My review of Death Machine’s album Orbit was the first thing I had published on Joyzine in 2020, and the tone of the album echoed the optimism I felt at the start of the new year. Fresh faced and clean-shaven Orbit took me on an off-world journey like the one promised by the blimp’s proclamation in Blade Runner “A new life awaits you in the off-world colonies, the chance to begin again in a golden land of opportunity and adventure”. Eight months on, starved of live-music and sporting a new beard, I have never felt so Earth-bound. If you missed the review then I will let you know that Death Machine are not a dark-metal band screaming into the abyss, they are gentle, cinematic-balladeers who ponder the abyss but look to the stars.
‘Up’ is not taken from Orbit, it’s a brand-new track and, despite the subject matter being writer Jesper Mogensen wrestling with anxiety, the tone of the song resonates with the melancholy we have all experienced in 2020: “Many nights I’ve walked in circles, letters from a worn-out circuit. I’m alive, can’t find the door, I know I need more”. Like many of the tracks on Orbit it’s a beautiful fusion of movement and stillness, like looking out of the window on a train journey and the foreground is moving fast but things in the distance are moving slowly (apparently called ‘relative velocity’). There are splashes of delicate colour from the keyboard swells which add marshmallow softness underneath Jesper’s plaintive voice which is woven throughout the track and as with all Death Machine tracks, the arrangement has the feel of a journey through space on a sailing ship with harmonies, keyboard washes (Simon Christensen), rolling bass lines (Morten Ørberg), a solid drum pattern with perfectly placed flourishes (Sven Busck Andersen) and Jesper’s guitar embellishment all acting as a solar wind to fill the sails.
Orbit is still a contender for one of my albums of 2020 so if you like ‘Up’ the I would highly recommend boarding the good ship Death Machine.
Review by Paul F Cook