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Metal/Prog Metal CD Reviews

Machine Head

The Blackening

Review by Greg Olma

This is my first foray into the land of Machine Head. I’ve read about them but have not heard what they are all about. Since I am new to Machine Head, I am unable to compare it to previous releases. The good thing about that is that I am judging this disc on its own merits and not what came before. Having bands like Slayer and Lamb Of God in the Grammys is a good indication that this type of heavy metal is not only alive but growing. Machine Head have been releasing music for more that a decade and it really shows. Outsiders would never understand the musical chops needed to play this type of music. The guys in Machine Head have the ability to play extremely heavy but still retain some melodies that separate them from the pack. I have heard a lot of this extreme metal lately and none of it comes close to The Blackening. Robb Flynn and Phil Demmel play well off each other. The former being the new metal riff king while the latter pulls out some great lead guitar work. Adam Duce and Dave McClain lay down a solid foundation that has got to be one of the tightest rhythm sections in metal today. The songs range from fast heavy thrashers to more traditional metal (sometimes you get both in one song). The guys are also not afraid to make longer tunes. The Blackening is just over an hour long but only has 8 songs, two of which are over 10 minutes long. If you are like me and don’t know what Machine Head are all about, then this is a great one to start with. They have certainly turned me into a fan.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2007 Volume 2 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Clutching the Fists of Dissent
A soft acoustic intro starts off this monster track. It is the longest cut on the CD but don’t fear, there are so many little different parts that it keeps it interesting. As a whole, the CD is not political but this tune is very politically motivated. The singing for the most part is that newer style but thankfully Robb Flynn does not utilize that “cookie monster” style that many others use. His style is more natural even though it is extreme. At about the 7 minute mark, a soft section is added with more of a traditional vocal but as quick as it comes in, it switches into more crunching riffs. It is a brave move to put such a long song as the first one but it is so good that it you don’t even notice the length.
Beautiful Mourning
The beginning is a fast thrasher but it slides into a mid paced heavy cut. The chorus is a softer part that has more of a traditional vocal approach. During the solo, the tune tales on a real old school thrash sound. Even though this is the shortest track, it still clocks in at over 4 ½ minutes.
Aesthetics of Hate
This song is about the guy who wrote an article about Dimebag’s death. He wrote that he deserved to die and that we were idiots for mourning his death. It’s no surprise that Machine Head think differently. There are parts of this track that remind me of Slayer. It might have something to do with Dave McClain’s drumming which is really fast during the Slayer-esque parts. Phil Demmel also adds in a really good guitar solo on this one.
Now I Lay Thee Down
This is the “lightest” track on the album but it is still as heavy as hell. There is a fast part added in the middle just so you don’t forget you are listening to a Machine Head record. It is heavy but very musical at the same time.
Slanderous
A little bit of an early Iron Maiden influence creeps in on the intro for this tune. For the most part it is a mid paced metal tune with some thought provoking lyrics. The main theme is about all the words we use to hurt each other.
Halo
Robb Flynn certainly has a bone to pick with the religious right in America. I wouldn’t say that this as much political as it is about the religious zealots who are trying to change the freedoms of the great USA. Machine Head employ that early Maiden sound again during this latter part of this track. They also use the two vocal styles to great effect making this cut interesting both musically and lyrically.
Wolves
The guitar work is what stands out on this piece. Both guitarists are in sync with one another and what you get are great riffs and lead soloing. There is also some cool machine gun drumming. I have listened to this record many times and each time I hear it, I pick out something new.
A Farewell To Arms
This is the other very political tune on the disc. It deals with the current war and basically the lyrics are against it (no surprise there). Musically, it is also very much like the opening track. Both are over 10 minutes long and both have different parts that make them seem shorter than they really are. I can’t pick out which songs are my favorites (some days it’s this cut) because all of them are solid metal tracks and they work great as a collection.
 
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