Sound — 7
Firstly, as a huge fan of this band since the days of "Burn My Eyes", I'd like to say that this album is pretty good. Not great, not bad - just good. The production is excellent, as is the musicianship, but the band hasn't quite nailed the emotion or rage-inspiring heights of previous efforts. 01. I Am Hell - One of the better songs on the offering, this sets an awesome pace for the rest of the album. Quite how vocalist Robb Flynn is going to pull off this kind of riffage whilst singing in a live setting is beyond me, but I'm sure he'll pull it off. There's a lot going on here, and it doesn't quite have the cohesiveness or appeal of Clenching The Fists Of Dissent, but it's a good start. 02. Be Still And Know - For me, this song most closely resembles what I expected from Machine Head after "The Blackening". This song is spot on, delivering hooks and memorable vocal patterns aplenty. 03. Locust - The album mix of this track is definitely an improvement on the version previously released as a taster. This track is also pretty damn good - my only real criticism being the cheese-fest chorus vocals. Robb should just be quiet and let that huge riff shine through! 04. This Is The End - This is a mediocre song for me. There are some great riffs, and it's sure to be a winner live, but I don't feel much of a connection with the song. 05. Darkness Within - After listening to this song several times I found myself skipping through until 2.30 (where the song actually takes off). I appreciate the desire to experiment, but for me this really doesn't work. Phil Demmel's lead work is awesome, however, and the song isn't a total loss. 06. Pearls Before The Swine - Hands down this is the best song on the album. My only gripe is that the first riff sounds too upbeat (along with most of this record), but overall this is an intense piece of songwriting. The last riff is an absolute beast as well. 07. Who We Are - Why? Why? WHY?! I cannot believe this even made it onto the record. For me, this song is just about the worst thing the band has done since American High. A children's choir... awful stadium-filling lyrics... endless riffs that make no sense what'soever... Whenever I listen to the album I just skip this track and go back to I Am Hell. Such a shame, considering the band are renowned for excellent album closers (Block, Blood Of The Zodiac, The Burning Red, Descend The Shades Of Night, A Farewell To Arms).
Lyrics — 7
Although Robb Flynn has undoubtedly improved his vocal skills (and the performance here is perhaps his strongest to date), the lyrics on "Unto The Locust" often seem contrived and even childish in places. I cannot help but feel that so many of the lyrics on this album were written purely to appeal to the masses and to sound good in a stadium. Flynn has definitely raised the bar on this album though; sounding more pissed off than ever, and has once again proved that he can indeed sing.
Overall Impression — 7
Ultimately, this album is too short, particularly as I cannot stand the last track. Seven songs in four years? Surely the 'Head can do better than that? There are moments of inspiration to be found on this album for sure, but it falls short of many of their previous efforts. I would put this album on-par with The Burning Red - some great ideas, but the experimental nature and desire to please the masses has once again hindered the band's momentum. I don't feel that Unto The Locust meets the standards of the first two albums, nor the previous two releases, and it's certainly not worthy of the hype it's received. Machine Head are still my favourite band of all time, and I will undoubtedly listen to this album from time to time, but for now I'll just stick to the back catalogue and wait for the next one.