(2012) Machinae Supremacy – Rise of a Digital Nation: Anniversary Special

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You know, despite my household being avid (to say the least) MACHINAE SUPREMACY fans, there was a point in time when they released a new album and it kind of skimmed past our notice. The album was “Rise of a Digital Nation” and the year was 2012. If I recall correctly, we learned of this album’s existence, played it once or twice, and then promptly forgot about it for some time, despite it getting a reputation for having been released on The Pirate Bay. Then, in some sort of A View from the End of the World-fueled craze, we got really hyped on the band again and returned to rediscover its follow-up, wondering why we hadn’t given it the attention it deserved before. Return to today, and we suddenly find ourselves celebrating 10 full years of “Rise of a Digital Nation,” and let me tell you, it didn’t take 10 years to appreciate this album for what it is.

The album opens with an absolute killer of a track, “All of My Angels,” which leads straight into one of the band’s fastest bangers, “Laser Speed Force.” It’s hard to think in hindsight that we weren’t immediately on board with this album on first listen after these two songs introduce the release, but I suppose we must have been crazy. Besides having great lyrics, “All of My Angels” features incredible riffing and that chorus? Oh man, such a great singalong song live. The C-part takes a bit more of a dramatic turn, adding all the more power to the end of the track. “Laser Speed Force” amps up the energy to 11 and is probably still one of the band’s best live tracks. The synths are absolutely on point and the vocals allow for a nice interplay between guitarist Jonas Rörling and Robert Stjärnström, who have astoundingly compatible vocal sounds. The gamer lingo is just added icing on the cake of how great this is. Throw in some soloing and flavorful rhythms, and really tight harmonies at the end – this song has it all!

One of MASU‘s more understated songs comes in the form of “Transgenic.” It’s the type of song that I tend to forget about, yet every time it comes on, I get really into it. The opening riffing is incredible and the power in the chorus is gritty and fantastic. The hint of grunge elevates the song in many ways and they do a great job playing with dynamics between the versus and choruses. Meanwhile, one of the band’s most popular fan anthems is also the album’s title track, “Rise of a Digital Nation.” It’s not one of the band’s most outstanding tracks musically per se, but stands out for its passion and the way people have been able to connect through the music and lyrics. Okay, yes, it also benefits from some more really good harmonies, great riffing, and masterful use of SID sounds, so there’s also that. In case that’s not enough, however, there’s also a great music video made out of fan clips – something they didn’t do again until this year!

One of the most unusual tracks is “Pieces,” which starts with strong SID-riffing against a good drum line, before it switches into a bit of a pop-punk style, mainly via Robert‘s vocal style and the GREEN DAY-ish riffing. Then, it punches up, only to chill out in the bridge, and then kicks sideways into a really dramatic chorus. It’s wildly unpredictable and I could see it rubbing some listeners the wrong way, but I’ve always found there to be a bit of charm to the cheeky way it toys with genre. “Cyber Warfare” drives forward with some very… I want to say Sega-nostalgic sounds, acting as a bit of an opener to “Republic of Gamers.” This commissioned track is a great gaming anthem, one whose message is often only partially grasped. Paired against a sped-up marching beat, it feels like the predecessor to tracks like PvP by AMARANTHE and Burn it All Down (featuring PVRIS) for League of Legends, neither of which quite hold up to this track, as it’s very clear that this track was made by gamers, for gamers.

“Battlecry” is another pretty solid track, but doesn’t tend to stand out very well against most of the other material. The driven chorus does really allure the gamer in me, though I couldn’t fully say why. The melodies and rhythms are again really strong, but not every song can be the best song on the album, and this has quite a lot of competition. The album then winds down with a bit more of a dramatic track in “99,” which keeps a slower tempo but really drives forward in the chorus. Again, a little hint of grit in the guitar helps bring some texture to a song that has a really smooth synth sound in the verses. It’s not one you’re likely to hear live because of the more mellow pace, but that makes it all the nicer to return to on a re-listen of the album.

Finally, the album wraps up with “Hero,” a re-release of a track that was originally released on 2001’s “Origin.” The original version is already great, but there has been clear improvement in the band’s arsenal since then, including first and foremost, a lot more confidence and strength in the vocals. The 2012 release appears to have been re-recorded, and on comparing the two, the new version does a better job of showcasing the SID tracks, which were mushier in the original, and the cleaner sound in the instruments, alongside vastly improved vocal sound really shows a huge improvement in general quality, across the board. They chose a great song to spruce up too, as the track really fits in well with the rest of the album and ends it on a high note.

Ultimately, this album that we accidentally missed on release turns out to have some of the band’s strongest material, fitting nicely in after A View from the End of the World.” While it isn’t quite the 100% flawless release of its predecessor, it nevertheless takes that sound and continues to evolve with it, rather than simply bowing down to demand and making more of the same thing. It shows a really big step forward in their evolution, while still staying true to who they are in their core. Definitely a worthy album to return to time and time again!

Tracklist

  1. All of My Angels
  2. Laser Speed Force
  3. Transgenic
  4. Rise of a Digital Nation
  5. Pieces
  6. Cyber Warfare
  7. Republic of Gamers
  8. Battlecry
  9. 99
  10. Hero