Vision Divine, "The Perfect Machine"
Vision Divine offer up a combination of '70s pop prog rock a la Styx with a modern prog metal sensibility. "The Perfect Machine" is yet another concept album (apparently you bastards out there love these things, cuz all these bands keep churning the damned things out despite all my whining about it). The tale burned upon this disc is one of a scientist who maps the human genome and thus discovers how to prevent all ills and aging, giving mankind what he has so yearned for throughout the ages: free porn. Er, no… that's not right… perhaps it's eternal life? Yeah, that's it - eternal, healthy life. But all that is gold does not glitter, and God calls his angels to him and abandons man for his arrogance, leaving him to learn the hard lesson of immortality - when time is endless, nothing is special and lethargy sets in. This is definitely not your usual "hobbits vs. orcs" or "man vs. machine" story, which is nifty (unless you hate stories that feature the Almighty, you damned heathen).
Unlike many concept records, "The Perfect Machine" doesn't eschew good songs to tell the story - the band took care to include catchy choruses and hooks to keep things flowing well amidst the periodic keyboard and guitar solos. The record features nine songs that clock in around the 52-minute mark, but boredom never sets in. To the band's credit, the album opens up with cheerful songs that reflect the mindset of the characters, but as things start to go awry, the music takes on darker more chaotic tone (but not too chaotic - the overall flow is left intact). It may seem like an obvious choice to do so, but few bands ever take that extra step to drive their stories home.
I'm not quite sure who the music is aimed at, as it's a bit too poppy for prog fans, too light for power metal freaks and too proggy for AOR/hard rock devotees. If your tastes run into any of these genres, you might dig what Vision Divine is up to (I do), but diehard genre purists might not warm up to the mix where high register vocals with touches of grit are joined by chugging guitars, busy keyboards, a pounding rhythm section and frequent, flashy solos from both the guitarists and keyboardist. Most tracks weigh in at over five minutes, so this isn't aimed at Top 40 radio by any means. As mentioned, there are numerous hooks and catchy choruses, and the disc practically bubbles over with glee on the first half before growing darker and proggish - but the story ends with more cheer and hope.
Production and mix are superb. Vocals are dominant, but they don't overshadow or exclude the supporting instruments. The playing is superb from all involved. The 16-page booklet features lots of Photoshopped cybernetic imagery that I’m not crazy about because I'm bored with Photoshop and cyborgs are not part of the story. Also included is a band shot, the lyrics (including a useful story outline) and a long thanks list. I'm impressed by this release as I can't pigeonhole the band as a clone of any other out there, which is no small accomplishment in this day and age. Good stuff that's well worth seeking out if you've got an ear for proggish ear candy with a substantive filling.
The Perfect Machine