Sound — 2
Machine Head's highly anticipated follow-up to The Blackening is an exercise in regression, if nothing else. Everything they achieved on that album, they have tried to achieve again here. With the faux-Pantera grooves, neoclassical shred, and disjointed, incongruent songs being passed off as progressive, you could easily mistake this for some young band's debut. You can tell they're trying, and there are even some good ideas. In the majority of the songs here there are some good riffs. A good solo, maybe even a good hook. But the overarching theme here is frustration. Listening to the album is frustrating, as it schizophrenically changes from one thing to another, failing to develop any ideas well, and frankly ending up in a mess. The opening 'sonata', "I Am Hell" exemplifies this more than any other song. A confused orchestral instrumental is a clear bid to get these nu metal upstarts recognised by serious metal critics at first, but at second a cynical attempt at a metal anthem. It crescendoes, it goes up and down, it's filled up with meaty riffs, and there's a rather long solo. But unlike Dream Theater, Opeth or any actual progressive metal bands, it's boring, and has no focus. It's like a mashup of Godsmack, Hellyeah, Pantera and film music. The rest of the album continues as such, each song trying to one up the previous one in terms of epicness, length of solo, bounciness of breakdown or shoutiness of vocals. But where The Blackening did these things well, this seems like a rehash. Robb Flynn sounds bored both on vox and guitars, and the majority of the album is unmemorable and a poor testament to their strong discography and live reputation. Ironically, the most memorable moment is the closer 'Who We Are', the worst song Flynn and the gang have put their name to (not discounting their horrendous nu metal days). Robb Flynn's children belt out a hideous chorus and it is reminiscient of a charity single. However it is certainly the most epic song of the album, so in a way Machine Head have acheived their purpose. Although if you want epic pop music with heavy guitars, you can always listen to 30 Seconds to Mars. Doing a track by track is worthless, as they all meander along as one, in disappointing monotone.
Lyrics — 2
If there's one thing on this album worse than the music, it's the lyrics. From the opening line "I AM HELL!" (note the capitals, as Robb Flynn is very angry), you know this is going to be quite an embarassing affair. The majority of the lyrics would appeal to 13 year olds who had just discovered metal, and I imagine will look brilliant on the front of their brand new "Machine Fucking Head" black t-shirts. They shout about locusts, darkness, the apocalypse and other such faux-evil concepts in a very tiresome manner. In the closer they throw in some shit about unity, perhaps trying to vary the mood, but it's either too late or wouldn't work anyway. However on the upside, the lyrics are compliant with the music - very tedious, lacklustre and juvenile.
Overall Impression — 2
Horrible. On 'Unto the Locust' Machine Head effectively made The Blackening part 2, but in this case it was more Weekend At Bernie's 2 than The Godfather 2. Nothing stands out other than in being worse than other tracks, the most positive comment I can think of is 'Pearls Before the Swine' isn't actively offensive, and neither are parts of 'I Am Hell'. Overall, topheavy, but even the top is shit.