Robb Flynn is back. Although “The Blackening”, their previous album, was released in 2007, it seems it was a lifetime ago. Acclaimed by fans and critics, “The Blackening” definitively raise high expectations. But the million points question is: the media can make a new metal god out of Machine Head? Generally speaking, probably yes, not only of Flynn’s band, but out of any band they picking it up. Particularly, Machine Head are a goddamn hell of a band, I still believe, their debut album, “Burn My Eyes”, back in 1994 was one of the strongest and most expressive metal album ever delivered. Meantime Machine Head aimed too much to be popular, to be on the right trend, eventually become “the next Metallica”. Shifting from one subgenre to another, Machine Head miss the essence: they always remains one step behind the trends instead to settle one. And metal is not a popularity contest. Don’t miss understand me, they are a killer band, but eventually too… audience-friendly. And lately media-friendly. Because yes, without media don’t matter who you are, you are nothing.
What Robb Flynn, Adam Duce, Dave McClain and Phil Demmel did cooked this time? The first bad sign: the lack of the classic logo.
01. I Am Hell (Sonata in C#)
I: Sangre Sani (Blood Saint)
II: I Am Hell
III: Ashes to the Sky”
02. Be Still And Know
04. This is the End
05. Darkness Within
06. Pearls Before the Swine
07. Who We Are
“Sangre Sani (Blood Saint)” – the first part of ” I Am Hell (Sonata in C#)” introduce us into the dark and mysterious universe of “Unto The Locust” with an angelic chorus followed by a cutting riff. “I Am Hell” blow in the best manner of Machine Head with killer riffs and furious vocals running on the fast line while the chorus is more melodious balancing between nowadays metalcore-like aromas and kind of good-old fashioned power metal taste, while the closing act, “Ashes to the Sky” is a little bit slower, glowing instrumental construction with a tasty solo by Phil Demmel.
“Be Still And Know” bring back something from the aggression of the classic Machine Head, the verses are powerful groove metal constructions while the chorus have a more smoother heavy metal taste. And generally speaking, this is the essence of the whole new Machine Head recipe: strong groove/nu metal parts merged into more smoother, catchier, melodious choruses balancing between classic heavy and power metal schemes and trendy metalcore, post emo, so-called alternative metal solutions.
“Locust” bring into one Machine Head, Metallica and Megadeth aromas, the formula is quite the same, the song is complex, carefully drafted and extremely intensely delivered, Machine Head managed to be expressive and aggressive simultaneously, but somehow the final result is like Metallica plays some Bullet For My Valentine composition. Still, the Pantera taste-like riffs are Flynn’s specialities and feels so good.
“This Is the End” beginning with a quite “…And Justice For All” era-like Metallica intro. Contorted and with a groovy construction, the over 6 minutes of “This Is the End” remains in the era of complex and technical metal of “…And Justice For All”, but place it in the nowadays sound and adding few modern twists into it.
The acoustic opening “The Darkness Within” lead us into a gloomy world with typical emo-metal, so-called metalcore resonances, the semi-acoustic approach it’s interesting, but still, a cliche and kind of senseless. Eventually the college radios will love this one.
“Pearls Before the Swine” is one of the heaviest and strongest song from the album. Have some killer riffs while the ghost of Metallica still floating in the background.
“Who We Are” start with a children chorus – in kind of “Youth of the Nation” way – to continue with a strong groove metal riff on the verses and culminate into a classic heavy metal chorus and solo. Bizarre mixture of styles, genres and eras. The solo also is cut in two, after a melodious first part with 80’s heavy aromas their switch into speed metal changing the tempo and tone. Not a bad song, actually quite anthematic and powerful, Machine Head knows to put the best elements together to construct killer metal machines.
Listening several times the whole album still have the feeling Machine Head is on the quest for popularity and not identity. Disappointed? Not really. I didn’t expect the revolution from Flynn’s smoking gun, they delivered exactly the album the media and fans expected, they plays great these metal themes, know all the tricks and use all the efficient formulas. It’s almost perfect. Every and each piece of this album was already played previously by somebody, but the samples fits perfectly into this. Don’t make mistake, Machine Head made again a perfect blending, a killer assemblage and its artillery will rip your head off.
They are a great live band, but if it comes down to listening them back home, I stick to “Burn My Eyes”. As for the best modern metal album of the year, I better put my money on “Grave Times” delivered by the British The Defiled.
But well, I’m pretty sure: fans and media will praise this one even more as they did “The Blackening”, so…