The HAARP Machine have just had a huge drop off in quality with their newest single, ‘The Nadir’.
If you have the time, I highly recommend reading through this Seven String forum about The HAARP Machine, as it opens your eyes to the kind of operation being (poorly) run within the U.K. prog band. Line-up changes, big egos, laughable production BS, questionable recording processes, interpersonal dramas, and their recent Sumerian Records departure aside, The HAARP Machine dropped a new song this week called ‘The Nadir‘. And by Thall, it’s not good!
Now, in all fairness, this track does hit a bit of a different stride for the band, and while that’s fine, that’s also where most of the positives end too.
For one, the mix is flatter than Daniel Shenton’s views of the Earth. None of the verses or choruses ever land as hard as you feel they should. Guitarist and band mastermind, Al Mu’min, uses his usual high-gated, half-djent, half-Guitar-Pro-MIDI tone as he drops in some admittedly interesting riffs and bends. Yet they’re all mostly covered up by the overbearing vocals and the song’s obnoxious lead Eastern-chordal synth. So his riffs just get pushed to the side, and with not a lot of definition either. (The same goes for drummer Travis Orbin too, which is a travesty given his previous percussion work in Darkest Hour and Periphery). For such a technical and guitar-driven band like this, this is all super confusing to see and hear. Also, what the bloody hell happened to the low-end in this mix? And just where is Steve Woodcock’s fucking bass!?
‘The Nadir‘ has zero breathing room too, as the vocals are consistently going throughout. Meaning that other sections and instrumentals never really get a chance to develop much further. Not the short-lived screamed passage from 1:14 to 1:26 nor the breakdown come the song’s outro, as only two examples. And that feels rather off when you consider that we’re talking about an instrumental-focused prog-metal band like The HAARP Machine.
The band’s current vocalist, Shokran vocalist Andrew Ivashchenko, has a powerful voice in terms of singing and screaming, but this piece just seems like an endurance test. Vocally fitting in as much as he can, like he’s meant to have goddamn gills or something. He’s a great vocalist but I feel like he and many other frontmen would struggle with this one live. Which is a real shame, as the song’s chorus could’ve been something so much bigger – so much better, too. Frustratingly, there was truly something in the blueprint with his vocal hook and chorus melody, but it doesn’t fully gel with the production and remaining elements of the final version. Not only that, but the vocals and the song’s lead sample (that repeats throughout ad nauseam) kinda sound like they’re lifted from a seperate, unreleased HAARP Machine song and were stitched onto the rest of this arrangement. Ergo, it doesn’t fit all that well – it’s all over the shop and cluttered.
This is a BIG drop off in quality control for The HAARP Machine, honestly. I’d even go so far as to say that the song should’ve been held off from release for quite some time, as it’s just not there in it’s current state. Comparing this to their only other release – their still-solid, riffy and highly textured debut LP, 2012’s ‘Disclosure‘ – is a night and day difference in every single category.
When ‘The Nadir‘ was first released recently, over on their crowd-funding page, Al posted that: “We’re going with the flow and recalibrating as we go.” Which is pretty much code for “we didn’t get as much money as I thought we would in order to help cover costs“. Right now, I am honestly starting to wonder what really went down between old mate and Sumerian, let alone if a new album will actually see the light of day and eager, supportive fans will actually get the music that they’ve paid for. This whole thing is just sad, honestly. In saying that, I do hope that Al and the band can at least get their shit together, restore consumer confidence, and get back to the good stuff. Because this ain’t it.
Anyway, feel free to have a look at this hot mess below. And hey, if you’re a fan reading this and you for some reason wanna put money into their pockets for this second LP to maybe become a thing, you can donate over here. (Please note: the band has only hit 5% of their supposedly flexible funding goal; £1,870 out of £32,999. Do with that information what you will).