CD, Anticulture, 2007
The solo project of London-based Tom Whiston, Machinochrist is a relative newcomer to the breakcore and jungle music scenes, though one that shows quite a bit of potential for the future. On the other hand, its author is no stranger to the music business, being the sound engineer at the famous club, Slimelight; something that probably is not wholly unrelated to the development of Machinochrist’s sound.
Not one to judge a book by its cover, I couldn’t help but find the artwork to this album strangely appealing with its grim dystopian urban design and variation on the Union Jack. To my delight, the contents of the album matched what the cover hinted, and soon I realized that “Escape From Woolwich Arsenal” is one of those proverbial ‘breaths of fresh air’ that lands on my music-jaded hands from time to time. A skilled hybrid of jungle/breakcore and hardcore with industrial influences and hints of metal, it is the perfect music for illegal parties in an abandoned factory or the ideal soundtrack for a frantic film about urban exploration.
From an apparently idyllic scene, a bleak landscape quickly develops in the opening track, “Fear and Loathing.” The paradoxical layering of furious fast-paced breakbeats and slow-evolving oppressive melodies pretty much sets a recurring theme for “Escape from Woolwich Arsenal.” While at its genesis this album probably was a collection of music for dancefloors, intentionally or not, it goes beyond that and is a very expressive and overall coherent piece of work.
Musically, “Escape From Woolwich Arsenal” follows the tried and tested formula of manic beats interspaced with slower and more melodic segments (and ominous intros) and Tom Whiston seems to be a master at handling and playing around with it, skillfully creating variations and adding subtle touches to it. Consequently, despite the almost constant, relentless aural assault and some repetition, there is never a truly dull moment and the album does not sound monotonous, either as a whole or as individual tracks. Quite the opposite, in fact, as it remains thoroughly engaging from beginning to end, though it would definitely benefit from some more variety.
A few highlights come to mind, from the effective sample use in “Strange Children,” to the pummelling track that is “A Haunting,” where the hardcore elements are more prevalent (but which could benefit from more strength on the bass), and the excellent “Cold Glass Splinters” with the growling metal vocals. “Going Backwards” twists and turns ideas formed with previous tracks by highlighting melodies and keeping frantic beats on the background before ‘business as usual.’ A simple idea perhaps, but executed at the right place in the right time it is something of a treat. With its structure of beats, melodies and string arrangements, “This Is Not An Exit” is also one of the most interesting pieces and, as the closing track it competently brings the album full circle.
As a debut album, “Escape From Woolwich Arsenal” is a very solid piece of work and sets the bar pretty high for subsequent offerings by Machinochrist. Powerful and sincere-sounding, it is bound to appeal to breakcore and hardcore fans, as well as please some industrial music adepts. More importantly, it should also be of interest to those discerning listeners who like powerful music that is also intelligent.
— Miguel de Sousa