Guilt Machine - On This Perfect Day
Mascot Records
Progressive Rock
6 songs (57:33)
Release year: 2009
Mascot Records
Reviewed by Goat

Although it goes under a different name, Guilt Machine is more or less another Ayreon album, when all is said and done. It lacks the openness of its predecessor - guest vocalists are notable by their absence rather than their overbearing numbers - and rather than being fantastical is very personal for Arjen Lucassen, dealing mostly with themes from his recent divorce. Joined by guitarist, manager and ladyfriend Lori Linstruth, drummer Chris Maitland (ex-Porcupine Tree) and vocalist Jasper Steverlinck (Arid) the music Arjen created here is a much laid-back version of Ayreon, taking greater influence from the softer Prog Rock giants like Pink Floyd and Porcupine Tree to result in an album of long, atmospheric songs that take their time to draw the listener in. This is far from catchy, instantaneous stuff, but considering Ayreon's name for the sort of music that you really have to lose yourself in I doubt there will be many complaints.

The more you listen, the more complex things get. I'm as astounded as ever at Arjen's songwriting skills, the Radiohead-esque Leland Street opening sombrely and moving to a laid-back, Jazzy format before bursting into anthemic sing-along glory. Green And Cream is simply beautiful, shifting, almost tribal drumming and lush Opethian soundscapes that simply explode into a proggy heaven. Every so often, strange voices speaking in non-English tongues appear and vanish - in a nice touch, these are recorded messages from fans sent in prior to recording, and they add that extra little otherworldliness to an album which is already quite a trip. The Porcupine Tree-esque Perfection? especially finishes the listen off on a high note, and the clearest emotion you feel when the album is over is an ardent desire to listen to it all again.

Progressive Rock by its very nature is something apart from the usual three minute pop or metal tune, but it's interesting that there's been a revival in its fortunes in recent years as bands from Mastodon to Radiohead uncover the magic of long songs and complex instrumental sections, and so it's rather odd to listen to Guilt Machine and hear shades of everyone from Elbow to Placebo in there. The best way I could sum up, say, opening number Twisted Coil is actually a laid-back Dream Theater jamming with a few modern Indie bands, the distorted guitar riffs present and correct yet completely apart from the vocal hooks - it's at once very similar and completely different to Ayreon, and sure to cause as many disappointed fans as those declaring it further evidence of Lucassen's genius. Personally, I love Ayreon, I'm fully prepared to grant Arjen and his underrated body of work the g-word, and by the time you've listened to On This Perfect Day a few times you'll hail it as another example of complex yet enveloping progressive rock that resonates with emotion. Let's hope Arjen has little difficulty in shutting down the guilt machine and moving on with life - he's at the stage of his career where those in the know expect each album he releases to be wonderful, and On This Perfect Day is no exception.

Killing Songs :
Twisted Coil, Leland Street, Green And Cream, Season Of Denial, Over, Perfection?
Goat quoted 90 / 100
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