by Jeremie Fincher
Machinecorpse is exactly what it sounds like. This project is a new, shiny steel vein in the living, bleeding, breathing anatomy that is the Alaskan metal scene. This Valley-based band formed around the skeletal framework of an idea, birthed by creator Chris Barton. Machinecorpse has come to life in the past, but it's reformation is a culmination of severely brutal talent. Their writing process is as unique as their style, and both have an electronic component that I've never seen in Alaska. Each member adds their own flavor, and the results are staked down to a click track, and played that way, live. This electric heartbeat is accompanied by programmed synthesizer, industrial, and even some dub-step type sounds and noises. The way everything is triple-stitched together, yet still alive and breathing, (screaming, even) is a frightening, supernatural experience. The self-dubbed 'slag-metal' is a fresh, new sound in this state.
From left to right: Chris Barton, Dennis Reid, Kellen Sharp, Adam Hulin, and Chuck Shumway
Chris Barton has held a set vision for Machinecorpse for a long time. The band has surfaced twice, unsuccessfully so, until now. "Egos and musical styles clashed," says Barton. It took him awhile, he says, but Chris slowly let up on the reigns of control for his vision when he started gathering competent and talented members that understood the formula and shared his vision. The current formation is a strange and selective combination.
Barton found Dennis Reid, Machinecorpse's vocalist, at a jam session he was invited to with former drummer Tommy Lee (no, that's not a mistake). Chris knew, as soon as he heard Reid's demonic gut-wrenching howl, that he was the voice he'd always wanted to front Machinecorpse. Reid has been the front man in a few Southcentral Alaskan bands, including Murder Is Justice and the recently disbanded Dire. He is an absolute spectacle to watch on stage. Terror, fright, anger and violence are not only vocalized, but displayed by Reid as he envelopes himself in the web of sound made by his friends and band mates.
Chuck Shumway and Kellen Sharp, former members of the short lived metal band Thousand Year War, decided to join the band separately, but still did so within three months of each other. "I am spoiled. I can't ever see myself working with a better drummer than Chuck." Sharp was asked to fill the bass position before 94.7 The End's Metal A&R Showcase in September of 2011, and took the job with a fury. He, shortly thereafter, suggested Shumway as a replacement drummer to the rest of the band, who were wondering what to do when Lee stepped away shortly after the A&R Showcase.
These two are the tightest rhythm section in Alaskan metal. Kellen's bass work is heartbreaking (in the best possible sense of the word). He has developed a unique tuning specifically designed for the caliber and style of Machinecorpse. He's melodic, sludgy, and devastating. Kellen was responsible for most of the string work in Thousand Year War, a band that was forcibly ripped from his and Shumway's hands. A copyright issue left Sharp high and dry, robbing him of his effort, material, and patience, without proof to contest. This tragedy undoubtedly fuels some of the fire felt in music of Machinecorpse.
Chuck is a proud father (as are all the men in Machinecorpse) and is engaged to be married to an amazing, supportive woman on August 3rd. Congratulations Mr. and Mrs. Shumway!) Chuck is the hidden powerhouse in Alaskan metal, with more chops and musicality than any drummer I've seen in this great State. Shumway moved to Alaska in 2005 and started Above and Beyond Roofing and Construction with his brothers Jason and Marcus. Lurking in the musical shadows for a few years, he finally found brothers Mike and Alan McCarroll and formed rock band Distraught! whom just recently dispersed. His experience and mastery show through, as he's one of the only drummers in Alaska that plays with a click-track in his ear. Watching Chuck in his element behind his kit is like beholding the 8th Wonder of the World.
Adam Hulin, lead guitar player extraordinaire (of Siege Engine fame) contacted Barton at the perfect time, and came aboard just before Kellen. Hulin's unmatched tone, serpentine stage presence and legendary solos throw Machinecorpse into the mix of the heaviest metal bands in Alaska. Combined with Barton's mental projection of the band and tough, groundbreaking rhythm guitar chops, the pair of six-guns formulate a tight, symbiotic team.
I have also yet to mention the most unique part of Machinecorpse, which is also the genius of Barton. Machinecorpse is an industrial metal band, incorporating rigidly structured synthesizer movements and additions that lace together the flesh of their trailblazing sound. This is what makes the click-track in Shumway's ear necessary. He is truly the timekeeper of the band. Activated by the group's Public Relations Assistant, Amanda Hanes, during live performances, they even give a tip-of-the-hat to the trending 'dub-step' genre in "Slaghammer," the group's rich, tasty single. Reid's twisted vocal parts chill me to the bone. With other hard hitters like "Possession of Power," Machinecorpse blows other bands out of the water with pure power and skill.
There is also an electronic element to the way they write songs. Each member has a very busy schedule and the band's union is limited to once a week, so at the time of a song's genesis, it is sent via e-mail to each member, and carefully dissected, modified, upgraded, and assimilated into the mix of the heaviest, most electrifying set of metal in Southcentral Alaska. Practice is done on each member's own time. Rehearsal is what happens when the group gets together.
There is a truly human aspect of this band, however, as I have gotten to know the five of them over the past few weeks. This band is very serious, in your face, and dedicated to their craft, but they also realize the importance of enjoying what you're doing. This is a tight-knit group, musically, and socially. Their gatherings are typically an open forum style, where friends and lovers enjoy the experience with Machinecorpse. They get to watch the band grow, and grow stronger as brothers.
Their live act is what Machinecorpse is all about, and if you didn't catch them in the Final Round of the 7th Annual Battle for Warped Tour, put on by Anger Management and Chilkoot Charlie's, you missed an amazing show. Moving on from the Semifinals, they were awarded 10 hours of recording time with Blind Ambition Studios. These gentlemen have what it takes to excite and entertain large audiences, and your opportunity to witness this event is right around the corner.
Machinecorpse opens for national metal act Suicide Silence on May 10th, joined by fellow local metal band Necrotic Opus. Suicide Silence is brought to you by Family Tree Productions. Machinecorpse also plays at the Crazy Horse Saloon on May 19th, with Robots Helping Clones and Wichita Shadows. Look for more dates soon, and keep up with them on their Anchorage Night Out profile, or on their Facebook page. Machinecorpse is slaying a stage near you. Go see the twisted madness for yourself. You'll never be the same. Rott.
Jeremie plays bass guitar in Anchorage rock band Robots Helping Clones and is an Assistant Editor at Anchorage Night Out. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Feel free to leave your comments below!