Sound — 9
Machine Head originally formed in 1991, then fast forward to 2013 and you have Robb Flynn firing bassist, Adam Duce, from the band, leaving Robb as the last remaining founding member. He replaced Duce with Jared MacEachern, who had been playing rhythm guitar for the band, Sanctity. The album "Bloodstone & Diamonds" is the band's eighth full-length studio album, and the band began recording in early 2014. This happened just a few short months after the band left Roadrunner Records for Nuclear Blast Records, making this the first record by the band not released on Roadrunner Records. The album's title is taken from lyrics from the opening track, "Now We Die." The album has 12 tracks and clocks in at 1 hour and 12 minutes, which if you do the math equals some slightly longer songs. The lead single from the album, "Killers & Kings," was released in April 2014.
The album opens up with the track, "Now We Die," which actually opens with a string quartet but then comes in with some truly heavy riffing and a pounding and relentless bass and drums. "Killers & Kings," which is the lead single, is also the next track on the album, which opens with some fast riffing has gang vocals in the choruses. "Ghosts Will Haunt My Bones" has a very quirky intro, with an odd melody and triplets on the percussion and actually uses the riffing on the song as the hook, which is always a positive thing for me. "Night of Long Knives" opens up with a voice screaming "You won't see us come" over and over, and uses a lot of melody and tremolo picking on this track. "Sail Into the Black" uses chanting in the opening, which creates a creepy vibe for the song. The song is probably closer to progressive metal than the heavy metal you would normally expect from the band, and immediately my favorite track on the album. "Eyes of the Dead" has a spastic, almost "Flight of the Bumblebee" thing going on with it, and then some almost spoken vocals that work really well with the track. "Beneath the Silt" has a pretty different thing going on with it than most of the rest of the album - almost something I would expect from Mastodon instead of Machine Head. "In Comes the Flood" has an orchestral and choral opening, which slowly builds up to a crescendo of "America, The Beautiful" and then the heaviness comes in with lyrics dealing with the corruption of modern American culture. "Damage Inside" opens up with some clean singing by Robb Flynn, a capella - if you don't count a lot of reverb/delay going on. No instrumentation comes in for almost the first minute and a half, then a guitar comes in, and instrumentation builds up. "Game Over" has an almost hardcore vibe to it, and uses both Robb's vocals and the drums powerfully. "Imaginal Cells" opens up with some sampled audio from different speeches and people speaking from news programs, which ends up being the total lyrics from the song. The album closes out with "Take Me Through the Fire," which is another song where the guitar riffs really act as the hook in the song, and has a pretty unique vocal delivery for the album. It definitely is a strong close for the album.
Lyrics — 9
Robb Flynn is one of the strongest vocalists in modern metal, and he has proven his skill and versatility in the past 2 or 3 albums, especially. His vocal performance on this album is both versatile and well-executed. As a sample of the album lyrics, here are some from the opening track, "Now We Die": "And with this now we die/ Standing at the edge of the world/ Uncertainty calling as the page unfurls/ Fortune, heaven or hell/ Shedding my body of this mortal shell/ Black steel and iron/ A lion heart is forged from these bones/ Fear not, the discontent you hide/ Awake from the slumber and define this time/ No fear to pay the price/ And with this now we die/ Ashes to ashes/ The ocean crashes/ Louder and louder it cries/ Over and over/ The sands wash over/ Facing, embracing the tides/ And with this now we die/ And with this now we die/ Screaming violence into the void/ Is anyone listening or is all destroyed/ Fighting heaven and earth/ Saving your children from their pain and hurt/ Bloodstone and diamonds/ Nothing can break the strength of these stones/ Cast off the shackles of the past/ Live in the moment nothing ever lasts."
Overall Impression — 9
My only complaint is I'm not really fond of Jared MacEachem on bass, but as he is transitioning from rhythm guitar, maybe this will improve over time with the next release. My favorite track from the album is definitely "Sail Into the Black," by a pretty large margin, but I like most every song on the album. Some other standout tracks for me would be "Night of Long Knives," "Beneath the Silt," and "Take Me Through the Fire." This is possibly my favorite album by the band from day one.