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Guilt Machine - "On This Perfect Day" (CD)

Guilt Machine - "On This Perfect Day" CD cover image

"On This Perfect Day" track listing:

1. Twisted Coil
2. Leland Street
3. Green and Cream
4. Season of Denial
5. Over
6. Perfection?

Reviewed by on January 25, 2011

"…An open-ended human experience filled with both sweetly melancholic sections and forceful metal sections"

This is no ride through space. There isn’t a single mention of the otherworldly on this record, which is a major change for mastermind Arjen Lucassen, whose regular work frequently involves sci-fi themes. This is a trip through the mind. With this project, Arjen brings us the inner mental world of depression, denial, and regret – all of which are very real and human. Fortunately, for those who are familiar with Arjen’s other projects, like Ayreon and Star One, Arjen isn’t going for a completely different sound to accompany the lyrical change. Arjen had quite a bit to say about Guilt Machine in an interview with metalunderground.com.

Arjen, already a top-tier metal musician, utilizes several other highly talented musicians to make this record a winner. The most notable musician here is obviously Arjen himself, who plays all of the electric and acoustic guitars, mandolin, bass, and keyboards, even singing a bit. As usual, Arjen handled all of the recording and mixing.

Following Arjen’s lead is drummer Chris Maitland, of Porcupine Tree, Blackfield, and I.E.M. fame. This album marks his first recording in four years since his work on the 2005 Kino album, "Picture." Fortunately, he didn’t miss a beat in his years away from recording. Lori Linstruth is credited with the entirety of the album’s lyrics, cutting to some icy and honest personal depths, and lends several very creative and whammy-bar-heavy guitar solos. The vocals on the album are handled by Jasper Steverlinck, of Belgian alternative rock band Arid, whose bright high-tenor vocals give the album a balance and an almost timeless beauty.

The first song, "Twisted Coil," starts off with the sound of machinery, moving to a wave of keyboards and the delicate side of Maitland’s drumming. Steverlinck’s hauntingly sweet vocals ring out, "Burn the stars out one by one. We come undone." Steverlinck’s voice is the all-important balancing part of Guilt Machine, keeping the album from sounding too dark for its own good.

The second song, "Leland Street," covers the feeling of cold despair in first half, accented by ethereal slide guitar and oppressive Rhodes piano, and a distant hope in the later half. "Green and Cream" seems to be about substance abuse, and rides the line between progressive rock and progressive metal boldly. A highlight of the album, the song boasts several huge high points and is the closest to sounding like an Ayreon song, with the folk-influenced melodies, acoustic guitar, and epic instrumental build-ups.

"Season of Denial" and "Over" are big songs, with equally large synthesizer parts, guitar solos, and varied vocals. The two also reveal Steverlinck’s impressive range. Easily in the camp of Freddie Mercury and Jeff Buckley, Steverlinck boasts a clarity and definition. "Perfection?" ends the album with the most drastic instrumental sections on the album.

Throughout the album, the recordings of fans who submitted their thoughts on guilt, regret, life, death, and human nature can be heard in their native tongues; from Dutch to Norwegian, French to Japanese, and Bulgarian to English. All in all, the album is an open-ended human experience filled with both sweetly melancholic sections and forceful metal sections.

Highs: Jasper Steverlinck's iconic voice, the abundance of dark instrumental sections

Lows: The songs take several listens to really get used to.

Bottom line: A bold combination of grit, beauty, and strong themes riding the line between progressive metal and rock.

Rated 4 out of 5 skulls
4 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)