Nickelback – Feed the Machine
Released: June 16th, 2017
Chad Kroeger – lead vocals, guitar
Ryan Peake – guitar, keyboards, backing vocals
Mike Kroeger – bass guitar
Daniel Adair – drums, backing vocals
Earlier this year, I wrote an article detailing how Nickelback’s new track ‘Feed the Machine’ hinted at the direction their new album was taking, and expressed hope that the rest of the album (of the same name) would live up to FTM’s promise (read here). Now, the album has been out for a while, and we’ve all had time to digest. Does it fulfil everything we wished?
The answer is…well, sorta.
Make no doubt about it, the album contains some of the best tracks they’ve ever released – it’s just that this isn’t a very high bar…at all. It’s like saying “The Chainsmokers’ new song is the most creative in their entire discography!” It’s a meaningless statement when every song they’ve released since ‘Roses‘ has been the exact same song again and again. As far as I know, this album has received very little commercial radio airplay in Australia – sad, unsurprising, and probably a good indication that Nickelback hasn’t released an album with some character for quite sometime.
Feed the Machine opens strong, with the title track, slightly changed from the single release with some industrial beats and a tighter mix. I’ve listened to this track now countless times since its initial release, and its impact then has barely lessened. It’s easily an 8/10 track on its own – with tight, djenty riffs, politically edged lyrics, and a breakdown that would definitely get a pit riled up.
From here, we jump into the second track, ‘Coin For The Ferryman‘, which continues the album’s feel of vaguely redneck-y hard rock. I have no idea what this song’s about (this goes for the rest of the album), but let’s assume it’s something about commuting, who knows. The track’s main riff is sharp, percussion, and Chad’s vocals fitting the mood perfectly. This song grooves – in fact, it’s almost Lamb of God level southern-American groove. It even has another breakdown – drums kicking into a double-time breakbeat…I can almost picture Chad starting up a wall of death as the wailing guitar solo kicks in. This track is good, hard stuff. So far, so good. Unfortunately, this is where the album begins to let us down.
Track 3, ‘Song On Fire‘, and the second single released, starts off with promising ambient tones, before proceeding to turn into a cheesy, painful, ‘emotional’ track that just feels like the worst kind of bro-country imaginable. This song is almost as bad as people pretend Nickelback is. Just endure this 3:51 (or skip it…) and head onto the next track.
‘Must Be Nice‘ comes in for track 4 – while not as tight and driving as ‘Machine’ or ‘Coin’, it’s far better than the previous track, and stands as a decent track. With a driving 2 beat rhythm pulling you through lyrics that I *think* are about Chad calling out the 1% for their luxurious lifestyles and lack of empathy (if so, awesome), it’s a track that you could definitely jam to. Next up is ‘After The Rain‘. It’s pretty bad. It’s not quite ‘Song On Fire’ bad, but it’s definitely weak in comparison. I probably wouldn’t skip it if it came on the radio, it’s got some interesting stuff going on – e.g. the chord changes in the last chorus are sufficiently diverse enough to keep attention. ‘For The River‘ is more back on track, with Chad’s sharp vocals over the top of frenetic guitars providing the track with a high level of energy, and unique vocal processing separating the song from Nickelback’s usual sound. Overall the song fades into the general feel of the album a little – but again, is still a solid track, considering again that THIS IS A NICKELBACK ALBUM. I mean, Jesus Christ.
Track 7, ‘Home‘, is another quieter song, but this one a little more successful than the album’s previous attempts. While the chorus edges a little close to generic bro-country territory again, the verses are moody and produced interestingly. If it were 2008, this song would definitely be all over the commercial airwaves – and I mean that as a compliment. Up next is ‘The Betrayal – Act III‘. Yes, act 3. No, we haven’t heard act one or two yet. I’m just as confused as you (I Googled it, to no avail). Confusing name aside – goddamn, this song chugs. Chad stated in pre-release interviews that this was the heaviest song they’d ever written, and he wasn’t lying. Starting with an acoustic intro that feels right out of mid 70’s stoner prog, it begins thudding along in 6/8, with driving riffs and angry vocals. It carries you along to a Meshuggah-lite breakdown, throwing in four-on-the-floor moments, guitar solos, drum solos – this song is good. It’s very good. It’s good enough to make me forget about the confusing name (also, I’m used to it – *cough* Metropolis *cough*). If someone told me Dimebag Darrell had written these riffs before he tragically passed, I would have believed them in an instant.
The next track, ‘Silent Majority‘, is, once again, a track that’s totally fine. It’s not bad – it’s almost ‘pretty good’ levels. The chorus inches towards anthemic, the verses are tight and groovy, it just feels a little generic, especially in comparison to the album’s highlights. Following this up is ‘Every Time We’re Together‘, another totally bro-country song. I almost expected Chad to start singing about losing his dog and his car. There’s not much else to say here – this is the exact sort of song that could totally become a huge radio hit, or be universally hated, and I’d not be surprised either way. I’m just so far out of its target demographic. Wrapping up the album is ‘The Betrayal – Act I‘. I guess there’s no act 2? Regardless, the track serves as almost an extended intro to Act 3 – acoustic guitar playing with symphonic elements in the background. I sorta feel like I’m playing old school dungeons and dragons while I’m listening, if that makes sense? It’s rad, in a mid 70s fantasy hard rock way. Would Dio be rolling in his grave upon hearing me say that? I think he’d dig the track, to be honest.
Nickelback’s Feed The Machine is actually a pretty good album. Considering Nickelback’s history, it’s actually a GREAT album. If it were anyone else releasing this, I’d give it a 6 – but considering how impressive this effort is – I think it’s a solid 7, if not higher.
Nickelback – Feed the Machine tracklisting;
1. Feed The Machine
2. Coin For The Ferryman
3. Song on Fire
4. Must Be Nice
5. After The Rain
6. For The River
8. The Betrayal (Act III)
9. Silent Majority
10.Every Time We’re Together
11. The Betrayal (Act I)