The album begins with "Tithe II"; tithing being a tenth of an individual's income "pledged" to the church. It begins with an ambient crawl that shifts to the words of the 'ardent preacher's, which steadily build to a pummel of double bass and a heavy, deep sound with a pulsing tempo that is most definitely a banger. Straightaway, the talents of the band are undeniable; blending the scorching death metal screams with a black metal undertone. It is a magnificent opening track, in subject matter and musical prowess.
"Alpha" is the next track on the album, with the video readily available HERE
On this track, singer Niklas Ekwell's treacherous vocals are front and center; unlike the deep, guttural screams typical in black metal, this voice is unlike any other and it demands to be heard. The Swedes are known for their intricate guitar solos and we catch a glimpse of one mid-song, although not long but impressive nonetheless. The drummer, Marcus Somliga Andersson, dictates the direction of this song with his frenetic yet highly skilled and controlled drumming (quite visible in the video). Andersson may steer the ship, yet the captain remains Ekwell with his masterful shrill vocals- most definitely another attention-grabbing tune.
"The Existential Strive" is up next; a very different kind of introduction with an unsettling piano and simple guitar introduction, the 'unsettling' being the very point as Ekwell blasts into the song, along with intense double bass drumming and murderous screams. This song speaks more of a typical black metal sound; in tempo, guitar and vocals. The call for the "existence of the individual, as a free and responsible agent" is deftly heard in all aspects of the song, calling us all to strive for "a life due to acts of free will" not dictated by a government not a religion.
"Call of the Banner", fourth track on the album, begins with the sample of a woman speaking about a 'good child turned evil'; it then turns to a man speaking of weapons and his friends 'disappearing'; these are very obvious Americans speaking about cult-like behaviour. Ekwell rages between these colloquialisms, with an almost tribal-like beat from Andersson behind him, quite intentionally sounding like a cadence that one would hear in an 'anthem'. Another politically based song, it's a breath-catching moment until the next..
....which is "Defiant Silence"; starting with a punishing drum beat, the guitarist weaves in and out of major and minor chords. One of my favourite songs on the album, it wavers between intense black metal riffs to the rage and angst of death metal with tempo changes, a short guitar solo and frenzied vocals that hook you from the very start. This is most definitely another showcase of their musical talent, which in this song, seems to have no bounds.
"Hymns of the Wicked" , the midpoint of the album, takes the listener in a completely different direction. From heavy drums and screams to ethereal choral vocals; more of an atmospheric black metal song than the rest of the album. Yet it pulses with a persistent yet simplistic beat, the guitar taking the spotlight in this intemperate melodic tune. It carries with a building tempo and ends with Ekwell's high guttural vocals over the faint choral sounds, ending abruptly but exactly as it should, as it reached its' plateau.
"Above a Legion of Equals" follows; an intense song that is almost a continuation of the previous with strong death metal riffs and drumming with a pulsing and pushing rhythm, again, stop the angelic choral sounds to give it that ambient effect. It hovers in the black metal realms for a short moment, with the all too known tremolo picking yet quickly reverberates back to their death metal roots, grinding the gears until the end of the song.
"Impassive Atrocity" starts like a blast of desert heat after opening a door to the outside, a very intense slap across the face, if you will. A maniacal guttural yell opens the song with nothing but pure ferocity behind it, they are primed to ever so ‘not gently’ pervade your eardrums. One of the tightest songs on the album, all pedals to the floor including some brilliant work by bassist Daniel Forsberg. All is in sync in this controlled chaos; a catchy guitar riff that flutters in and out of the song, while vocalist Ekwell defers between speaking and shrieking lyrics. This example of death metal is where the band seems to be at their very best; and this song is a must-hear on this album.
Title track, "Aligned to the Grid", is the last on this vicious attack of Swedish metal. By far, my very favourite on this album. It begins with a quite somber and almost eery guitar and right as you think this will be another atmospheric gem, at 2 mins the song turns into chaos as Ekwell questions our "alignment to the grid".
Ending the album with a song that has a much more of a black metal sound was an interesting choice, yet I think a splendid one. In this one song, the band manages to sum up the general 'gist' of the entire album; "It’s predefined...." Ekwell says. “Whether we would like to admit it or not, we are slaves to the very societies we created that have essentially turned against us”. A phenomenal ending to a very interesting album that showcases the talents of each and every band member. Some of the best metal in the world has come from Sweden and Godhead Machinery are in the very footsteps of their predecessors; no turning back in sight.
Review by Marisa Dymond
Niklas Ekwall - Vocals
Robert Kail Karlsson - Guitar
Tommy Ericson - Guitar
Daniel Forsberg - Bass
Marcus Somliga Andersson - Drums