Sound — 10
Machine Head are a band that has been part of the Metal scene since roughly from the mid-'90s. Emerging through the era where Pop-Rock had started to spring up, Grunge was dying out, British Indie bands took the world by force and Alternative Rock would eventually come along to take over the Rock scene, Metal pretty much seemed dead in the water. Metallica had suddenly emerged into a world wide phenomenon with their more "radio friendly" studio releases "The Black Album," "Load" and "Reload," Iron Maiden released the fantastic "Fear of the Dark" before Bruce Dickinson decided to go focus more on his solo career thus being replaced by Blaze Bayley who vocalized for the lesser albums "The X Factor" and "Virtual XI" and Black Sabbath stopped releasing studio albums by '95. So with some of the biggest names in Metal history seemingly getting buried alive by fans and critics alike, it was up to bands such as Pantera, Cannibal Corpse, Slayer, Megadeth and, of course, Machine Head to keep Metal alive. Machine Head released their first studio effort back in 1995 entitled "Burn My Eyes." This was an album that seemed like Pantera had tried to get even more ferocious than before whilst on some form of drugs. But yet it was an album that was shoved deep within the ground by the mainstream media. Fortunately for the band, the Metal community spotted this little gem and Machine Head started to gain a following, getting to tour with Slayer on their "Divine Intourvention" Tour. "Burn My Eyes" was an album that was able to be heavy, fast and rather powerful in a way that very few bands had done before hand. With songs such as "Davidian," "Old" and "Blood for Blood," Machine Head proved to people that Metal wasn't going to just stand there and die out just yet. Two years after the release of "Burn My Eyes," the band released their second studio effort entitled "The More Things Change." This again showcased Machine Head's ability to create blisteringly heavy songs and was seen as a leap forward for the band. With the stunning opener "Ten Ton Hammer," fans already knew what was to come from the album. The album stormed through with songs such as "Bay of Pigs," "Down to None" and "Blood of the Zodiac." By the time the band went on to release their third studio album, 1999's "The Burning Red," they already had quite a huge following in the Metal scene and had established a good name for themselves. So when the band released the more riskier venture that was "The Burning Red," fans didn't quite know what to think. Some loved the album and saw it as a way of Machine Head maturing in their sound whereas others were rather disappointed by the bands effort. None the less, the band still managed to release, for the most part, a strong and rather solid album. With a rather pleasing opener "Enter the Phoenix/Desire to Fire," Robb Flynn was able to showcase a more varied, less harsh, style of vocals. The riffs, although not as heavy as those of the previous records, were still solid and the album featured some fan favourites such as "From This Day" and "The Blood, The Sweat, The Tears" whilst still hosting a few lesser appreciated gems such as "Nothing Left," "Exhale the Vile" and "Devil With the Kings Card." By the time the early 2000's arrived, Machine Head had established themselves as quite the force to be reckoned with. Loved or maybe loathed, the band seemed to help maintain what Metal was all about. But when fans found out about the band releasing a fourth studio album, they seemed rather fearful of not knowing what to expect next from the band. As it turned out, Machine Head AGAIN decided to experiment, this time with the latest Metal craze to hit the scene: Nu Metal. "Supercharger," released in 2001, was an album that either drew in new fans or made the faithful ones turn their backs on the band. Considered as the bands worst album by many alike, it is actually quite the under-rated album. Although it is given the tag of "Nu Metal," it isn't something that is in vain of Limp Bizkit. In actual fact, the album still feels rather Machine Head, just with added rapping. Their are some pretty heavy riffs in the album and stuff which shows Robb's vocal range improving yet again. The album begins with the intro track "Declaration" which moves straight into the heaviest song on the album, "Bulldozer." A song that is heavy and features some excellent riffing, some damn fine drums and some rather good vocals, "Bulldozer" is considered as the most faithful Machine Head song on the album. But yet the album boasts a lot of gems such as "White Knuckle Blackout!", "American High" and "Trephination." Ultimately an album that is under-appreciated, "Supercharger" remains as the apparent weak link in Machine Head's back catalogue. Another two years passed and, in 2003, Machine Head dropped news of their new album. With fans feeling sceptical, it came as a relief when it turned out that their fifth studio effort was something that went straight back to the Metal basics. "Through the Ashes of Empires" was considered Machine Head's return to form. An album that was beautifully heavy and rather well crafted, it also started to boast Machine Head's potential. An album that truly excelled musically, the album boasted more precise and strategically placed drumming by Dave McClain, some impressive bass work by Adam Duce, heavy yet beautiful riffs from Robb Flynn and Phil Demmel, excelled vocalization skills from Flynn and even a solo or two. This is also an album that featured one or two "ballads" of sorts. This was something that MH hadn't really explored (although the song "Message in a Bottle" from off "The Burning Red" is a rather soft song) and was something they had done well. "Through the Ashes of Empires" kicked off with the only song that was made into a single, "Imperium." Although the song was a single it was by no means radio-friendly. A song that was well crafted, it was blisteringly quick, aggressive and filled with something that became the staple for Machine Head's next studio effort. "Imperium" featured fast riffs, heavy riffs and even an intro that kept building until the song exploded into riff laden heaven. The drumming in the song was precise, heavy and fast with some fast and yet impressive bass work. The song would later become a staple at Machine Head gigs. "...Empires" never seemed to give in after the opener and is filled with great songs like "Elegy," "Vim" and "Left Unfinished." With the album a great success for the band and with the older fans finally having some faith restored in them, Machine Head seemed at the top of their game. It took four long years for fans to get a new album off Machine Head but, in 2007, Machine Head finally released their sixth studio album, "The Blackening." "The Blackening" took the Metal world by complete surprise. For the most part, Machine Head seemed like a poor mans version of Pantera or Metallica. The four years it took to write the new record truly paid off. With old fans rejoicing and new fans mind blown, "The Blackening" was conceived as a Metal classic. An album that was blisteringly fast, insanely heavy and down right stunning, "The Blackening" showed the Metal world that Thrash Metal can still be done to perfection. Machine Head's answer to Metallica's "Master of Puppets," Slayer's "Reign in Blood," Anthrax's "Among The Living" or Megadeth's "Rust in Piece," "The Blackening" boasted a newly improved vocal performance by Robb featuring pure aggression and stunning cleans, blitzkrieg styled drumming for McClain, fast and impressive bass work from Duce, fast, aggressive and beautiful riffing from Demmel and Flynn and excellent solo duals between Flynn and Demmel. The album kicked off with the impressive "Clenching the Fists of Dissent" which started off slow, builded up and turned into bonafide Thrash Metal that then pulsated and blitzed through "Beautiful Mourning," "Aesthetics of Hate," "Slanderous" and "Halo," it met it's end with the climatic and heavy gem that is 'A Farewell to Arms," which took the same approach as "Clenching the Fist of Dissent" did but slowed itself down. The Special Edition of the album also featured two amazing and faithful cover tracks. The cover of "Hallowed Be Thy Name" by Iron Maiden is faithful to the original yet unique. It also boasted a truly diverse range of vocals. Then the cover of Metallica's "Battery" was truly magnificent. Faithful to the original but with a little added omph! To it, it was a real biter and a cover which would have Machine Head and Metallica fans alike crying tears of joy whilst getting severe whiplash. The album helped propel Machine Head into the spotlight and the album is considered as their finest work to date. It took another four long years for Machine Head to release their follow up to the phenomenal "The Blackening" but did it pay off? The answer is yes. An album that is by far the most diverse thing Machine Head have yet to produce, Machine Head's seventh studio attempt is something of pure Metal beauty. How can you follow up an album like "The Blackening"? The answer is simple. Do what Slayer did with their follow up to "Reign in Blood." If you can't match what you achieved on your previous album, tone down a bit. And that is exactly what appears to have happened with 2011's "Unto the Locust." This album is something that replaces pure speed with something a little more sophomore. Truly outstanding, the album still maintains its Thrash elements from its predecessor only toned down. This album feels more bassy, more fuller. The track listing is as follows: 1. "I Am Hell (Sonata in C#)" - This song very much follows route of "Clenching the Fist of Dissent" from the predecessor album, "The Blackening." A pure bonafide Thrash hit, the song starts off with a beautifully well crafted Sonata that enters into something purely heavy, setting the feel of the album. After the heavy riff dies out, the Thrash takes over and from there in, it is pure magic. Amazing guitar skill, fast and precise drumming, some truly astonishing vocals and rip roaring bass make this song truly amazing. Not to mention a lovely acoustic guitar section near the end of the song, straight after some intense solo work. 2. "Be Still and Know" - Starting off with beautiful guitar work, this song builds itself up until it reaches the fast and rather heavy riffing of the verse. The chorus boasts some fine vocals and some excellent guitar work whilst creating one catchy hook. The solo in the song is something of genius and played underneath it is some fast work from drums, bass and guitar. The song ultimately reaches its end. And what an end it is. 3. "Locust" - Staring off with some great guitar work, this song already seems like it is going to be amazing from the outset. The moment the bass and drums kick in, you already feel like pumping one fist in the air and showing off your Metal horns. This song builds its way up with some beautiful drumming until it reaches a great drum fill from McClain. It shifts into the riff of the chorus with great ease and then automatically shifts into the verse riff with flawless perfection. The riffs in this song are beautiful yet heavy and it features great solo work with excellent bass and drums to accompany a song of pure genius. But what really stands out in this track is Flynn's vocals. Ranging from his rough "growled" style of vocalizing to his soft, harmonic styled cleans, this song shows just how far the band has come. 4. "This Is the End" - A "Thrashterpiece," this song is nothing but unrelenting Thrash Metal. Still showing that speed is a fundamental part of the band, this song provides solid guitar licks, powerful vocals, ferocious drumming and one heck of a build up to the song. 5. "Darkness Within" - The most emotionally driven song on the album, this is Machine Head's answer to Metallica's "Fade to Black." A moving portrait about a rough time for Robb Flynn, this showcases how well the band can contrast between soft acoustic sections and heavy sections. This song is one where it starts off slowly and builds up. It takes half the song to reach the heavier section but it's worth everything because the softer half of the song boasts Machine Head's most incredible lyrical ability. This song is a bonafide classic. 6. "Pearls Before the Swine" - A song that needs so little said on it because of only few words can describe this: Thrash. F**king. Metal. Thrash at its finest. That is all. Oh yeah, and great riffs too. 7. "Who We Are" - This is a song that is pure Thrash with some damn fine lyrics. Starting off with a soft beginning featuring the kids of the bands members, it goes into a thunderous intro before nearly exploding Thrash into your face. The song glides between verse-chorus for the first half of the song until it reaches the solo sequence which is superb and damn impressive. It flawlessly glides back into the verse again before suddenly dying down. As it goes into the final stages of the chorus, the song builds back up into such momentum that you can't help but sing along with heartfelt passion. The song closes with an instrumental section that really sums up the entire album and is enough to bring a tear or two to the eye of every Machine Head fan. SPECIAL EDITION BONUS TRACKS: 8. "The Sentinel" (Judas Priest cover) - It isn't rare for Machine Head to add a cover or two to their albums ("The Blackening" consisted of a Metallica cover and an Iron Maiden cover) and by golly, is this a cover! A fast paced feast of pure Metal, the band truly nails everything a Metal song should be. The song builds and builds with great riffing ability, some perfect solo work and great drumming until it reaches a brilliant solo section and then the song dies down into a perfect interlude where Robb narrates more than sings. The song then picks up and for the remaining time, the song keeps building and building until the final chorus commences and McClain double basses the heck out of the song providing a magnificent pow! To the song. It is rare that critics and Metal fans will dare say a cover is better than the original song but here, it has been said many a time and it is understandable why. 9. "Witch Hunt" (Rush cover) - Some people consider this song as the weakest on the Special Edition version although it is actually a very fantastic cover. More heavier and bone-chilling than the original (although not as magical feeling), Machine Head really know how to go around covering songs. This is a fantastic cover and a job well done. Especially seeming as Rush are a rather difficult band to cover if you transfer them into Metal songs. 10. "Darkness Within" (Acoustic Bonus Track) - The song is that good that Machine Head made two versions of it! This track is a little golden gem. Although not as aggressive compared to the original version, this is still just as powerful. What Machine Head have managed to achieve with this song is that, by simply turning it into acoustic, you feel different emotions towards it. With the original you feel thee depression but yet the depression also turns into to anger and feels like desperation whereas with this version it feels like a continuation from those feelings to the point where the desperation has gone and the depression is all that remains. It makes you feel like all the small pieces of hope have disappeared and that he has finally given up. This is something rather unique. This band is able to capture several emotions that feels like they continue through each version of the same song. It seems like a very fitting end to a brilliant record that lives up to, if not even surpasses its predecessor.
Lyrics — 10
This is an album that easily has to be Machine Head; s greatest as far as lyric writing goes. 01. "I Am Hell (Sonata in C#)" - This is a song about a woman who kills out of love. Her weapon is that of fire and killing sparks her passion. 02. "Be Still and Know" - As Phil Demmel explained: "It's about struggle, and overcoming struggle, and knowing that the light at the end of the tunnel is only there if that light shines inside of you." The song title comes from Psalm 46:10, from both Jewish and Catholic Bibles. 03. "Locust" - "Locust" is a clever song. It is a metaphor about a person who comes into your life, destroys everything you have and leaves you in the aftermath of it all. Much like Locusts will go to a farmers crop, harvest and destroy their crops and fly away, leaving the farmer and his family in the aftermath. 04. "This Is the End" - A song such as this is something that is hard to talk about. Is it about betrayal? Rebellion? Struggling with friends or loved ones? I guess only Machine Head know. However, this song boasts some impressive Flynn vocals with dizzying cleans and some damn amazing "growling" vocals. 05. "Darkness Within" - Lyrically, this is the centerpiece of the album. Not only the greatest lyrics on the album but also probably throughout all of Machine Head's history. The song is about depression and life struggles. Robb uses his past experiences and paints a masterpiece of a song by saying that whilst everyone relies on religion to help them, he uses music to help set him free and that, in a way, music is a religion to him and to the rest of the people who use music to help set them free. Robb's vocals here are at their best and this is a song that will live on as one of the bands greatest. 06. "Pearls Before the Swine" - Again, this is a song hard to explain. Is it a song about greed? Obsession? Or a world gone mad? Either way, it is a song that, if paid close enough attention to, gets you thinking. And, as throughout the whole album, Robb's voice is in perfect harmony with the song. 07. "Who We Are" - This song is surprisingly debunked by most critics as being the weakest song on the normal edition. It apparently somehow does not fit with the rest of the album. Whatever their opinions are of it, the song boasts some amazing lyrics and is a song that works up the fans when played live. The song is about everyone being unique and that people should be proud of who they are. But more so, it is about how Metal fans should come together as a family and stand as one. In this song, Flynn's voice is perfect. It's harsh in the verses, a little less rough in the choruses and, at the end of the song, it is perfect to the slow and rather emotional ending of the song. The lyrics and the vocals on "Unto the Locust" are some of the bands finest to date. This is something that will stand the test of time for all Machine Head fans.
Overall Impression — 10
Amongst the heat of Metal elitism, this album is something that should be enough to shut up even the most hardened Metal fans. With hints of Melodic Metal, Metalcore, Thrash Metal and Heavy Metal, this is an album that truly delivers. This is not an album that has tried to surpass "The Blackening" but merely to just stand side-by-side with it. And that it can proudly do. Because, whatever the opinion of others has been with this band, they have been able to really raise the bar and push their boundaries to whole new extremes. From kick starting their Metal boat with classic albums "Burn My Eyes" and "The More Things Change" to experimenting with their sound with albums "The Burning Red" and "Supercharger" to jumping back onto the Metal boat with "Through the Ashes of Empires" and to finally crafting masterpieces "The Blackening" and "Unto the Locust," this is a band that shows that they are not afraid to produce daring, controversial and down right mind-blowing albums. And even better, they can show us that they can do it all right. "The Blackening" was the "Master of Puppets," the "Rust in Peace," the "Reign in Blood" of the band. "Unto the Locust" is something else entirely however. It is something so unique and special that it really does deserve more than the one listen. This album truly is a masterpiece.