Roadkill – Ruled By Machines
Released: November 2nd, 2018
Neil “Steel” Wilson – Vocals
Simon “Zig” Wilson – Guitars
James “Jim” Leon Basser – Guitars
Justin “Ted Teddington” Everett – Bass
Brendan “ Squid” Shelverton – Drums
Tasmania’s own Roadkill are back with their follow up to 2016’s E X T I N C T. This is their second outing with Tasmanian label Melodic Rock Records who are sure to see this album gain some global attention. Again they are under the overseen by the ear of Joe Haley of Psycroptic fame as he takes on the roles of producer and engineer. I am however not too sure how much producing was done as far as restructuring songs and pushing for their best performances. From an engineering perspective, Joe is on point and has made this album sound great.
So let’s take an in-depth track by track look at Ruled by Machines.
First up is ‘Ruled By Machines ‘the title track and first single and video from the album. The song tips its hat to Judas Priest with its ‘Painkiller’ style double kick. Lyrically it does show some growth from E X T I N C T. The lyrical rhyming isn’t as obvious as it has been on previous releases. The layered/twin guitar solo is played well, but tonally the difference between the two guitars just doesn’t work. The rhythm section is tight, but there isn’t a hook to be found, there is nothing that grabs you. In all honesty, I’m a little confused as to why this is the first single/video from the album.
Next up is ‘Last Stop Before Hell’, The intro riff is a little too drawn out and doesn’t deliver the punch that it should when the rhythm section kicks in, the tempo of this song is great. But all too quickly the song becomes a little too familiar, once the verse begins it just looses a little of that momentum. Lyrically this is typical Roadkill with its simplistic rhyming in the verses. ‘Last Stop Before Hell’ starts a trend on this album… the use (or should I say abuse) of the word “Yeah”. Again there really isn’t a hook, but in giving the band credit the gang-style vocals in the chorus lift the song again. The pre-solo section is quite cool and the solo is the best on the album, however, this track becomes monotonous and super repetitive and probably as a whole runs for about a minute too long.
‘Breaking All The Rules’ starts with a heavy T-REX ‘21st Century Boy‘ style riff that picks up speed. But unfortunately, it drags on too long as the verse comes in far too late and loses my interest pretty fast. Again we are met with the trademark Roadkill rhyming in verses which in my opinion is lazy songwriting. The chorus seems to drag and lacks any kind of hook, however, the cool gang-style (think accept ‘Balls to the Wall’) is effective and sounds good. The pre-solo breakdown sounds like a blatant rip off of ‘Face the Day’ by The Angels though. Lyrically it is bland and overall uninspiring the word “Yeah” again makes an appearance as a lack of original lyric filler. ‘Here Comes Trouble’ has a cool opening riff and sounds fresh, but quickly becomes all too familiar. Simple rhyming, repetitive riff …. Sorry next !!! ‘Blood, Sweat and Tears’ is Roadkill’s ode to Australian rock and holds a little bit of potential, but the lyrical content is just trash. Frontman Neil Steel sings about Sex, Drugs and Playing in Bands, which, I’m sorry but is so clichéd, overdone and flimsy. I see this as Roadkill attempting an Airbourne-esque song without the creed.
‘Love At First Bite’ starts with a cool little intro but quickly turns into ‘Hellbound’ (from their previous album E X T I N C T) Part 2, I swear it is the same tempo and structure. I am really struggling with the formula they have on this album. I hear the strong Judas Priest and Scorpions influence on this track, but the performance and engagement just aren’t there. Slowing things down slightly is ‘Looking For Love’ which is probably the most straightforward rock track on the album; it has a commercial sensibility to it and is the stand out track of the album for me. The cowbell during the chorus lifts the song incredibly. Vocally and lyrically it does very little for me though, but the chorus has a little touch of magic. Reworked it could be something good.
Opening with a strong riff and groove Prime Evil hold potential, but again the ‘Hellbound’/’Love At First Bite’ tempo double kick pattern is used in the chorus. The riff is mundane and gets old as hell real fast. ‘Voodoo Woman’ shows another side to the band, wait a minute, hang on sorry, the lame lyrical rhyming is there again, the repetitive riff gets old really fast, but what gets me with this song is the chorus. It is simply horrible and sees Neil trying to sing beyond his limited capabilities. I have heard feral cats fornicate better than he sings in this. Sorry, but I couldn’t listen to this beyond the chorus ….. next.
Starting with guitar noodling that sounds like Stephen Hawking attempting to play Yngwie Malmsteen, ‘Fighting The Demons’ is off to a bad start. It would have been so much better losing the intro and starting with the pounding drums. The verse is sung in a lower register which suits Neil well. Again the addition of cowbell lifts the song’s chorus. The solo doesn’t do much for me and makes the rest of the track hard to listen to. But in saying that there are elements in this I would like to see them explore, but just not with this formula. Next up is the final track ‘Hellbound’, oh shit sorry ‘Breakout’ (my bad), honestly it sounds like ‘Hellbound’ from the last album again, I can pretty much sing the old lyrics over the top on this song. Sorry, but it’s been done before and I’m bored.
Overall what are my thoughts on Ruled by Machines? Is it the self-proclaimed “prepare to be blown away with the even better follow up?” Simply put NO!!! Is it a hard rocking guitar driven opus for fans of AC/DC, LA Guns, Shakra, Motorhead, Krokus, KISS and more… Nope, not hearing it!!!
I think I actually prefer the songs on E X T I N C T, but the engineering on Ruled by Machines is a massive improvement. Songwriting is bland at best, uninspired and only shows growth in a couple of places. Unfortunately for me Ruled By Machines sounds like a high school band’s demo with big budget engineering. The lyrical content hasn’t improved any between albums and is generally what you would expect of a hormonal teen, a bitter old man or a three-year-old. Jim & Zig have different tones and styles to their soloing which works well on one or two songs, but when it is off, its way off. I would like to hear one player do the one solo and spread the parts evenly, perhaps harmony solos could work? Space and feel seem to be lacking.
The thing that gives the songs the same feel is that same-tempo double-kicking on the faster songs, however, the addition to cowbell on this record is a pleasant surprise (every album needs more cowbell, let’s face it). Squid is a solid player but within the confines of Roadkill doesn’t appear to have much freedom to explore or unleash his true potential. While the rhythm section is locked in pretty tight, there seems to be something missing with the pairing, which in part I think is due to the quality of songwriting and direction they are following. Ted sits where he should and is super solid, but ever so safe. Aside from the blatant Predator references on the album’s front cover art, it has all been done before, played before, seen before.
There were rumors of 15-16 tracks having been recorded for Ruled by Machines, one of which is said to be a cover of an AC/DC song, which didn’t make the final cut. These extra tracks will see the light of day according to the band’s Facebook page as bonus tracks or FREE downloads somewhere down the track, eventually. Upon reflection, it would have made an okay EP with a lot of pre-production work and perhaps outside writers working with these ideas. To say I’m disappointed in Ruled by Machines is an understatement; I found it to be uninspiring and a difficult listen at best.
Fun Fact: The word “Yeah” is used One Hundred and Forty-Two times over 44 mins which equates to 3 per minute or 12.9 per song. I could be out by a couple of “yeahs”, but I wasn’t going back to count…
Roadkill – Ruled by Machines tracklisting
1. Ruled By Machines
2. Last Stop Before Hell
3. Breaking All The Rules
4. Here Comes Trouble
5. Blood Sweat & Tears
6. Love At First Bite
7. Looking For Love
8. Prime Evil
9. Voodoo Woman
10. Fighting The Demons