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Review: Mechanical Poet - Handmade Essence
Mechanical Poet
Handmade Essence

Label: Aural Music
Year released: 2004
Duration: 21:55
Tracks: 6
Genre: Progressive Metal

Rating: 4/5

Review online: September 12, 2019
Reviewed by: Mjölnir
Readers Rating
Handmade Essence

Rated 4/5 (80%) (3 Votes)

After releasing a little heard and now impossible to find demo, Mechanical Poet released this EP, which would lead to a contract with Aural Music and the release of their masterwork Woodland Prattlers. I got this years ago with a special edition of that album after a freak accident led to the destruction of my original copy, and while it took a while for it to sink in, I can say this is a pretty solid work.

Many bands go for a symphonic approach, but I don't think I've heard a band that approaches it from a cinematic angle as much as Mechanical Poet did. The closest comparison I can make would be to early Nocturnal Rites if they lost their minds, added some prog to their sound, and then did the score for a Tim Burton movie. The opening title track shows off everything this album has to offer: frenetic, folksy orchestration, Lex Plotnikoff's sprightly, quirky guitar work, the robust baritone of then Epidemia singer Max Samosvat, and songwriting that's neither as tight nor as engaging as it could be. "Frozen Nile" is very similar, but with some Middle Eastern flute playing and an airy, open chorus. The real gem on this is the epic "Hermatical Orchard" with its complex time changes and an excellent chorus that's almost worthy of anything on the following album. "Clue for a Scarecrow" is a sweeping ballad that has both the strongest and weakest performance from Samosvat on the album near the end. The remaining songs are short instrumentals, with "Clockwork Shrimp" being interesting but pointless and album closer "Waltzing Skip-Jack" giving Plotnikoff plenty of room to show off his inventive playing. I try not to do track-by-track reviews, but with a sound this varied and eclectic, it's rather difficult not to.

The only real failing of this is that outside of the production job, nothing on here is better or even equal to Woodland Prattlers. The musicianship isn't as impressive, the songwriting not as inventive or focused, and Samosvat sounding more strained and less varied than he would. Still, this serves as a great start for a band with a unique vision, and it's much better than the Alternative Rock oriented swill the band would go on to make. If you want a strange, idiosyncratic album with a cinematic flair and dazzling songwriting, then I'd suggest you get Woodland Prattlers, but if you like that, you can get this too.

Other related information on the site
Review: Woodland Prattlers (reviewed by Bruce Dragonchaser)
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