10 Years created a rock masterpiece with The Autumn Effect back in 2005 and followed it up with two more sensational and moody albums. With the release of Minus The Machine, the band goes back to their atmospheric roots and avoids the slight monotony of Feeding The Wolves, but ultimately doesn’t live up to their best work. The range of songs on the band’s fifth album is impressive and shows off their full repertoire, seamlessly transitioning from dark, arena rock anthems to gloomy, haunting ballads. However, the extensive variety doesn’t make up for the fact that a large number of this newest batch of 10 Years songs fails to demand attention and capture the imagination like their previous efforts. This new album is certainly their most ambitious and the same intelligent song-writing and composition is still firmly intact, but Minus The Machine settles for its dark atmosphere and doesn’t quite deliver the same engaging rock experience as a result.
“Forever Fields (Sowing Season)” is the album’s first ballad, opening with a haunting yet soothing piano melody and Jesse Hasek’s introduction, “From a bird’s eye view / God only knew” as he laments the irreparable condition of mankind. The heart-wrenching and mysterious vibes given off by the piano is reminiscent of “Proud Of You” from Division and represents the calm before the storm of “Backlash,” the first single off Minus The Machine. 10 Years isn’t really known for their pure ballads, but the cryptic aura of “Forever Fields (Sowing Season)” might just change that perception.
“Backlash” serves as the album’s first single, its best song and a terrific reminder of how efficiently 10 Years transitions each song into the next. Following the moving calm of the prior ballad with a fist-pumping, pulsating arena rock anthem is no easy task, yet Brian Vodinh’s frenetic drumming and Ryan Johnson’s blazing guitar riffs feel right at home as they invigorate energy into the album’s dark and gloomy tone. This is the type of raw firepower Minus The Machine needs more of, manifested by Vodinh’s prolific and captivating drum beats as well as Hasek’s urgent and electronically garbled accusations of “Hung by your self-righteous hands / Get ready to meet your maker now / Backlashing back at you liar / Backlashing back at you / Run coward.” The calm and soul-infused bridge slows things down before building back into the final, angst-ridden chorus, helping finish off another stellar addition to 10 Years’ song catalogue.
“Knives” is one of many brooding tracks on Minus The Machine, but what sets it apart is its heavy but rhythmic chorus, dominated by Hasek’s strained vocals and brutal guitar riffs as Vodinh sets the pace with his constant drumming. This is one of the heaviest songs in the band’s history and the energy it brings to the table helps establish it as one of the album’s best.
When all is said and done, anything 10 Years puts out there is fully capable of surpassing their hard rock peers because of their incredible talent for crafting songs that are simultaneously hard-hitting and moving. Minus The Machine may not be their best work, but 10 Years once again displays their innate ability to weave atmospheric and moody tracks in and out of each other to build up tension and drama that fits in with the overall dark tone of the album. Despite possessing a similar aura as The Autumn Effect, Minus The Machine falls a bit short of what 10 Years is fully capable of. This album showcases the meritoriously familiar aspects of the group’s distinct sound: Vodinh’s stimulating drumming, Hasek’s appropriately composed vocals, prolific lyricism, smart and inventive guitar riffs and an all-around attention to detail. But where 10 Years succeeds in creating ambitiously atmospheric songs on Minus The Machine, they also come up a bit short with the raw rock firepower that elevated their status to being one of the premier acts of the genre. Fans of Evans Blue, Taproot, Chevelle, 32 Leaves, Cold, 12 Stones, Tool, Breaking Benjamin and Red will fall in love with the innovative artistry of Minus The Machine as 10 Years provides a new and diverse take on their sound. From the hard-hitting opener and title track “Minus The Machine,” to Lewis Cosby’s grungy bass on “Sleeper,” the band’s incredible range is on display. And from the calming acoustic guitar and swooning tempo of the magnificent ballad “Writing On The Walls,” to the epic closer “…And All The Other Colors,” 10 Years has no problem delivering another enjoyable dose of their unique brand. But for all its ambition and variety, Minus The Machine won’t capture the imagination in the same fashion as The Autumn Effect.
Final Score: 8.3/10
Rank: 2nd (five total albums)
- Minus The Machine
- Battle Lust
- Forever Fields (Sowing Season)
- Writing On The Walls
- Dancing With The Dead
- …And All The Other Colors