Contra - This Machine Kills EP
Record Label: Mediaskare
Release Date: August 30, 2005
Trends in music follow a specific pattern. Band gets popular doing something unique and interesting. Other bands come along to expand upon that idea, transforming the subtle nuances into masterful ideas while perfecting the ideas that made that genre in the first place. This can be considered the apex of the genre. The third, and final, phase (at least before the resurgence of said genre 10 years later) is when the music starts to lose interest with its initial fan base while the copycat bands begin marching into the party a little too late. Where does this album fall? Unfortunately, “This Machine Kills” is arriving at the tail end of the metalcore parade.
First off, if you are naming your band after one of the greatest videogames of all time, then you better be damn good. It would be akin to calling your band “Legend of Zelda; the Ocarina Of Time”, you would have some big shoes to fill. Contra do not live up to the NES classic in terms of fun factor and replay value. Upon first listen, I immediately thought of Hatebreed, and as much as I try to be objective in everything I listen to, I could not shake that initial comparison. Everything that has been used in the genre of tough guy hardcore is present and accounted for, from the chugging detuned guitars to the gang vocals shouting things like, “IT”S MY LIIIIFE”.
Vocally, there is nothing new on this album with vocalist Jake McCarty using a growl that would not sound out of place on a Zao album. He is not bad in terms of how he is expressing himself vocally and at times he is actually one of the better parts of the album. With lyrics touching on many topics from death, to trust, to the obligatory “knife in the back” reference, everything you have come to love (or despise) is here. The album also features a guest vocal appearance by Sam from New Dead Radio, which is one of the high points of the album.
It may sound as if I have a lot of negative things to say about this effort, but believe me I completely respect the fact that these guys are out there making music and there are definitely some redeeming qualities. For example, the guitars of Kevin Brooks and Brett DeBone (awesome name) compliment each other very well and are at times even pretty. You can hear every dissonant chord being played and every single accent in the drudging rhythms. The drums are solid and sound great as well with a good performance by drummer John Cruz. The saving grace of the album is the track “Prodigous Sonance” which, ironically, is nothing like any of the other songs on the album. It includes some “Moonlight Sonata”-like piano, which is a nice changeup and compliment to the blistering hardcore preceding it.
The touch of producer Logan Mader (guitarist for Soulfly and Machinehead) is apparent on this album and he is the perfect compliment for what I’m sure the band was trying to convey, but I do not think that he could save the band from falling into the same pitfalls that plague many bands in this genre, mainly the lack of innovation and overused lyrical topics. You can definitely see that there IS some genuine talent in this band but it does not seem to have been shown on this album. If they can crawl out from the depths of the stereotype pool before their full length, then they could gain a pretty solid fan base with the Ozzfest crowd.
If you are a big fan of tough-guy hardcore, then I think I have the perfect band for you. If, like me, you are not a fan of Hatebreed and think that this genre is starting to lose its originality, then you might have some problems with Contra’s debut EP “This Machine Kills”. I think I liked them better as a videogame.
1. This Machine Kills
2. Learning To Count
4. Prodigous Sonance
5. Nothing To Me