Science fiction-themed lyrics are nothing new within metal. There are plenty of great bands—such as Vektor, Ayreon, The Contortionist—that talk of space travel and who write their own stories, creating whole concept records. However, none of these acts have created an oeuvre that is as vast and spectacular as that of Chicago symphonic metal act Mechina. Since 2011 they have released a grand total of six full-length records, each of which is a building stone to a massive space epic written by guitarist Joe Tiberi. The sixth record—eponymous to the overarching story—was released on the first of January and proves to be another impressive addition of fitting grandeur.
RELEASE DATE: 01 January 2017 LABEL: Self-released
The Mechina album-cycle roughly follows two storylines. In plot one, a group of 3,000 humans leave Earth in search of a new world free from corrupt religious factions and civil warfare. In Alpha Centauri they find two planets which they can colonise using their terraforming Titans; Acheron, which is inhabited by humans and Empyrean, inhabited by cyborgs and robots. Eventually these two planets engage in another civil war in which Empyrean destroys Acheron. The second storyline follows a protagonist Amyntas, who awakens in the middle of this civil war in which he is to regain his lost memories as a Titanborn, a type of cyborg that can communicate with the Titans. He is enlisted by another Titanborn, Alithea, to avenge the fate of Acheron upon Empyrean. As Embers Turn to Dust essentially connects the two storylines by telling the listener how Empyrean was colonised by the cyborgs and how they came to loathe the pure human forms living on Empyrean.
Musically, As Embers Turn to Dust is a rollercoaster ride. The high-speed pounding of the drums forms a steady backbone against which chugging guitars and grand orchestras battle for the listeners’ attention. Both are not very much on the foreground, which gives the record a certain sense of depth, but it also makes the guitars sound less edgy over medium quality audio installations. Over bigger stereo sets and headphones this profound layering comes fully into its right, however, and this effect is also enhanced by the heavily reverberated death growls of singer David Holch. The vocals on As Embers Turn to Dust are as dramatic as the music itself, bringing a vibrant palette of male and female clean vocals—courtesy of Mel Rose—as well as an extensive use of choirs.
While not every listener will be attracted to a record that could be described as hectic, As Embers Turn to Dust will certainly appeal to a large audience. It is surprisingly easy to listen to—not as monolithic as the work of Aquilus for example—and the time really flies as the band chases the stars throughout ten lengthy songs. Only Thus Always to Tyrants functions as a real breather where the tempo goes down and the song is carried by a piano, but the rest of the album is straight in the gut at full volume and speed.
With As Embers Turn to Dust, Mechina merge the two story lines of Joe Tiberi’s space epic into one plot, giving them a base from which to move forward. In a recent interview with Sputnikmusic, Joe Tiberi mentions that he needs at least two more albums to finish the story, but that he could go on for another 10 or 15 years if he liked, fleshing out the story with more records. For the unacquainted listener, the Mechina universe is already a large chunk to devour. Previous albums do not run in chronological order and they often overlap in storyline. This record is a great start to exploring the Mechina universe, going back album per album and finding out what lies at the base of the events described in songs like Unearthing The Daedalian Ancient and Division Through Distance. All in all, As Embers Turn to Dust presents the listener with an hour’s worth of beauty and grandeur that sure surpasses the scope and quality of many other contemporary metal acts!