Swedish “gaming” metal band Machinae Supremacy started out small, but with 40,000 Facebook likes, they now sell out venues across Europe and Russia.
The genius behind the music lies with the band’s frontman, 36-year-old Robert Stjärnström. His vocal abilities range from dark and serious to emotional and welcoming. Most recently, Machinae fans have been going crazy upon the release of the band’s sixth studio album, Phantom Shadow, which features a gripping opening song titled I Wasn’t Made For the World I Left Behind.
“We made this album for the hardcore fans; we made it a bit less accessible, more experimental and more progressive, which meant we were also prepared to not get very good reviews,” Stjärnström told The Newsroom. “In spite of this, the reviews have been overwhelmingly positive and we can only be grateful that so many people enjoy it. We’re proud and eager to continue the story with our 2016 release.”
The majority of Machinae Supremacy’s songs are based on stories “set in the same universe”, an alternate place that the band believe similar to that of video games, hence the “gaming” genre . The underlying concepts behind Phantom Shadow stem from Stjärnström writing abilities, which he then transcribed into lyrics, spending between two and 20 hours a week making music, and experimenting with chip tunes for new and upcoming material.
“We always try to challenge ourselves and do something more difficult with every release. This time we wanted to try and tell as cohesive a story as possible from the first to the last track,” Stjärnström said. “We had never done a concept album before, so we wanted to try this and see how well we’d do.”
Stjärnström credits his mother, a solo-parent, as doing “one hell of a job” at raising him. Now he is a loving husband and devoted father of two children, Evelyn and Hugo, who he described to The Newsroom as being “beautiful”.
“I love Machinae Supremacy because they are unique and different,” long-time fan Sam from Western Australia told The Newsroom. “They combine chip tunes, power metal and just an overall gaming element, which isn’t something every band out there does. They continue to defy the odds, and it’s there in their music. Robert’s singing is just breath-taking, and runs deep into your soul. The guitars and chip tunes are also pretty powerful in some of their songs.”
The Villian of This Story and Hubnester Rising are just two of the songs featured on Phantom Shadow that are drawing thousands of listeners, most long-time fans and some new. “In Hubnester Rising, one of the supporting characters believes himself to be the only one left as both the main protagonist and many of his friends have perished in the final fight of the story. The God Machine is set to run its course and the building will collapse. He has one choice if he wants to live, and that is to enter the machine and find out what it does and where it leads.”
Phantom Shadow also features several short-length, narrative musical pieces such as Captured (Sara’s Theme) and Redemption Was Never Really My Thing, which aid in the way that the story is told through the music. “They are there to establish and enhance the mood and theme of the story,” Stjärnström said. “To get some dialogue and narration in that really feels like a movie, not just hidden within songs. It teases the grander story while at the same time just being snapshots taken at certain intervals. I think they do a lot to elevate the ambience and overall impression of the story.”
Growing up in Luleå, Sweden, Stjärnström has described the music scene as being pretty bland.
“We have some really great bands in Sweden but when it comes to metal, it seems as if most bands from here are bigger abroad than in Sweden,” he told The Newsroom. “Sweden simply isn’t that interested in metal and harder music like that. And that’s fine, really. When we started out there were a lot of small bands trying to make it big. We were the only band who just threw our songs up online for everyone to download, without being concerned about saving the best tracks for that sure-to-come record deal.”
Machinae Supremacy will continue to awe their fans with their next album being released in 2016. Fans have no doubt that Stjärnström will make new chip tunes and craft new lyrics to create another amazing album with soul-touching vocals, heavy melodic guitars and deep bass lines. – Sarah Batt
Top picture supplied by Robert Stjärnström.