|Musical Style: Gothic Rock||Produced By:|
|Record Label: Retroactive||Country Of Origin: USA|
|Year Released: 1996/2012||Artist Website:|
|Tracks: 64||Rating: No Quote|
|Running Time: Over 5 hours combined|
Saviour Machine is one of those groups in which it is a challenge to place within a specific style segment. Yes, “Gothic” is the most commonly used moniker applied to Saviour Machine - and rightly so! - but in what capacity? Gothic metal? Gothic rock? Or what about the progressive side of Gothic? The fact is all three categories apply, but that would only be telling part of the story in that there is also much more to Saviour Machine from a musical standpoint.
Consider that Saviour Machine draws upon influences as diverse as U2, early Genesis with Peter Gabriel, Pink Floyd, the early and mid David Bowie period and even Black Sabbath, with the upshot being a sound characterized by melodic chord progression, passionate and powerful vocals, intricate guitar work and an understated progressiveness. Further blend in the dark and moody vibe often associated with Gothic music in addition to some classical and ethereal overtones and you have a band in which a LOT is going on musically.
It is this type of variety which makes Saviour Machine such a “challenge to place within a specific style segment”, but also keep in mind that the group has experienced its share of musical transformations throughout the years.
Saviour Machine can trace its history to 1990 when it was founded by Eric (vocals) and Jeff (guitars) Clayton along with Dean Forsyth (bass) and Chris Fee (drums). The four began playing the Southern California club scene with a theatrical stage show that generated its share of controversy, including getting the group banned at The Whiskey and Gazzari’s.
An 8 song demo came out of the period, which reflected the group’s initial metal and hard rock leanings in addition to the song orientated basis for its material of the time. Intricate hard rockers “The Wall Of Life” and “Transcendence” and speed metal laced “Streams” are choice examples of early Saviour Machine songwriting- heavy and highly energetic but accessible at the same time. The demo also found Saviour Machine introducing its penchant for composing the occasional epic, as the 20 minute, 5 part “The Revelation” can attest.
A deal with Intense Records followed that lead to the group’s self-titled debut (1993) and sophomore effort Saviour Machine II (1996).
Saviour Machine found the group settling into its trademark sweeping and bombastic Gothic rock style (guitars did not quite play the same prominent role) while also incorporating heavy elements of the progressive. Either way, the strength to the album resided in how Saviour Machine continued to stay true to the song in that the likes of “Carnivals Of Souls”, “Force Of The Entity” and “Ludicrous Smiles” are considered classics while the apocalyptic feel to “Legion” and “Son Of Rain” foreshadowed the direction the group would take in the future.
On Saviour Machine II the group played up the more epic, grandiose and piano based style but still centered upon a Gothic progressive rock format. A sense of melody still defied the Saviour Machine material, as can be found on “Enter The Idol” and “The Hunger Circle”, while “Child In Silence”, Ascension Of Heroes” and “American Babylon” are flowing, ethereal and almost ballad-like in scope. Truly the more atmospheric and darker work when compared to the debut.
The Legend Trilogy, starting with Legend I from 1997 but also including Legend II (1998) and Legend III:I (2001), allowed Saviour Machine to hit its creative stride. Better known as the “unofficial soundtrack to the end of the world”, Legend draws its lyrical inspiration from end-timed Biblical prophecy and the Book of Revelation.
Legend I represents quintessential Saviour Machine in how its material is complex but with a generous sense of melody while playing up some classical overtones. It also features the return of the guitar, in that while not metal tracks such as “Gog: Kings Of The North”, “The Invasion Of Israel” and “The Beast” rock heavily in assertive fashion. The album brings its share of diversity as well, ranging from Middle Eastern influences (“The Sword Of Islam”) to lofty instrumentals with church organ (“Overture”) to ethereally driven pieces (“The Eyes Of The Storm”). Tying everything together is more Saviour Machine II style piano.
The brilliance continues on Legend II but with a twist. A more cinematic and theatric approach is taken with guitars correspondingly not playing up the same forthright role, but that does not mean the material is any less powerful. “The Whore Of Babylon”, “Mark Of The Best” and “Antichrist II: The Balance Of Power” with their understated guitar edges and hints of melody reinforce this in no uncertain terms. The album also highlights a high degree of intricacy (some of the most progressive Saviour Machine tracks ever), which is aptly upheld on the time signatures to “The Covenant” and “Promise”. In the end Legend II takes a bit of time to digest but proves every bit the work as Legend I.
Saviour Machine hearkens back to its metal upbringings on Legend III:I. The albums heavier proclivity can be traced to guest guitars Carl Johan Grimmark (Narnia), who underpins things with his metal edged riffs, chops and harmonies. But heavier does not mean any less engaging in that “Twelve Hundred-Sixty Days” hints at some accessible elements and “Ancient Serpent” an almost ballad-like touch. “Revelation 13” features a return to a Middle Eastern inspired sound and “Antichrist III: The King Of Babylon” the trademark Saviour Machine progressiveness. Interspersed throughout are the choirs, piano and apocalyptic elements we have come to embrace from the group.
Saviour Machine, as one might imagine, has compiled throughout the years a high volume of demo cuts, outtakes, bootleg live tracks and alternate recording. Instead of letting this sit in the vault collecting dust, the band released a four volume set in 1996 entitled Rarities/Revelations made up exclusively of said material (taken from the group’s archives and contributions from Saviour Machine collectors from around the world). Long out of print, Rarities/Revelations was re-issued in 2012 on Retroactive Records as part of a 4 CD Set (Volumes I thru IV) with each packaged in a 4 panel digi-pak and liner notes from Eric Clayton.
What we wind up with are 64 tracks and over 5 hours of music that retrospectively chronicles the Saviour Machine musical history from 1990 to 2005. Yes, quality can vary at times - some of the demo and bootleg recordings are a bit rough at times - but that is a small price to pay when factoring in the opportunity to hear something rare, which is what the 4 CD set is ultimately about. I also decided to do away with one of my standard track by tracks (I felt it best not to put everyone through the torture of having to read a detailed description of all 64 songs!) and rather go with a breakdown of each CD instead, with several paragraphs outlining the highlights, standout material, etc.
Getting the first disc underway are rough demo recordings from 1990 of two unreleased songs, “Saviour Machine” (a Bowie cover from the 1970 album The Man Who Sold The World) and “Leaves”. Both do a laudable job capturing the rawer and heavier feel to the groups early 90’s material- not quite as polished as the 8 song demo but certainly welcome nonetheless.
You also have demo recordings of three classics from the debut, “Ludicrous Smiles”, “A World Alone” and “Son Of The Rain”. Again, a bit raw, but likewise pleasing to hear in their initial forms: “Ludicrous Smiles”, in particular, stands out with a more guitar driven focus (in comparison to the Intense version) while “Son Of The Rain” is as basic as it gets in featuring Eric Clayton alone at the piano (it almost sounds as if it were recorded in the artists living room in that you hear a dog barking and doors slamming in the background).
Four early nineties live acoustic tracks follow from a performance in Fullerton, California from 1992. I always felt that the Saviour Machine material would translate well in an acoustic live setting, a particular reflected in the moving vocal performance of Eric Clayton on “Carnival Of Souls” and abbreviated (2:49) version to “A World Alone”. Of note is the inspired rendering of “The Veil Of Armageddon”, the third of the five part track “The Revelation”.
Much of the material from the first disc revolves around tracks from the debut but we also begin to see some Saviour Machine II pieces. Of note are “rough” mixes of “Enter The Idol” and “The Hunger Circle”; actually, neither sounds that “rough” in that production comes across quite clean. Regardless, I appreciate how well these two excellent songs sound in their earliest incarnation.
Two Saviour Machine II tracks, “Saviour Machine I” and “The Stand”, get the second disc started. The former continues with a piano based proclivity (flowing but listenable at the same time), while the latter is a sublime 18 minute instrumental rendering Yes, “The Stand” takes a bit of patience due to its length, but the Saviour Machine sound has always fit nicely within an instrumental framework, which is aptly proven here.
The highlights, however, are the Legend I outtakes. All are instrumental, with 4 track demo recordings of “The Invasion Of Israel”, “World War III:I” and “The Beast” included with 2 track live recordings of “The Sword Of Islam” and “Kings Of The North”. Yes, somewhat thin, but is interesting to be presented with both the Legend material in its developmental stages and how Saviour Machine was experimenting with a heavier sound at this point.
I am also partial to the live bootleg recordings from the group’s 1996 tour of Germany. “Enter The Idol” is a full piece band effort (from Wurzburg) while acoustic versions (Owen) are presented for “Carnival Of Souls”, “Love Never Dies”, “A World Alone” and “Saviour Machine II”. Again, on the rough side of things, but it must be noted how well the audience has been picked up, giving each a true “live” feel (unlike some groups Saviour Machine elected to not go for the “aftermarket audience tracks from a can” route).
The third installment pretty much divides between alternate mixes of Legend II cuts and songs from the group’s 2001 Cornerstone performance.
Of the former, the first four are instrumental with “The Martyrs Cry” and “Antichrist II” sounding as if they came off a soundtrack to a horror movie with their chilling piano driven emphasis, while the eerie keyboards to “Mark Of The Beast” and “World War III/II” create the same effect. The “Kaos” mix of “Beyond A Pale Horse”, featuring perhaps the best melody of the Legend II material, features more discord and frenetic keyboards when placed alongside the original (also of note being the excellent production).
The Cornerstone tracks are taken from a bootleg recording. Opening things is guitar driven instrumental “Prelude To The Locusts”, which gives Carl Johan Grimmak the opportunity to showcase his abilities. A couple of Saviour Machine songs are included in “Christians And Lunatics” and “Legion”, both heavier than their corresponding studio versions, while the same applies to “Love Never Dies” and “Ascension Of Heroes” from Saviour Machine II.
You will also find the first appearance of a Legend III:I track in “Revelation 13”. A rough mix, this rendering is instrumental in being driven its entirety by keyboards. Regardless, the songs unmistakable melody stands out despite lacking Grimmark’s signature guitars.
Six live cuts from Christian Rock Night in Ennepetal, Germany from December 2001 open the fourth disc. In addition to rousing versions of “Jesus Christ” and “Behold A Pale Horse”, Legend III:I pieces “The End Of The Age” and “The Ancient Serpent” make their live debut- and allow Carl Johan Grimmark to assert his essential crunch on rhythm guitar. Soothing piano and acoustic lacings make their presence felt on “A World Alone”.
The sixth track is actually not a song but rather an interview with Eric Clayton, who showcases his dry wit in answering questions translated back and forth between German and English. The most interesting question posed is whether or not the artist would consider performing the entire Legend Series live…
Rounding things out - and proving the highlight to the four discs (at least as far as this reviewer is concerned) - are alternate mixes of ten Legend III:I songs. Saviour Machine changes things up a bit and throws us some well timed curve balls in the process.
Consider the instrumental piano rendition of “Twelve Hundred Sixty Days” or how “The Ancient Serpent”, “Abomination Of Desolation” and “The Dead Sea” lack much of their guitar driven edge. “Rivers Of Blood” is now an acoustic instrumental and “The End Of The Age” a piano based ballad. One cannot help but appreciate how the group has branched out and approached things from a different standpoint.
Finally, it must be noted improvisations piece “III:I/Voices And Judgements”, which splices together a vocal/narration montage taken from several Legend III:I pieces, with swirling (almost backward masked sounding) vocal melodies in the backdrop.
Review by Andrew Rockwell
Rarities/Revelations I (1993-1997) track-listing: “Saviour Machine”, “Leaves”, “Church Of The Vatican Slaves”, “Ludicrous Smiles”, “A World Alone”, “The Pain”, “Son Of The Rain”, “Carnival Of Souls”, “Legion”, “A World Alone”, “The Veil Of Armageddon”, “Interview Segment I”, “Carnival OF Souls”, “The Mask”, “Enter The Idol”, “The Hunger Circle”
Rarities/Revelations II (1994-1997) track-listing: “Saviour Machine”, “The Stand”, “The Invasion Of Israel”, “World War III”, “The Beast”, “The Sword Of Islam”, “Kings Of The North”, “Enter The Idol”, “Carnival Of Souls”, “Love Never Dies”, “A World Alone”, “Saviour Machine II”, “The Birth Pangs”, “The Woman”, “Behind The Mask”, “America The Beautiful”
Rarities/Revelations III (1997-2001) track-listing: “The Martyrs Cry”, “Mark Of The Beast” “Antichrist II”, “World War III/II”, “The Covenant”, “Behold A Pale Horse”, “The Eyes Of The Storm”, “Revelation 13”, “Prelude To The Locusts”, “Christians And Lunatics”, “The Whore Of Babylon”, “Legion”, “Introductions”, “Love Never Dies”, “Ascension Of Heroes”, “The Promise”
Rarities/Revelations IV (2001-2005) track-listing: “The Ancient Serpent”, “Behold A Pale Horse”
“The End Of The Age”, “A World Alone”, “Jesus Christ”, “Interview Segment II”, “The End Of The Age”, “Twelve Hundred Sixty Days”, “Legend III:I/The Ancient Serpent”, “Abomination Of Desolation”, “Image Of The Beast”, “Rivers Of Blood”, “The Dead Sea”, “III:1/Voices And Judgments”, “The Final Holocaust”, “The End Of The Age”