The album On This Perfect Day from Arjen Lucassen‘s Progressive Metal project Guilt Machine feels vaguely familiar to tunes heard in the past that are stored in my vast music collection in my brain. But similarity is actually more in concept, than in tune. Why? 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 got served back in time when they were all high on stuff. Psychedelic progressive rock at its best.
In all honesty, I was about to throw this out the window when first listening to On This Perfect Day. But then after making an effort to listen again, it dawned on me that I almost threw a gem away. SO, before you open the window yourself: Listen to this production first, suck it in and let it be digested in yer mighty stomach. Then, once it hath been filtered by thy brain – if there is one left after that treatement – then thou shalt judge. ‘Cause this début and currently only full length studio album On This Perfect Day is a massively heavy and complex stew that Guilt Machine serves you. With some onions and hot peppers on the side.
It is a concept album of sorts aiming at creating an atmosphere of melancholy, depression and doom. Dealing with the darker human emotions. And On This Perfect Day succeeds very well. The spoken intros and interludes – sent in by fans, about 20 of them as I am told – are frankly disturbing in a dark and foreboding sense. This underlines with a very complex song structure throughout the tracks, yet perfectly well executed – one of the best Progressive Rock productions I have heard so far. And you never know where this all leads you next.
And true to the theme, On This Perfect Day exudes a sense of unease and hidden (or not quite visible) malevolence that is incredibly well done. Reminiscent to masters of malevolence like Moonspell (different style, same feeling of unease). 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. 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.
Arjen Lucassen (all sorts of instruments and backing vocals) – the master of modern Prog Rock and Metal – together with Lori Linstruth (lead guitar) are guilty of giving us this … thing that sticks to you like instant glue and will not let you go anymore. Seriously! It 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. Lori – by the way – already partook in more of Arjen’s projects – for example Stream of Passion’s Embrace The Storm.
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. And by the Horned God – sometimes this just sounds like Noir Désir of a psychedelic kind.
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 a sense by providing the lyrics in an eerie, yet precise and structured way. Lori Linstruth actually creating the lyrics – for all of them tracks, no kidding – and of course the lead guitar with some thunderous riffs thrown in along the tracks. Arjen Lucassen is responsible for the musical part and backup vocals; with Chris Maitland (ex Porcupine Tree) furnishing the drum work. And this complemented with two guest musicians. That’s it!
And you know what? It is this somewhat minimalistic 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 draining 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 Lori for pulling 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 being of considerable length, there are parts that are repetitive, 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.
Let’s come straight to the point: On This Perfect Day very artfully messes with your mind. Really does. 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 not your light-hearted disco music kind of thing, but 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.