Wolverine is one of those very talented bands that has evolved from a sort of death metal history to a darker form of melancholic progressive metal. Even the term “metal” could be an overstatement when you get to listen to Machina Viva, Wolverine's fifth effort. The band took another five years to write and record this successor of the 2011 album; Communication Lost (see review). During this time the line-up has underwent a significant change; Mikael Zell left the band in favour of guitarist Jonas Jonsson. This change hardly influenced the overall guitar sound, compared to previous albums and the recognizable sound of Wolverine still stands. A sound that is defined by the illustrious voice of Stefan Zell, Per Hendriksson's piano and keyboards, Thomas Jansson's bass and Marcus Losbjer's spot on drumming.
Machina Viva bravely opens with an almost fifteen minutes progressive monster; The Bedlam Overture. A complex composition filled with powerful arrangements that shows metal riffs as well as dramatic vocals and an overly present, well dosed foundation of keyboards and brilliant drums. Per Hendriksson is prominently present with his amazing varied sounds and perfectly balances Jonas Jonsson's creative guitar playing during the song. In the end this composition might turn out to be one of the heaviest progressive songs on the album. The following track; Machina takes the music into another direction; electronic drum loops and a lot of variation in the vocals, sometimes just a bit higher than in the previous composition, give this song a very accessible touch, reminding me of Muse and The Pineapple Thief at some points. The fine guitar solo comes from guest musician Per Broddesson, who was Wolverine's second guitarist on their first two albums. The ES335 version of Pile Of Ash indicates that the accompanying instrument is a cool Gibson jazz guitar. A song that highlights Stefan's brilliant voice once more. Only escorted with a sole instrument, you get to hear the strength of his vocal ability. The bonus on the album; Pile Of Ash (Cello Version) sees the same composition, but this time a cello gives this a more dramatic feel to the song. Pick your favourite. For me both versions represent a different approach of the basically same composition, generating two different moods. And to be really fair I have to give both instrumentalists, Jonas Jonsson as well as cello player Stefan Moberg big compliments for their interpretation. A cool French horn, played by Jonas Eklund, also present on the opening track, leads Our Last Goodbye in, here the melodramatic atmosphere of the song has some similarities with landsmen Pain Of Salvation's music. Vocally Stefan shows he masters several octaves in an amazing way. The French horn solo part that follows the guitar solo absolutely adds “that something special” to this fine composition. Pledge is a strong varied composition that uses a spoken word intro, but more here, Marcus Losbjer's drumming has been mixed as a prominent instrument, but still is in balance with the powerful outbreaks of the guitar. The bass does stand out as well, but doesn't get the prominent sound in the mix during its solo part. Too bad. Nevertheless a solid typical Wolverine composition. During the first part of When The Night Comes, you might get the impression this will be the ballad on the album, but just like the following Nemesis, these songs are strong epical compositions, delicately growing from a smooth opening towards eruptions of power and strong solo spots of both guitar and keyboards. The final tune before the already mentioned encore is nothing less than amazing. Sheds is basically a very strong soundscape, highlighting the diversity that Per's keyboards produce, combined with Stefan's very recognizable vocals. A song that excels in simplicity; at least that is how it sounds.
Six years we had to wait for this album and I guess it was worth the wait. Better a solid, impressive one every six years than a mediocre one every year. For me Machina Viva is the continuation of the previous record, but also digging deeper into the soul. Therefore a bit more impressive.
****+ Pedro Bekkers (edited by Astrid de Ronde)
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