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…
- Vocals, Lead and Rhythm Guitars
- Bass, Backing Vocals
- Drums, Percussion
- Lead and Rhythm Guitars
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”
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
are well versed with their respective instruments, and it shows through on songs like “Halo”
and “Aesthetics of Hate”
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
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
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
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"
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.
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.
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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
Aesthetics of Hate
Now I Lay Thee Down
A Farewell to Arms
Battery *Bonus Track*