I found a new band I'm not afraid to recommend. Machines of Grace has released their self-titled debut and it contains some polished material played with good old rock and roll swagger and confidence. The band contains vocalist Zak Stevens, guitarist Matt Leff, bassist Chris Rapoza and Jeff Plate is the drummer. Their sound is pure, ingenuous, honest.
The bands roots are firmly in the glory of mid-80s metal. Matt Leff's guitar is the first thing you hear on the album, a bluesy, twangy intro to "Just A Game" and its personality is on display throughout the whole record. It's nice to hear it, too, squealing and wailing. The sound reminds me of Tesla, Ratt, Skid Row and especially Dokken. So, if you like old Dokken stuff, this band's for you.
Chris Rapoza and Jeff Plate provide a killer rhythm section. "Innocence" has a driving pulse that I just couldn't get enough of. Plate has excellent skill on a drum kit and it was a pleasure to hear him lay down a very adequate foundation for some good hard rock songs. "Psychotic" also has a beautifully disturbing rhythm. These guys can play softer tunes, too. “The Moment” is a ballad worthy of 1987 (well, close), with well placed, cascading drum beats. Very nicely done.
They're still a first band, though. Granted, the songs here are more precise and better arranged than a typical novice band right out of the garage due to the veteran status of its members. (Stevens and Plate both played in the legendary Savatage for eight years; they've also been members of Circle II Circle and Metal Church; Leff has played in Trigger Effect).
Still, I don't know that they've totally gelled yet. The lyrical content didn't seem as focused as the music is. And so, there's a little fluff added here and there – a little too much sustain, forced triplets and fills and Stevens powerful voice tries to make too much out of songs that just aren't epic enough for him. Of course, maybe that's just a little Savatage nostalgia seeping through.
Then again, that stuff is probably just me being too picky, trying to be too "critical" – my quasi-elitist musical stance. This debut has no real flaws that I could pick out. It's music that can meld with whatever kind of day you’re having. It's not extreme – not too heavy, not too light; positive songs that aren't overly righteous, sentimental yet nothing horribly depressing. Indeed, Machines of Grace have reached balance. That achievement should guarantee longevity.
I found that some of their music arose unbidden into my conscious mind. That means nothing to anyone else, but was a sign to me that there was some intangible matter in this music that made it stick. They are not throwbacks to a better 80s sound, they are a modern interpretation of what that music was. I hope many more bands follow suit. I may start listening to the bloody radio again.