Amplexus - Deus Ex Machina (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review


Deus Ex Machina (2007)


There's a reason why many record labels and bands are turning towards alternative business models -- the old ones don't work anymore. In a system full of favors, payola and FM radio, snappy press kits are what caught the eye of the local DJ who had the power to make or break you. Record labels held power, influence and had the ability to create the next big thing. Generally speaking, a young band with talent or the promise thereof would be swept up in the big machine, their indie ideals sold out, their credibility ruined and ultimately, they shun the music industry and return to the original passion: being musicians.

Amplexus are a band out of somehwere in Ohio. In between plentiful chugs and screams, they have plently of twinkly guitar lines, mid-`90s melodic rock vocal harmonies and contrived influences. Musically, they aren't extremely diverse, shocking, aggressive or groundbreaking. They are, however, competent musicians, talented performers and accomplished songwriters as evidenced by their complex (yet still predictable) melody lines.

None of that's a problem. Not my bag, but more power to them. I mean, I could go on about the title of this record and its overuse for when people want to sound smart, or the fact that just about everyone likes Frank Miller and Tim Burton so it's sort of a moot point to cite them as influences for your aggro band.

What really tears it is when I'm sent a press package of a CD to review and it comes in a three-fold cardboard case with a detatchable cardboard sleeve and copies of the press sheet printed on the band's own letterhead. If this wasn't distracting enough, I checked the band's MySpace page to try and find a release date and what I was greeted with instead were banner ads for how to buy ringtones of their songs.

Symptoms of a small band caught up with a major label, right? The only problem is that Amplexus is currently unsigned. All this has been out of the group's own pocket. And while it doesn't impact the music on the CD, I can guarantee it's all very distracting.

Understandably, this review has digressed into more of a rant than anything else, but I can't help but feel like all these outside influences actually affect the band's content. Admittedly, their melodic and metal combination was a surefire commercial sound a few years ago when the market started to flood, but these days it sounds like a relic of a bygone era. The chug-chug breakdowns are perfectly placed, the high-pitched vocals are over-affected for emotion, the screams hit the aggressive lyrics like "go away / you don't belong here / we're better off." None of it sounds like passionate musicians trying to play music. All of it sounds like people scrambling to pick up the dropped reins.

Remember when the drummer from Mötley Crüe started a rap-metal band?

That being said, Amplexus feels like they're wrapped up in what they think they should do instead of what they would really like to do. They've created their own PR circus trying to market themselves as a product more than a group of musicians and in the end, it shows.

I don't get much joy out of writing bad reviews anymore. At some point, members of the band are going to read this review, and it might be hard for them to take. So here's my final word: There's potential; there's talent. Take it and run with it, and get rid of anything that doesn't promote your music as an artform, 'cause nobody's making money in this business anymore anyway.