Feeding The Machine

James Murphy

Shrapnel Records, 1999


REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


It's hell being a virtuoso. Just ask James Murphy, one of the most-in-demand guitarists of today's metal genre. In recent months, it's been hard to find a disc that Murphy hasn't contributed his six-string work to.

On his latest solo effort, Feeding The Machine, Murphy assembles some of the genre's bigger and up-and-coming names to help him create the ultimate metal groove. Unfortunately, while some of the work is phenomenal, most of it is merely adequate.

Being a sensational guitarist, one would think that Murphy would keep his six-string work at the forefront of the material, and keep the songs as instrumentals. Instead, Murphy almost treats his own album as a session he was hired for, allowing other people like Chuck Billy (from Testament) and Trent Gardner (Magellan) to take over the spotlight.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Regrettably, this is the first problem with Feeding The Machine. No disrespect is meant towards the vocalists, but they end up stealing the thunder from Murphy on tracks like "No One Can Tell You" and "Visitors". It's not that the tracks are bad, but they don't seem to really give Murphy the room to show his talents.

Problem number two is that much of the material on Feeding The Machine is not as exciting as one would expect. The overall sound of tracks like "Contagion" and "Epoch" don't get the heart rate going and the neck snapping in spasms.

Problem number three: it sometimes seems like Murphy stretches out the songs a little too long, with many tracks clocking in at over six minutes. If the material had been a little more lively, maybe this wouldn't have been as noticeable. But when you're having a hard time getting excited about the album overall, tracks of some significant length seem to stretch on for infinity.

Murphy is still able to pull some solid material out of the fire. "Odyssey" is one track that does have the kind of excitement I had been hoping for throughout the bulk of Feeding The Machine. The album's closer, "In Lingua Mortua," gives Murphy the chance to expand from the electric guitar a bit, something that was sorely lacking on this disc. Yes, I know that Murphy is primarily a heavy metal guitarist, but it would have been interesting to have heard how he could have worked in some acoustic playing into some of the music. (It's been my experience that carefully-placed acoustic guitar can help to create a more sinister mood.)

Murphy has proven time and time again that he is a superb guitarist, and Feeding The Machine should have been his opportunity to display his talents to the utmost. Pity that the material - and reliance on vocalists - doesn't give Murphy that chance.

Rating: C+

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© 1999 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Shrapnel Records, and is used for informational purposes only.