981 and the formation of these aussie metalheads by Frank Degennaro (drums), Emilio Sarpa (bass, vocals) and Dave Zerafa (guitars), they became stalwarts of the Melbourne metal scene in the early 80’s despite numerous line up changes. They released a self titled EP in 1981 and followed this up with their first full length album, 1770, in 1985. By the end of 1987 the band had split until the original line up reformed in 2007 and released Stonewitch. Taipan followed this up with the release of Snakes in 2011. 2013 sees the band return with some more of their brand of energetic heavy metal and the release of Metal Machine. Metal Machine has its roots in the NWOBHM but never sounds antiquated, just a piece of timeless, dark heavy metal.

It is often said that football is a game of 2 halves, well the same can be said for music releases too. As I’ve said, I was never a big fan of heavy metal in the 1980’s but have come to appreciate some serious slabs of metal in recent years. When I first listened to Metal Machine I found the first few tracks were soaked in the nostalgic residue of the music of the NWOBHM from the 80’s, however, half way through this changed into something much darker and bleaker. All will be revealed as you read on with my review of Taipan’s Metal Machine.

The album bursts into life with Extemist Militance and what a great riff to get us started, serious Maiden vibes going on here, a brilliant shredded guitar run and, man, those thunderous drums. This is proper metal, seriously heavy but melodic too. A slight change of tempo and the Dioesque vocal kicks in, a proper metal voice to back up the music.  Crunching guitar throughout, cobwebs definitely blown off, If I wasn’t awake before I heard this, I definitely am now.  Minder kicks in with a powerful vocal backed by some mega riffing, a monstrously heavy sound backed up by those booming drums again.  The singer has a voice that conveys brooding menace, we are then treated to a fantastic guitar section that is very reminiscent of Sabbath , the middle section of the track is almost a  classy guitar jam before the song bows out with a bang. A simple but seriously classy riff glides us in to title track Metal Machine, a strong vocal performance with a simplistic chorus are key to the quality of the song. Throw in a nicely distorted solo, back it all up with some properly pounding drums and you have a serious slice of quality metal pie and, just for good measure, we’ll round out the song with some more of that great distorted guitar. The crunching riff at the start of New Dawn just screams Motley Crue, WASP and Kiss at you and that great 80’s metal vibe runs through the whole of this criminally short track. Another strong vocal performance and a cool little solo complete the identikit for a classic 80’s metal track. A nice fade-in heralds another kicking riff, reminiscent of Led Zep’s Whole Lotta Love and we are full throttle into War and Disaster, this track has a nice bluesy edge to the powerful metal signatures and gives a grungy edge to the song. The vocals take on a southern rock vibe, albeit a seriously heavy one, this is one cool song, my favourite on the album.

Onto the second half of the album and this is where everything changes, you sense this with the intro to Speculum. There is a much darker, brooding edge to the song moving the music into a more death metal, thrashy style. This is more evinced by the move to the growly vocals, not a style I am totally enamoured with. Faster, crashing riffs and a more frenetic drumming style complete the metamorphosis. That darker edge continues with The Rising, this song has one hell of a bruising, monster riff which, in tandem with the pounding drums, I really like, adding a sharp contrast to the almost demonic vocals and squealing, distorted guitar and dominates the whole track. It is a dark, brooding stomp through your heart and soul and not for the faint hearted. Nemesis is just downright monstrous, the vocals having an evil timbre to them, some spine tingling bass work married with another dark and dangerous riff before the tempo is increased and we have a headlong rush into a broiling pot of death metal . A low key keyboard section is mixed with some seriously distorted and crazy guitar work, this track is like a musical version of Dantes Inferno and makes your ears bleed in a nice way. Black Circle is the next instalment in this dark and dangerous trip into the monstrous side of metal. Hard, growling vocals matched with that ever present industrial, grinding guitar sound. The pace is markedly different to the first half of the album, slower and moodier in parts, matching the feel of the music. We come to the final track on Metal Machine, Underground and are hit immediately by a titanic riff, pounding drums and some more crazily distorted guitar. The vocals are decidedly more harmonic, giving the song an almost surfer rock, grunge metal vibe to it. Underground seems to be where Taipan are heading with their musical sound, away from that 80’s heavy metal vibe and looking to the future with a darker, brooding edge to their songs. A huge wall of sound erupts, crashing, bombastic and seriously heavy guitars mated to that thumping drum sound and seriously caustic vocals. It’s time to lock up your daughters and run hell for leather, this track is going to steal your soul and sell it to the devil.

Well, what can I say. Metal Machine has 2 distinct sides to it, one, your common or garden, 80’s style, classy heavy metal and, two, some seriously dark and dangerous, brooding metal that, quite frankly, scared the hell out of me. To tell the truth, I’ve just come from hiding behind the settee. I loved the first half and, to be fair, didn’t dislike the second. However, to me, I wanted one good 80’s metal album and, after hearing the first half of this one, am now disappointed by the direction the second half took. A lot of people may like the fact you get two for the price of one, especially if you’re a fan of that dark, brooding style of death metal. I would recommend listening to this and for you to make your own mind up as to whether the melding of two distinct music styles is a winner or a loser.

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