Sound — 9
A couple of years ago, I was sitting in history class with my friends and goofing around. One of my friends turned on his iPod and cued up a song. After listening to about 5 minutes, I asked him "what song is and who the f--k is this band?" When he told me the song was called "Halo" and was a band called Machine Head, I immediately looked up Machine Head on Youtube while in my study hall period. I began listening to their album "The Blackening", and my mind was blown. After hearing all of that AMAZING album, I immediately placed Machine Head on a bada-s metal pedestal in my blown mind. Fast foward a couple of years, when I heard news that we were getting a NEW MACHINE F--KING HEAD ALBUM in September of 2011, I was literally panting and drooling waiting for it to come out. When I heard the new song "Locust" that was previously released as a promotional song, I was EVEN more excited. Now, last week, Machine F--king Head finally dropped their new album "Unto The Locust" (which I will simply refer to as Locust from now on) on the masses. I know most people believe that "The Blackening" was MFH's masterpiece (myself included), but "Unto The Locust" is very, very close to taking that title. The album is (slightly) lighter than "The Blackening" due mainly to the fact that MH decided to go back to some of their early influences, and The Blackening was such an angry album lyrically that it HAD to be that crushingly heavy. That being said, "UTL" is still very heavy. Like "The Blackening"'s opening track "Clenching The Fists Of Dissent", "Locust"'s opening track "I Am Hell" has a vocal intro that sounds operatic and slightly Middle East-ish. That intro is the first part of "I Am Hell", "Sangre Sani". The second part "I Am Hell" kicks into a heavy, plodding riff which has frontman Robb Flynn's decent attempt at death-metal vocals. The final part of IAH is Ashes To The Sky, which is mind-numbingly fast (betcha you can't play this Dragonforce) and of course features blinding guitar shredding. From that 8 minute long aural assault, we move on to "Be Still & Know". This sounds like trademark MH, with an amazing riff and blistering guitar leads with Robb going back to his trademark roar mixed with melodic singing. After 5 plus minutes of that tasty ditty (it's actually the SHORTEST song on "UTL"), our ears are greeted in the title track by a clean guitar part that sounds like it could've come from Metallica. However, in MH fashion, the intro builds until Dave McClain comes in and commits felony battery on his drum kit (in an awesome way) and we get a melodic guitar bit (that is the chorus guitar part) that lasts about 20 seconds until we are first exposed to THAT RIFF. I emphasize it b/c it's probably the BEST guitar riff you will hear all year. It's a repeating part that I cannot picture a human being playing, yet somehow Flynn and his guitar cohort Phil Demmel pull off. The vocals sound a tad different than usual, with Robb adapting a layered gruff singing style that lies somewhere between his roar and clean singing. After 4 minutes or so, we get the solos. The first part sounds a tiny bit like James Hetfield's solo in "Master Of Puppets", but I won't complain as I've heard many solos copy that "Master Of Puppets" bit. Towards the end, we get a couple of building-leveling breakdowns. It's a masterpiece title track, simply said. Track 4 "This Is The End" isn't the best track on the album, but it's still great. And now, say hello to Track 5, "Darkness Within". The first couple of minutes of this song are Robb and an acoustic guitar, with an electric guitar added after the first chorus. Robb sings cleanly throughout "Darkness Within", which is a refreshing change of pace on "UTL". "Pearls Before The Swine" is a track that sounds like a leftover from "The Blackening" that fits in perfectly on "UTL". Finally, in the last track "Who We Are", a children's choir leads us into the epic closer we all expected. Robb's singing is again semi-melodic. Overall, "Unto The Locust" is INSANELY good.
Lyrics — 8
Robb Flynn. Ah, who doesn't have mad respect for this man? He writes mostly awesome lyrics, and can sing with the best of them. His heavy voice, which is basically a hardcore roar, is amazing because I can actually understand what the hell he is saying. On "UTL", he sings about a female arsonist in "I Am Hell", uses locusts as a metaphor for bad people in the title track, and belts out several inspirtational rallying cries in tunes such as "Be Still & Know" and "Who We Are". "Pearls Before The Swine" is a rebuke of religion, I think. "Darkness Within" however gets the best lyrics OF THE YEAR award. The lyrics chronicles Robb's life struggles and how music has been his rock whereas other people rely on religion. Overall, "UTL"'s lyrics don't match the awesomeness of the lyrics on "The Blackening", but they're still better than 95% of what other metal bands will give you.
Overall Impression — 9
"Unto The Locust" only compares to Machine Head themselves. After those nu-metal album disasters, Machine Head has roared right to where they belong, as kings of the heavy metal hill. "Unto The Locust" is the second-best album MFH has produced IMO right below "The Blackening". The most impressive songs on "UTL" is every song, because all seven epics have several elements that mindf--k my ears in an awesome way. I love everything except for one minor gripe. I hate that there are only 7 tracks. I wish MFH had given us two or three more songs. I know every song on "UTL" is 5 minutes or longer but "UTL" feels short to me. If it were lost/stolen, I would shake the hand of the genius that stole it and if it were lost, I would go to the ends of the Earth to get a new copy. Simply put, Machine Head, along with Lamb Of God and Mastodon, will always get positive reviews from me because I know even before hearing their new albums that it will always be great. Machine Head, along with the aforementioned bands, are the instruction manual for how heavy metal SHOULD be written and played. I believe that Machine Head has replaced Metallica as the best thrash metal band because let's be honest, Metallica's last few releases have STUNK. In fact, Machine Head should call their next album "Memo To Metallica: How To Still Create An Amazing Heavy Metal Album".