The album On This Perfect Day from Arjen Lucassen‘s Progressive Metal project Guilt Machine feels vaguely familiar. With tunes heard in the past that are stored in my vast music collection – somewhere.
But similarity is actually more in concept, than in tune.
Because this here Long Island Ice Tea is much more complex than just simple tunes strung together. And it has the hallmarks of some modern Pink Floyd style production, or something in this direction. Or at least, this resembles what we consumed back in time, when they were all high on stuff. Psychedelic Progressive Rock at its best.
In all honesty, at first I was about to throw On This Perfect Day out the window. But then after a few more listens, it dawned on me that I almost threw a gem away. Because this debut and currently only full length studio album is a massively heavy and complex stew that Guilt Machine serves you. With some onions and hot peppers on the side. And a load of tasty hot rock to go.
It is a concept album of sorts aiming at creating an atmosphere of melancholy, depression and doom. Dealing with the darker human emotions, On This Perfect Day succeeds very well. The spoken intros and interludes – sent in by fans, about twenty of them as I am told – are frankly disturbing in a dark and foreboding sense.
And true to the theme, On This Perfect Day exudes a sense of unease. And a hidden (or not quite visible) malevolence that usually forms part of other genres’ geekery. Moonspell comes to mind, for instance. You can feel this straight from the beginning of the album. A harsh wind blowing through the frozen realm of Hel, the cold goddess of the underworld.
The record positively shines with a very complex song structure. Guilt Machine really executed all of them tracks extremely well, almost flawlessly. Yet, with no track shorter than 6 minutes, you need a lot of patience to listen to this album. And sometimes it feels like beef jerky of the leathery kind – hard to chew and swallow, but still spicy and you wanting more.
On This Perfect Day followed me around for a while in a deep, dark kind of sense. Feeding off my sub-conscious like a bunch of little vampires swarming about me. This is how much brainpower you need to actually digest that.
It is – by the way – a hallmark of Arjen Lucassen‘s work that his tunes get into your system, wiggle themselves under your skin and won’t let you go for a while. Not the first time this happened, but never in that way.
On this Perfect Day features a skeleton crew of four members in the bosom of the mighty Guilt Machine. Jasper Steverlinck (Arid) performing the crystal clear lead vocals – a stellar choice by the way. He actually makes the record happen in this eerie, yet precise and structured fashion.
Lori Linstruth wrote the lyrics, and of course plays the lead guitar with some thunderous riffs and solos thrown in along the tracks. Linstruth – by the way – already partook in more of Lucassen’s projects. For example in Stream of Passion’s Embrace The Storm, again on lead guitar. Arjen Lucassen got himself the musical part and backup vocals. With Chris Maitland (ex Porcupine Tree) on drums. Plus two guess musicians to boot. That’s it.
And you know what?
It is this somewhat frugal approach that produces this austere, bare bones atmospheric version of Progressive Rock that feeds you unease with a very big spoon. Like an ethereal presence of an astral being that sucks off your life energy.
The lyrics are by the way complementing the music perfectly. Almost eerily marching you down this road of sorrow to depression. Leading you to this stormy abyss, like the lemmings used to follow the terrible Pied Piper to their doom. This is really skillfully done – my respect to pull this off so well.
And again, all this adds to the overall theme just perfectly.
The mixing and mastering is again almost without fault, all elements well presented and compression within acceptable limits. The production is a little too complex – even to the trained ear. Kind of all over the place, letting you wonder at times where we are going with this. This being the case, Guilt Machine might lose fans along the line for this.
Further, the tracks are definitely of considerable length. With some parts on the repetitive side, but not too obnoxiously so to be dangerous to the overall quality of this record. And this intermittent use of ’70s style keyboard settings just makes me grind my teeth. Yet again, this is a minor headache compared to the overall product.
To wrap this up, let’s come straight to the point.
On This Perfect Day very artfully messes with your mind. Skillfully arranged to project human feelings and passions (of the negative kind) to the poor unsuspecting listener, you cannot but accept fate and give in.
The record is really heavy to listen to and you will need several rounds to really get into it and digest all that. This is for sure some really heavy stuff, seemingly made for the connoisseur, but not for the mainstream listener.
Once you have overcome all of this, you will really enjoy this album for what it is – a stellar and juicy slice of Progressive Rock. But if you are already feeling depressed, this may not be the right moment for you to have a go at it. Otherwise, enjoy – I can only recommend it.