Sound — 9
Machine Head have been generating a lot of hype around this album over the past few months, throwing out video trailers and song samples all over the place. But does it really live up to expectations?
This is a strong album which contains some of Machine Head's best work. It also contains a lot of recycled riffs and a few tracks which would be best left in the practice room. In a similar fashion to their previous effort "Unto the Locust," I feel that this is a good album but by no means a flawless album. Most of Machine Head's previous albums (with the exception of "Supercharger") were "all killer, no filler." I don't feel that this applies to "Bloodstones & Diamonds," but there are generally enough "killer" elements to keep the listener interested.
The production, as usual, is excellent. The bass is almost always audible in the mix and the drums are loud enough but not overpowering. The guitars sound huge and have a real bite to them. The orchestras are also well utilised and make a really positive impact.
01. "Now We Die" - I can see why they chose this song to open the album. I don't think it's an outstanding song, but it does have a good build up and will go down well live. My main gripes with this song are the dull verses and dumb lyrics. The chorus and bridge sections are excellent, and the solo is inventive.
02. "Killers and Kings" - The first song to be released, this has some cool riffs incorporating the almost-patented natural harmonics. I'm not too sure about the shouting "gang" vocals during the chorus though. The solo and backing riffs work well together.
03. "Ghosts Will Haunt My Bones" - This is an awesome song; perhaps one of my favourite Machine Head songs of all time. Jared proves himself to be a great backing vocalist, and Robb uses his vocal range perfectly. They seem to have resurrected the harmonics-riff from "Block," but it works well in this song.
04. "Night of Long Knives" - Another cool song incorporating various tempos and even some old-school blastbeats. The vocals are slightly repetitive, but the riffs more than make up for it. The verses have a punk-vibe to them, which works well. This will definitely be a live track. They could potentially shorten this track by chopping the generic bridge section.
05. "Sail Into the Black" - This song incorporates a lot of different elements including some interesting layered vocals. I really enjoy this track, as I feel it is Machine Head really pushing their boundaries and being creative. I doubt it will be played live as it is fairly slow and downbeat, but it is definitely one of the best tracks on the album.
06. "Eyes of the Dead" - Fantastic track. Heavy riffs, good build-ups and use of clean vocals, nice solos and did I mention heavy riffs?
07. "Beneath the Silt" - This is very different for Machine Head, but it works well. This song has a real Down/southern feel to it and uses what sound like 8-string guitars. A pleasant surprise.
08. "In Comes the Flood" - Another fairly slow song with a great intro incorporating the orchestra once again. The verse sounds like a recycled riff from "Seasons Wither," but it does work well.
09. "Damage Inside" - This is very different for Machine Head. I think this is one of the best and most unique aspects of this album. It is by no means a heavy song, but it reminds me of "The Burning Red" and could well be a live favourite (it is short enough to be interesting without sending anyone to sleep). Truly moving; Robb should be proud of this.
10. "Game Over" - I'm sure lots of people will disagree with me, but this song is pretty bad. It doesn't fit with the rest of the material and reminds me of "Who We Are" from the previous album (which is still my least favourite MH song of all time). Did this make the album just to get at Adam Duce? The album would be stronger without it.
11. "Imaginal Cells" - I really like this track, but again it does feel out of place with the rest of the material. Some interesting riffs play out in the background, but it feels slightly too long.
12. "Take Me Through the Fire" - Very disappointing finish to the album. This is a basic song with dumb lyrics and feels like a cop-out compared to some of the other gems. There is a good riff in the middle of the song incorporating some artificial harmonics, but we are then subjected to a tedious fist-pumping "hey... hey..." riff.
Lyrics — 7
The lyrics on this album are fairly basic and repetitive. There are some sections which are unique but, overall, I prefer the more intelligent and aggressive lyrics of their first two albums. The last two proper songs "Game Over" and "Take Me Through the Fire" contain some of the worst lyrics I've ever heard. Robb has a very distinctive vocal style which he uses to good effect throughout the album. Personally I felt the vocal performance on this album is one of their best (see "Sail Into the Black" and "Damage Inside").
Overall Impression — 8
The album starts off on a good note and develops into an absolute beast. However, the last few songs are a serious disappointment and drag the rest of the material down a notch. Songs to check out are "Ghosts Will Haunt My Bones," "Sail Into the Black," "Eyes of the Dead" and "Damage Inside." Songs to avoid (like the plague) are "Game Over" and "Take Me Through the Fire."
Machine Head should be proud of this album. If only they could reign in the desire to write crowd-pleasing garbage like "Game Over" and "Take Me Through the Fire." I will certainly be listening to this regularly, but skipping a few tracks each time.