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Damn the Machine: The Last Man

Damn The Machine is a progressive metal and progressive rock band from the United States active in the early nineties and is comprised of ex-Megadeth guitarist Chris Poland, his brother Mark Poland on drums, Dave Randi on bass and backing vocals, and David Clemmons on lead vocals and guitars.

The Last Man is a collection of demos recorded somewhere between 1991-1994 and that are seeing the day of light for the first time ever.

The opener “The Final Amendment” is a good song, great guitar work by Mr. Poland, and it rapidly shows how good the rhythmic section is, but also shows one of the reasons why maybe this band and its music did not make it back in the early-mid nineties, the vocals. “Welcome Red” has a great groove, the bass lines are enormous and catchy, and can be easily appreciated in the mix, and the good guitar work continues… as does the awkward sounding vocalization, instead of enhancing the band’s work it basically puts a garage rock sticker on it. The song “Heaven’s Gate” resembles a soft Metallica-sounding ballad circa the black album era, and at first it seems Clemmons has found a tonality worth listening to, but it’ll be a mirage, and the song loses the initial steam and somehow reminds the listener that these songs are demos, and that they weren’t released for a reason. “Legend Maker”, great title track and great metallic riffing… I really don’t hear any progressive rock or metal on this album, I do hear a band trying to separate themselves from the grunge scene with great musicianship but not so great songwriting or sound, I like the vocals here a little better though, they go better with the Sabbath-sounding background. “Menial War” might be one of my preferred songs here, I find the percussion very groovy and catchy, and the atoned melodic guitars are quite hypnotic and spacey. Things continue to be appealing with the following “A Brighter Day”, with great guitar work, just hoped it had been a little longer. Let’s take the vocals out for a minute… and let’s listen to “The Prize”, a song that combines the best of radio friendly rock with a very different metal approach, a song that could be great, only if it had better vocal harmonies. “Man Vs. So Much More” stands alongside “Menial War” as the best material on this album, more cohesive than any of the previous songs, however still suffering from that unpolished live-like sound that downgrades the listening experience. “All That We’ll Ignore” confuses me, sometimes atmospheric, sometimes too raw, and sometimes even too poppy, just don’t get it. “The Fading Rhyme” closes the album and to this point it’s clear that The Last Man is an album that has been put together just to try and revive the band’s music, but that effort feels unsuccessful, at least to my ears. Besides being very far form Chris Poland’s best work and music crafting (Return to Metalopolis for example…), the album showcases a dysfunctional sounding band, all great musicians trying to cut and paste stuff to create something together, but it doesn’t really work, imho.

Track Listing:

  1. The Final Amendment (3:35)
  2. Welcome The Red (3:18)
  3. Heaven’s Gate (5:12)
  4. Legend Maker (3:55)
  5. Menial War (3:28)
  6. The Prize (3:30)
  7. Man Vs. So Much More (4:59)
  8. All That We’ll Ignore (2:59)
  9. The Fading Rhyme (3:07)

Added: October 14th 2022
Reviewer: Jose Antonio Marmol
Related Link: Band Website
Hits: 406
Language: english

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Damn the Machine: The Last Man
Posted by Pete Pardo, SoT Staff Writer on 2022-10-14 16:18:56
My Score:

Here we have the original demo recordings from 1991-1994 from acclaimed progressive metal act Damn the Machine, who released their self-titled debut album for A&M Records back in 1993 but then faded from existence before a follow-up album could be released. Featuring ex-Megadeth guitarist Chris Poland, vocalist/guitarist David Judson Clemmons, bassist Dave Randi, and drummer Mark Poland, Damn the Machine recorded a wealth of material before and after that debut, most of which have all gone unreleased till 2021's Day One and now this collection The Last Man, which now makes available all the recorded work of this important but ultimately 'wrong place, wrong time' band. At a time when progressive metal was really only used to describe the then-still new Dream Theater as well as Fates Warning & Queensryche, Damn the Machine defied grunge and alternative music with their blend of thought-provoking lyrics and complex heavy metal. As these were demos, even with some remastering, the production is still a tad rough, especially the sound of the drums, plus the vocals are a tad too high in the mix, and arguably, David's vocals sound much tighter on the self-titled debut. Here, he's often struggling to hit high notes on tracks like 'The Final Amendment', 'Legend Maker', and 'A Brighter Day', but the material is strong enough that you can overlook these points. Poland, as always, is a master guitarist, and his shifting, complex & crushing riffs shine on 'Menial War', 'Welcome the Red', and 'Man Vs. So Much More', with solo spots somewhat sparse but when he lets loose, he amazes. For shredding Poland, look to his first solo album, early Megadeth, or the jazz-fusion Ohm records, as Damn the Machine was more about songs than shredding.

Overall, it's great to have these recordings, but I'd say seek out the debut first to get a real taste of Damn the Machine before you dive into these demos but, there's still some fine material here for sure.

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