Sound — 10
Before I ever bought this album, Machine Head was just a metal band whose name I'd heard of countless times. Their brutal live reputation lead me to buy this CD last year, and I must say that this is still one of the best musical purchases I'd ever made. The music is everything that I love in metal: fast, thrashy, heartfelt and more shout-screaming vocals, great low-end, and probably some of the best drums I've heard production wise and skill wise. The songwriting is just so dead on amazing. Nowadays, there are so many bands that play too melodically, some play really dirty, and some try to really blend the two well but not successfully. I feel that for a record, not only has Machine Head done this with flying colors, but they've seriously made quite the epic record. 01.Clenching The Fists of Dissent: probably one of the craziest songs I've ever heard in modern metal. The intro starts off with this atmospheric, yet eery Middle Eastern vocal styling (which I guess is being done by Robb Flynn? ) and then into this classical guitar melody fortified by war-like beating snares. My favorite part of the song is definitely the 7-10 track layered crowd chant of "FIGHT! FIGHT!" because it just brought the song to a whole new level of bad ass. And the breakdown at the end is just incredible. 02.Beautiful Mourning: the first riff ensues while there is a hesitant guitar scratching going on until things finally tighten up. By the time Robb goes "f--k YOU ALL," all of Hell breaks loose with the pummeling guitars and blistering double bass. What I really liked the most about this certain song is the guitar melodies on the chorus-like part, "This lifetime in sorrow, God let the angels die... " Robb and Adam's vocals really come together and compliment each other on this part. 03.Aesthetics of Hate: there's only one word that can really describe this song: rage. Right from the fading in drum beat, one could only imagine the chaos that would come shortly after. When it comes to guitar work, Robb and Phil just bring on the thrash and the dirty riffs on this part, while adding in the glorious intricate guitar harmonies and solos. Robb's visceral and barking vocals really shine in this song. 04.Now I Lay Thee Down: the clean eery guitar in the beginning draws the listener in to a bludgeoning 3/4 melodic wall of guitars and drums. The tom work in the verses really bring the eeriness of this song out while the guitars lay low. Robb's vocals, once again, shine through because not only can he scream in pitch like a champ, but he also has very awesome clean singing abilities. This definitely comes out in the chorus, strongly back by soaring melodies from the guitars. The solos, while short, are extremely complimentary to the song. 05.Slanderous: this song is just plain dirty and heavy. From the moment the whole band goes into the first riff, everything is just ridiculously heavy. The breakdown that goes after the first chorus is by far one of my favorites in this album because of the shrill chords inbetween the palm mutes. The solo work, as always, is nothing short of astonishing. 06.Halo: the clean, ambient intro leads into one of the dirtiest and heaviest riffs I've heard on this album. Followed by face melting guitar harmonies and solos and rib-sticking moshy-riffs, this song is nothing short of epic. Not only that, it's extremely well written and free-flowing. The solos in this song are absolutely off the wall as well. 07.Unleash The Wolves: awesome song all around, but it's a little flawed in my opinion. There are some times that it can get a bit repetitive with the part of "unleash The Wolves! Carnage Has No Rules... " The guitar work on here though is absolutely killer. There is a breakdown in this song that is just absolutely tight and in the pocket. And what can I say, Rob's vocals are just that awesome that they push this song to it's heaviest extent! 08.A Farewell To Arms: the most epic song I've heard to date. An undisputed anthemic and melodic masterpiece with clean and then heavy guitar work, awesome drum work, and the best example of Rob's vocal diversity on this album. For a song that's 10:13, people would think that they'd lose interest and attention within five minutes; no freakin' way, this song has you pretty much hooked throughout the whole thing. The song ends in a very Metallica-esque freight train fashion which all the more compliments the song and drives it home.
Lyrics — 10
When it comes to overall lyrical impressions, this has to be Rob Flynn's finest yet. From watching the Making of The Blackening on the website, he stated that there's so much stuff out there in our country and the world that could make someone so angry that why would he just write about heartache like everyone else? His lyrics have always been very dark yet passionate, political and personal; but The Blackening is by far the perfect blend of both those realms, whether it be from the stampeding war anthem of "Clenching The Fists of Dissent" to the dark and eery "Now I Lay Thee Down". Out of all the songs though, my favorite one will have to be "A Farewell To Arms." The lyrics in that song are so deep, dark, and pensive, circulating around the losses experienced from the war, but then ridden with rage and resolve. One line that really caught me was "Who has won when we're all dead" not only because it's deep, but it's sung in such a way that even though it's a small line, it has such emotion and meaning to it. The overall compliance of the lyrics to the songs is just downright perfect, and I could not imagine them in any other way. Rob's singing has been an influence to metal singers all around, especially to incoming thrash metal bands such as Trivium and BFMV. His overall deliverance of the lines is just spot on perfect. Watching him in the studio (on the documentary), he really put forward his best performance in each song. His diverse range from the thrashy, shouting, yet on pitch singing to the soaring, clean vocals comes out perfectly on this record.
Overall Impression — 10
There have been many bands that I've liked and checked out, but neither of them have such a standing in my mind as Machine Head. "The Blackening" won Best Metal Album 2007 from Metal Hammer, what more could you expect? In this record, they've captured the best of what they do, from the writing to capturing the live aspects. For me, this album is a perfect listen, and if anyone stole it I'd buy it again.