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Machina 

Revolution, Sept. 29

Now that Amy Lee is the sole remaining original member of Evanescence, perhaps her departed bandmates will get the increased exposure they deserve. Saturday night at the Revolution Room, former Evanescence axeman John LeCompt proved that he's far more than one of the anonymous guys behind the heavy metal diva. His new group, Machina, made its Little Rock debut with an EP release party that rocked relentlessly from start to finish.

Machina is something of a Little Rock supergroup, uniting LeCompt with former Future Leaders of the World vocalist Phil Taylor. Former Evanescence drummer Rocky Gray was originally slated to fill the drum chair, but bowed out in early September to pursue his role as guitarist for the Christian metal outfit Soul Embraced (Gray's skills on guitar are well known to fans of legendary Little Rock metal act Living Sacrifice). Filling his shoes is Justin Carder, another multi-talented Arkansan, who made his name playing drums with Hap-Hazard and LeCompt's Mindrage before founding Chasing the Fall as a frontman. The group also features Thad Ables on bass.

The vibe at the show was something like a homecoming for LeCompt, who was fired from Evanescence via cellphone just last spring. There was an easy familiarity between the musicians and the audience as LeCompt shook hands and took pictures with a few folks. One of the happy side effects of Little Rock not being a “major city” (i.e. a place where big names play every week) is that there's less division between performers and audience. One also gets the sense that Little Rock's stable of talented metal acts is disproportionate to its population, so there's a tightly knit camaraderie among the bands and fans.

Opening the show was Springfield, Mo.'s the Horizon Is After Us, an earnest bunch who ran through a rhythmically clever if otherwise unimpressive set of tunes. Faktion, from Dallas, followed them with some far more explosive material featuring true vocal harmonies (a rarity in live metal acts) and some tricky guitar maneuvers.

But Machina owned the night. Their brand of professional ferocity and unabashed melodicism will surely find them at the top of the charts very soon. They play with tight, brutal expertise and their songs manage to be catchy without drowning in the melodrama that is de rigueur for most post-grunge rock bands. Taylor's vocal style owes much to the late Layne Staley of Alice in Chains, a fact he makes no effort to hide, as the group did plunge headlong into a rousing, spot-on cover of that band's 1992 hit “Would?” during their set.

Musically LeCompt has clearly rebounded from his unceremonious expulsion from one of the world's biggest bands. Whether or not he can climb back to the top of the commercial heap remains to be seen, but if his new crew's maiden voyage is any indication, he can at least look forward to rocking crowds wherever and whenever he chooses to play.

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