Machine Head
The Blackening


3.5
great

Review

by Slaytan USER (16 Reviews)
May 14th, 2007 | 18 replies


Release Date: 2007 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Machine Head's The Blackening proves that number 7 really may be lucky...

2006 was filled with several great releases for the metal community. Lamb of God released Sacrament, an album full of fierce riffs and brutal vocals; Mastodon released Blood Mountain, an album full of progressive riffs, innovative drumming and dual vocals; Tool would release 10,000 Days, an album full of innovation much like Mastodon, combined with complex time signatures and Maynard James’ unique lyrics and voice. The list goes on to include the likes of Dream Theater, Iron Maiden, and Amon Amarth.

As I’m sure you are already aware, the year is now 2007, and many are wondering will this year in music be as kind towards the metal genre? It seems not; heavy metal veterans Annihilator would release what is arguably the worst album of their career in Metal, and evil disco rockers Static-X would release Cannibal, an album loved by half their fan base, and rejected by the remaining half. However it has not been all bad so far; bands like Type O Negative and Big 4 members, Megadeth have released solid heavy albums. Either way, it seemed as though 2007 would be just another average year for the metal community.

But wait, there is a glimpse of hope amongst all the mediocre albums in 2007. That album is Machine Head’s The Blackening. Being hyped by front man Robbie Flynn as “an album full of molten riffs; at least 20 to 30 crushing riffs per song,” it seemed as though a fine album was on its way. For their seventh studio release, Machine Head have stayed true to their roots and made a fine thrash metal album full of spitfire vocals, complex drumming, and heavy guitar riffs. Is it enough to save metal from having just another average year? No. But it’s still a nice try, and certainly above anything you’ll hear coming out of the Bay Area during this day in age.

So on to the review…

Machine Head is…
Robbie Flynn - Vocals, Lead and Rhythm Guitars
Adam Duce - Bass, Backing Vocals
Dave McClain - Drums, Percussion
Phil Demmel- Lead and Rhythm Guitars

The Blackening is arguably the most aggressive album Machine Head have released to date, both musically and lyrically. Songs like ”Slanderous” leave little question as to why Machine Head was banned from MTV.
“I’m a redneck and faggot
The asshole ignoramus
A wetback and a ******
And I raise my middle fingers”

Flynn makes a departure from his introspective lyrics, and writes more on media occurrences and topics more accessible to the average listener, and in comparison to previous Machine Head albums, the lyrics have improved slightly. The Blackening addresses topics from war and revolution, as is the case on ”Clenching the Fists of Decent”, and attacks on the media, in ”Aesthetics of Hate”. Robbie Flynn’s vocal style fit the lyrics nicely, aggression on aggression, however at some points on the album Flynn’s vocals sound very forced. On songs like “Halo” and “Beautiful Mourning“, Flynn tries his hand at singing with a clean voice, and latter returns to his aggressive tone, to which sounds as though it doesn’t come naturally, and Flynn must work to get his vocals out. Flynn’s clean voice is also a plus; he is most certainly no Freddie Mercury, but he does a fine job of singing cleanly over the softer bridges located in some songs. The chorus to songs like ”Halo” sport this clean tone, and suite the song nicely. The only major flaw in the vocals other than some of them being forced, is that some of them are slurred. As a result of Flynn forcing some of the words out, a lot of the lyrics will blend one right after another, making some of the lyrics indistinguishable from one another.

The guitar work on The Blackening is well above average. Flynn and Demmel are well versed with their respective instruments, and it shows through on songs like “Halo” and “Aesthetics of Hate”. Flynn and Demmel trade solos all throughout the album, and manage to create some very interesting guitar melodies and harmonies. The two guitarists very rarely go off and shred, and when they do, leave a very empty sounding rhythm section. Much like fellow thrash/groove metal band Pantera, they rarely record a rhythm guitar part under the solos, and leave the rhythm part to the bass and drums. This in turn, may be the reason they do not shred very often, and use their solos to add melodies to the songs. Their rhythm work is also very well done. The guitar sound is crisp and heavily distorted (not that that should come as a shock), and only manages to add to the aggressive atmosphere that encompasses the album from beginning to end. Flynn and Demmel lock up while riffing for a majority of the album, creating a wall of sound, which could have turned out to be fairly boring, but Machine Head manage to pull it off with quite bit of creativity. In terms of riffs, the only major component that is lacking is the transitions. Many of the songs do sport upwards of 20 riffs as Flynn previously stated, however some of the riffs will change tempo, pace, and key without warning, leaving the listener in a rather puzzled state. Many times, the album will have its listener ready to mosh and throw fists, and then change paces to a slower, more progressive type riff. Although none of the riffs on the album sound overly generic or recycled, the placement of some riffs could have been better. However, for the most part Flynn and Demmel manage to make interesting progressions and riffs.

A standout of the album would have to be drumming and bass lines. Duce’s bass lines are far from what one could call “root lines”, and are constantly moving, much like the guitar riffs. When Flynn and Demmel go off and solo, the bass can be clearly heard, and it manages to fill as much space as it possibly can with intricate rhythms and an aggressive tone, but stills leaves quite a bit to be desired (sound wise). Duce also manages to lay down some nice bass fills in the songs "Slanderous" and ”Halo”. Duce also does the backing vocals on the album, and does a good job; he, much like Flynn does not have the best of voices, but they do manage to create rather nice harmonies. The drumming and percussion work on the album is also a highlight. Dave McClain’s stamina and endurance is something to be taken notice of, he manages to play intricate beats and fast tempos for what is sometimes 11 minutes. His double bass work is also above average; he does not use the double bass to show off his speed, but to accent guitar riffs and add to the songs. His beats are for the most part fairly fast for a majority of the album, but he slows down on songs like ”Slanderous” and “Now I Lay Thee Down” to create a progressive, unorthodox beat. For some listeners his drumming will become slightly repetitive, but the fact that he has the endurance to play beats at such speeds for such times are rather impressive.

Machine Head’s seventh studio album The Blackening is an album full of hard hitting riffs, pounding drums, and aggressive vocals. I’d recommend this album to anyone looking for an above average thrash metal album, or any Machine Head fan in general. The album is by no means the “best metal album ever” (sorry MH fan boys and girls), but it is most certainly an above average album, and better than anything to have come out the Bay Area in the last 10 years, since their debut album in 1994, in my opinion.

Individual Performance:
Robbie Flynn - His lyrics are improved, and his clean voice is decent, but some may not take a liking to his aggressive tone. His guitar playing isn’t up to par with the greats, but it is most certainly impressive and fairly original.

Adam Duce - His bass work is good, but it could have been tracked a bit louder. He goes above and beyond on his rhythm duties, and his backing vocals are spot on when he needs to harmonize with Flynn.

Dave McClain - His endurance and stamina should be commended (get that man a medal!), and his beats are original. To an extent, he is reminiscent of Brann Dailor of Mastodon, in the respect that he doesn’t stick to a simple beat, but plays what will benefit the song the most.

Phil Demmel - As the newest member of Machine Head, some would say that he had something to prove, and I would say he has proved it. His can keep us with Flynn and write interesting riffs and solos.

Track by Track:
Clenching the Fists of Decent - 7/10
Beautiful Mourning - 7/10
Aesthetics of Hate - 9/10
Now I Lay Thee Down - 7/10
Slanderous - 8/10
Halo - 9/10
Wolves - 7/10
A Farewell to Arms - 7/10
Battery *Bonus Track* - 7/10



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user ratings (1462)
Chart.
4
excellent
other reviews of this album
1 of
  • LaughingSkull (3)
    hype hype hype...

    battleinthenorth (4)
    An intense, visceral display of fine musicianship that more than eclipses anything the ban...

    oneeyedlittleman (3.5)
    Though it may be somewhat of a flawed diamond, it has enough gems to make it a worthwhile ...

    Professor (5)
    "Oh, how we love it when a veteran band picks itself off the floor, dusts itself off, and ...

  • Zipzop5565 (2)
    An OK album. If you like long songs that would be much better if they ended at the halfway...

    J2e2c (3)
    Machine Head have matured into more dynamic band, capable of taking the listener through s...

    Headcase4life (5)
    This album contends for the greatest machine head album ever, and certainly one of the bes...

    YHB (4)
    Not quite the new Master Of Puppets, but an excellent reaffirmation of Machine Head's stre...

  • Jorn van Schaïk (3.5)
    ...

    Brain Dead (4)
    Machine Head shed their prevalent "dumb metal" label with The Blackening, an album that sp...

    Mike Stagno EMERITUS (1)
    With their sixth studio effort, Machine Head releases one of the year's most overrated alb...


Comments:Add a Comment 
Slaytan
May 14th 2007


1186 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

For my third review, I thought I'd go back to my roots and do a METAL review...any advice for the future would be great.

Mikesn
Emeritus
May 14th 2007


3709 Comments

Album Rating: 1.0

Review is waaaay better than the album, good job.

mynameischan
Staff Reviewer
May 14th 2007


17920 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

GREWATEST METAL ALUM EVER

Slaytan
May 14th 2007


1186 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

GREWATEST METAL ALUM EVER

HahaThis Message Edited On 06.02.07

Wizard
May 14th 2007


19437 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Nice review. Excellent album!
In your opening paragraph, you state a bunch of metal albums that came out in 2006. Shadows Fall put out Threads of Life in 2007 and Dream Theatre has an upcoming release in June. Just thought I would be a nitpick!

Digging: Nightbringer - Ego Dominus Tuus

jrowa001
May 14th 2007


8750 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

this album is fantastic, may ware off in a while but for now i love it. good review too

Slaytan
May 14th 2007


1186 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

@the_wizard:
Dream Theater did release a CD in 2006. But I'm not really sure why I mentioned Shadows Fall, haha. Thanks though.

samthebassman
June 14th 2007


2164 Comments


Good review, you can stop bitching in your journal now.

Slaytan
June 14th 2007


1186 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

Good review, you can stop bitching in your journal now.

It was intended to be more of a sarcastic journal, but re-reading it again, it doesn't come across that way. Haha.

rattlehead42147
November 30th 2007


1345 Comments


i read your journal just now lol.
but rob and the other guitarist were in Vio-Lence, and from what ive heard of this album they were much better back then.
and 20-30 crushing riffs per song just isn't possible. most metal songs really only have about 10 riffs tops unless we're talking about Crimson from EoS :p

/voted

Slaytan
December 1st 2007


1186 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

and 20-30 crushing riffs per song just isn't possible. most metal songs really only have about 10 riffs tops unless we're talking about Crimson from EoS



/voted

I didn't think so when I heard that either, but there are quite a few riffs in every song. If it's not 20, it's close to it.
Thanks for the vote.


rattlehead42147
December 2nd 2007


1345 Comments


wow. maybe i should check this out then.

botb
December 2nd 2007


9686 Comments


I really really like your individual performance idea. I may incorporate that in my future reviews if that's alright with you.

Slaytan
December 3rd 2007


1186 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

Go for it, glad you like it. I haven't been using it lately, but unless there's really something noteworthy it's not necessary.

Slaytan
December 3rd 2007


1186 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

wow. maybe i should check this out then.

I'd say it's worth at least a listen. In Aesthetics of Hate (posted above), you can hear about 10 or so, and it's one of the simpler songs on the album.
If you just want to hear what you're in for though, listen to Clenching the Fists of Decent. It's 11 minutes long, and from start to finish is a riff/ dueling solo fest.

Mikesn
Emeritus
December 3rd 2007


3709 Comments

Album Rating: 1.0

wow. maybe i should check this out then.
nononono

Slaytan
December 3rd 2007


1186 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

nononono

I don't get how you didn't like this album that much, it's not really groundbreaking, but it's solid. But then again, you are entitled to your opinion. (Also, your review doesn't deserve those negs, it was very well written)

Slaytan
December 3rd 2007


1186 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

Ahhh!!! I hate double posts...This Message Edited On 12.02.07



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