A visual inspection of the Engine Orchestra doesn’t reveal an influence that’s readily apparent in its new album.
Written and recorded this winter with Trent Bell at his Norman studio, “Become My Army” is the first full-length effort from the Oklahoma City band, which is singer/guitarist Garrett Balch, drummer Ross Lewis and bassist Drew Luper.
Even if the trio doesn’t pledge any allegiance to Maynard James Keenan, the gears of Engine’s orchestra are tuned with Tool, particularly through Balch’s aching legato phrasing and his off-kilter upstroke fret board muting. This Engine hums the hardest when the throttle is wide open and the orchestra is almost out of control. The last minute of album closer “Today’s Notice” is a disaster of chords, crashing cymbals and pummeling drums, easily the most charging seconds on the seven-song disc.
“Betelgeuse” is shorter and better formed technically’ a steady and fuzzy number that swaggers with relentless, almost ’70s-inspired riffing. Consistently thick and bottom-heavy are album opener “Oxbow” and “Christians Wear Keds,” two tunes that are well-written, performed and arranged that aren’t as imposing as they probably could be.
Like the winter bite that spawned it, “Become My Army” is dark and icy throughout, an impressive first outing from an Engine build that could break down beautifully with future wrenching.