Feeding the Machine is virtuoso guitarist James Murphy's sophomore solo effort. It interlocks his varied musical experiences in both extreme bands like Testament and Death, and his stint with progressive rock bands/musicians. While a solo album, Feeding the Machine is far from a typical 'shred' record where the guitarist sets out to display his profound technique.Rrather, this record blends all of Murphy's influences in an impressive context without losing focus.
Steve DiGiorgio and Deen Castronovo support Murphy on bass and drums respectively. Obviously, James Murphy plays all guitars and a good amount of keyboards (besides recording, mixing and engineering the whole thing). DiGiorgio and Castronovo aren't the only talented musicians on the album though; GZR vocalist Clark Brown appears on two tracks ("Feeding the Machine" and "Deconstruct") and former bandmate
Chuck Billy, as he does on Murphy's first solo album, makes an appearance here on "No One Can Tell You", which very much feels like a Testament song, especially because of Steve DiGiorgio's subtle playing. It, however, contains a vicious keyboard solo that gives the song its own vibe. Artension and Royal Hunt frontman, John West, lends his voice to the soothing "Visitors". Needless to say, his distinct vocals give the album a much-welcome depth along with Matt Guillory's awesome run-out solo. Last but not the least, Chris Long sings the throaty parts of "Through Your Eyes (Distant Mirrors)" while Explorer's Club mastermind, Trent Gardner, does the ballad-like singing over acoustic guitars and Floydian keyboards. Each singer wrote their own vocal melodies and lyrics (except Chuck Billy) and that gives the album an added character making it more of a band effort, rather than a sad shredfest with mindless noodling.
Both Vitalij Kuprij and Matt Guillory, particularly the latter, play stunning keyboard melodies, riffs, and solos. Sadly, Kuprij only appears on the title track, trading a bizarre solo duet with the man himself. Guillory's inclusion, however, is bigger, as he contributes to more than half of the songs. Jeremy Colson also plays drums on a number of tunes and his distinctive style turns out to be another dimension of the album. The instrumental tracks are very interesting. They sound more developed in Murphy's approach to rhythmic ideas compared to the songs on Convergence, but I guess I still like the debut disc a tad better. The first instrumental, "Contagion", borrows light Middle Eastern melodies, but it's kept to a minimum, amongst Murphy's razor-sharp guitar tone and churning metallic riffage.
There are also two cover songs on the record. Dixie Dregs' "Odyssey" and Al DiMeola's "Race with Devil on Spanish Highway" are arguably the album's most
progressive interpretations. Bass icon Stu Hamm makes an appearance on the Dregs tune with a fantastic slap bass solo that will blow your mind away. Murphy's playing here oddly reminds me of Joe Satriani as he borders in blues guitar a little but keeps the whole
song in a very heavy context at the same time. DiMeola's fusion classic, on the other hand, features killer percussion work and an intense bass figure by Steve DiGiorgio. Murphy delicately runs a powerful guitar theme which is repeated intermittently as Matt
Guillory experiments with different keyboard patches. The two maestros begin to duel fiercely laying down technical licks and creating the ultimate killing moment of the album.
This is a great guitar album. I appreciate Murphy for making room for all these amazing talents here. It must be this mutual understanding for them to create awesome waves of sound never straying too far away from Murphy's musical vision (his Death and Thrash Metal roots in this case), yet somehow also adding new soundscapes. If you haven't heard Convergence, that's even better, in my opinion.
1. Feeding the Machine
3. No One Can Tell You
7. Through Your Eyes (Distant Mirrors)
8. Race With Devil on Spanish Highway
10. In Lingua Mortua