Historical CD for Chris Poland and Prog Metal Librarians
I really like Chris Poland. His work on Megadeth's Peace Sells is superb, IMO tastier than anything shredder Marty Friedman did with the band. Damn the Machine was a project Poland created after his departure from Megadeth, along with his brother Mark on drums, Dave Clemmons on vocals and guitars, and David Randi on bass. The single CD they produced sounds very much like Dream Theater with more jazz, less shredding, and less complex rhythms. Clemmons sounds very much like Labrie with the cheese turned down a bit.
From today's perspective, this disc seems like yet another DT clone. In fact, it is more likely the band influenced DT than the other way around, as DtM opened for DT during the Images and Words tour. The albums came out the same year and Poland was much more experienced on the big stage than any of the members of DT at that point. DT's subsequent album incorporates heavier elements and the riffs definitely have moved in the direction of Poland's, with more open space and syncopation.
There are some great musical ideas on this disc. "On with the Dream" and "Russians" have some interesting clean guitar ideas, showing Poland's jazz influence which he will later pursue to great effect in the trio Ohm:. The riffing is good, fairly typical of prog metal in general, and the lyrics are intelligently political. The guitars sound great, one each hard left and hard right. In metal style, they play in unison for a "big stereo" sound during much of the riffing, but then split to complement each other. Poland's soloing is tasty and frankly quite restrained. To really experience his monster talent, the first Ohm: album is a better starting place.
The biggest problem with the album is lack of memorable melodies and a little too much polish. This is rock and it doesn't seem very risky. I keep waiting for a truly great song to champion the album, and it never comes. ("On with the Dream" comes closest.) While DT is often criticized for being over-the-top, it is exactly those extreme elements that have kept them alive, and why they (deservedly) emerged while this band (with at least equal talent) dissolved. Poland went on to jazz-fusion which suits his playing better than any of his metal projects, and DT went on to lead prog metal through the dark days of the mid 90's through its resurgence now.
This is mainly a Poland collector item. His solo "Return to Metalopolis" is actually better material from the same time period. The first Ohm: album is his best work, but is jazz fusion. I'm a Poland fanatic, and only others like me need this one.