After three major albums, it seems 10 Years is always evolving their sound. From the atmospheric spiritual feeling of The Autumn Effect, to 2010’s Feeding the Wolves which brought out their most mainstream rock approach. But who can forget the middle album, Division, which brought what I thought their most complete effort. Truly capturing pure emotion on that album while maintaining a smooth flow with clever interludes and sneaky foreshadowing hidden lyrics before the next song. I believe Division was their masterpiece.
But can they top it? Their new album Minus the Machine will test their previous releases as they are free from Universal Republic’s label and on their own for this self-produced independent album.
The album starts out hard hitting with the title track, Minus the Machine, which brings back an old atmosphere with newer styled guitar riffs. It’s smoothly followed by Battle Lust which is along the same lines, but an even catchier chorus.
As the album moves on, we get into a deeper and more personal realm fairly early into the album. Forever Fields (Sowing Season) is one of the more sorrowful/haunting tracks they have made. A lonesome atmospheric piano accompanied by Jesse Hasek’s soft voice. This song brings back memories of an earlier song, Silhouette of a Dream, with flanged vocals and a dark theme.
Forever Fields melody awesomely transitions into the lead single of the album Backlash. With its spastic and fast drumming, it’s this albums Shoot It Out: simple guitar riffs accompanied by a catchy chorus sung by Hasek.
Another track to mention is Knives which is one of the heaviest tracks they have done; incorporating heavy guitar riffs and drumming and a screeching bridge with some actual screaming from guitarist Ryan “Tater” Johnson. If you have listened to 10 Years before, you’ll know they scarcely scream, and at this caliber, it’s something to note.
Most of the album is very reminiscent to Killing All That Holds You (before they broke out). The vocal melodies feel the same. The music is slightly heavier, on the edge of modern hard rock these days. But they still find a lot of atmosphere which has always been key to their music. It’s that necessary space that complements Hasek’s vocals and makes them so much smoother.
While there weren’t many interludes besides Birth—Death, there was still a little more continuity and fluidity throughout the album compared to Feeding the Wolves. Even if it is just the end of the song fading into the next, it’s the fact that they put thought into it and it makes their album feel as one. That is why I love Division. Almost every song is related to each other in one way: Whether it fades in to the next, the end of the interlude is the same acoustic guitar tone that begins the next song, a creepy interlude foreshadows the spoken lyrics of the next song. It really was a masterfully crafted album.
10 Years did a great job crafting this album. The guitars are heavier, but they also bring back the seemingly lost calm dynamic. Ryan “Tater” Johnson and Brian Vodinh work well with each other in coming up with simple, yet characteristic riffs.
On drum duties, Brian Vodinh says “fuck it” and mans up to the ever rotating line up for drums. He does a great job, even including some double kick moments that again allude to earlier releases.
Lewis Cosby is on bass and he has his few moments where he drives the song. Sleeper is a good example of the song driving bass lines he can bring.
Last but not least, Jesse Hasek. He really needs no explanation. He has one of the best voices in rock today. His voice was made to soar over the 3/4 time signature. I can’t really complain about him. His songwriting has always been beautifully simple. Yet there is so much depth he adds with the tone of his voice. I don’t think I would be listening to 10 Years if it weren’t for Jesse. He makes the band what it is.
Now the question for me: how does Minus the Machine match up to Division? Division is their perfect album to me. The content, the music, the transitions; everything is great about that album. MTM’s content is pretty good. Forever Fields really is the stand out to how personal and deep they can get.
Musically, it is also pretty good. There are hardly and dull moments with the album. The dynamics are great and they expressed a bunch of different emotions.
Unfortunately, I don’t have it in me to say it’s better than Division. It’s fluidity and continuity is almost unmatched. MTM certainly has the same tone going through the album, but the songs don’t feel like they connect as well.
I know it may seem I am nitpicking too much to a much beloved album of mine, but after hearing what a slight disappointment Feeding the Wolves was, I was fearing that the band was going in the wrong direction. I can happily say Minus the Machine is a step towards the right direction. It feels like an ode to their independently released music. That may be because they are on an independent label now.
All in all, 10 Years brought a great deal of effort for Minus the Machine and that shouldn’t go unrecognized. They are one of the better modern rock bands out there today, mainly because they don’t jump on bandwagons and trends and just keep doing what they are good at doing. So you probably won’t hear vocal glitches and hard electronic fusion with these guys.
Minus the Machine – 8/10
- Minus the Machine
- Battle Lust
- Forever Fields (Sowing Season)
- Writing on the Walls
- Dancing with the Dead
- …And All the Other Colors
Minus the Machine is now available via Palehorse Records