Album Review: Observers – The Age Of The Machine Entity

The Breakdown

Martin Kennedy and his band, Observers have fused an exciting blend of prog, ambient and metal to create a near-masterpiece of instrumental space rock.
Spectra Records 9.4

Martin Kennedy has been nothing if not prolific in recent times. From All India Radio to collaborations with Gareth Koch and Steve Kilbey, Kennedy has brought us some of the finest moments across many variations incorporated in the rock genre.

His band, Observers, continues this fine tradition he has built. It is the somewhat harder edge of Kennedy’s fertile creations, and marries his life-long love for Stanley Kubrick’s classic, 2001: A Space Odyssey with his musical talents.

Having long been fascinated by heavy metal music, he decided he wanted to fuse some of his more ambient stylings (a la All India Radio) with those of latter-day metal to realise the nagging itch that this proposed album held for him.

To that end, he hired session musicians to lend authenticity to the playing on the album. Recognising that metal fans are fastidious in their love for the style, he employed musicians who actually play within the genre to ensure that he sonically satisfied even the most ardent followers. These include Joao Corceiro – solos on the tracks Moon Doom, Into The Eye & The Star Child; Joe Haley – solo on the track Pod Bay Doors; Jake Weber – solo on the track Strange and Beautiful; Ido Romano – Ney (a type of ancient flute) on Metaphor II and Breno Machado – solos on Frank Poole’s Dream, and The Narrow Way Part II. These musicians accompanied Kennedy on guitars, synths & soundscapes, Chris Bohm on drums and Rich Gray on bass guitar.

To truly describe The Age Of The Machine Entity as “heavy metal” would be somewhat of a misnomer. The album is a structured blend of melodic metal with progressive rock and dark ambient overtones, and is by and large an instrumental album. The album is broken into 8 shorter songs, which I feel help to focus the listener given the lack of lyrics, along with the album’s magnus opus, the 11 minute wonder of Metaphor II. All of the songs on the album were written/co-written by Kennedy, with the notable exception of album closer, The Narrow Way Pt II, which is a David Gilmour-penned piece from Pink Floyd’s Ummagumma (Kennedy’s love for Pink Floyd is a poorly-kept secret).

The music mirrors the original movie and its’ soundtrack by the creative use of space (ambience) and sound to reflect Kubrick’s use of largely instrumental music to create mood, ease and tension. Kennedy has upped the ante however, with his use of modern instrumentation to create similar effects in this amazing reimagining.

If we forget that we are basically listening to a soundtrack album, The Age Of he Machine Entity stacks up fantastically well as an album befitting the genres it lays allegiance to. The album opens with the soaring Into The Eye and is quickly followed by the motorik Frank Poole’s Dream. Chris Bohm’s drumming takes centre stage on the larger-than-life Frozen Lattices of Light, proving that speed is not always the determinant of great playing, but can add huge amounts of atmosphere that songs of this magnitude require.

Strange and Beautiful, and Pod Bay Doors bring out the best of the metal/prog-rock blend and lead into the sublimely epic Moon Doom, which was the first song released from the album. There is a fluidity to the guitar work which may or may not be a nod to the great David Gilmour, but it is done so with the tonality heard in so much modern metal music.

This is where the album diverges slightly, as it heads into the album’s defining 2001: A Space Odyssey moment with the monumental Metaphor II. This is 11 minutes of Kennedy at his creative best, mixing soundscapes and ambience throughout the first half of the track until the synthesizers blend with the drums and guitars to push the track to its’ moment where it bleeds its’ way into the next soaring track, The Star Child. The album then closes with Kennedy’s thunderous re-imagining of The Narrow Way Pt II.

Musical chameleon, Martin Kennedy, along with his assembled players in Observers, has created another near-masterpiece with The Age Of The Machine Entity, and continues to create an impressive library of recorded work under many monikers. This one sits right up with the best of his work, and should be well received by fans of thought-provoking progressive music, so-called space rock and high-quality metal music.

The Age Of The Machine Entity is out now on Spectra Records and can be streamed/purchased on the band’s Bandcamp page here.

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