Machine Head
The Blackening


5.0
classic

Review

by Professor USER (5 Reviews)
April 28th, 2010 | 34 replies | 7,108 views


Release Date: 2007 | Tracklist

Review Summary: "Oh, how we love it when a veteran band picks itself off the floor, dusts itself off, and reminds us just how relevant it once was, and still can be".

8 of 8 thought this review was well written

Robb Flynn has always vowed to create a different album each time out over his long career, but over the years his ambition nearly cost him his credibility. After forming the likeable Bay Area thrash band Vio-lence in the mid-1980s during his teens, Flynn hit pay dirt in 1994 with his new band Machine Head, whose debut album couldn’t have arrived at a better time. Along with Pantera’s Vulgar Display of Power and Sepultura’s Chaos A.D., Burn My Eyes helped herald the post-thrash movement, eschewing blinding speed in favor of relentless midtempo grooves, opting for churning chords instead of tightly-wound riffs, and that downshift in pace went over huge the metal crowd. At the same time, nü-metal progenitors Korn and industrial metalers Fear Factory were making serious waves, and Machine Head’s subsequent albums started to gradually follow that trend instead of setting new ones, resulting in the highly polarizing 1999 disc, The Burning Red. Loaded with rapping, downturned guitars and bass, turgid beats, angst-ridden lyrics, not to mention an abysmal cover of the Police’s “Message in a Bottle”, this band, who five years earlier was considered cutting edge, had shamelessly lumped itself in with the Limp Bizkits and Papa Roaches of the world. While the album sold well as the fad peaked, it was the subject of great scorn from metal purists. Flynn and his mates carried on, ultimately releasing the respectable Through the Ashes of Empires in 2003, but by then, to many scenesters, Machine Head was a complete nonentity.

But oh, how we love it when a veteran band picks itself off the floor, dusts itself off, and reminds us just how relevant it once was, and still can be. More than three years in the making, Machine Head’s sixth studio album is not only a bold reaffirmation of the band’s power, but is also another daring reinvention of its sound. This time, though, they succeed on all levels, as Flynn draws from every facet of his two-decade musical career to create a stunner of a comeback, easily Machine Head’s best album since Burn My Eyes, and what might come to be regarded as their defining moment.

Comprised of eight tracks that clock in at just over an hour, the shift in style becomes obvious in the song lengths alone. Traditionally a band specializing in short, concise tracks, “epic” is now the operative word for Machine Head, as four songs exceed nine minutes, each one labyrinthine in structure, but never arbitrarily so. While some bands who brand themselves as being “progressive” tend to toss in so many tempo changes and chord structures that they can’t see the forest for the trees, the experienced Flynn and his three bandmates know that becoming more complex doesn’t have to come at the expense of the song itself, so for all the twists and turns, the evolution of each track sounds natural.

Nowhere is the band’s newfound blend of adventurousness and discipline more evident than on the two ten-minute songs that bookend the album. Aimed straight at the Presidency and its perpetual war on terror, both “Clenching the Fists of Dissent” and “A Farewell to Arms” run the gamut, effortlessly bridging ‘80s thrash and ‘90s groove, forming a pulverizing modern hybrid. “Clenching the Fists of Dissent” is a triumph, starting with its dignified acoustic overture (shades of 1980s-era Metallica), and exploding out of the gate with a full-on thrash assault, as Flynn hollers, “Use your rage / It is a weapon / We now must engage”. Flynn and former Vio-lence cohort Phil Demmel shred away during furious dual solo breaks, the band shifts into a punishing breakdown reminiscent of Roots era Sepultura, everything building to the fist-pumping, repeated refrain of, “Fight!” It’s all about dynamics here: the guitars veer from crunching, to mellow, to searing, while Flynn alternates between authoritative barks to superb melodic vocal hooks.

“A Farewell to Arms” is more somber, riffs taking a backseat to melodies, both instrumental and vocal. It’s a stellar piece of songwriting, the timing of each movement impeccable, the music dignified and dramatic, the melodies at times gorgeous, yet with just enough bombast to get the blood pumping. Flynn’s lyrics have always been on the blunt side (in the case of The Blackening, though, the blunt approach fits the music), but he manages to wax poetic here, musing during the song’s thrilling climax, “War hawks and senators / They sit so tight, so trite / Never their sons will know / What it’s like to fight / But soldiers are dead / And children have bled / And the silence is numb / What have we become?”

Elsewhere, “Beautiful Mourning” is simpler in structure, but in cases like this, the simple approach is appropriate: kicking off with Flynn hollering, “*** you all!”, the song centers around a massive stomper of a central riff, accented by the addition of skronky guitar squeals and melancholic melodies, the entire package hearkening back to the band’s mid-‘90s heyday. Flynn spews vitriol on the furious “Aesthetics of Hate”, aimed specifically toward conservative writer William Grim, who wrote a slanderous article about the great “Dimebag” Darrell in the wake of his 2004 murder (“You tried to spit in the eye / Of a dead man’s face / Attacked the ways of a man / Not yet in his grave”), while the bold “Slanderous” inventively lampoons bigotry in all forms over a crushing arrangement (including a killer old-school gallop) that would make Dimebag proud. “Halo”, meanwhile, channels the late ‘90s nü-metal sound and infuses it with some daring metalcore (by way of Swedish death metal) touches, including one of the best melodic choruses the band has ever written.

Other American bands like Trivium and Shadows Fall have bravely attempted to combine relentless riffery with listener-friendly melodies, yielding pleasing results, but The Blackening raises the bar considerably. After more than 20 years of musical experimentation, Flynn, who was 39 two years ago, had finally fully realized his potential on this album, sounding just as ambitious as he’s always been, but this time displaying the focus of a savvy veteran. Machine Head has never sounded better and this album is their own offering to the catalogue of heavy metal masterpieces. Classic.


user ratings (1456)
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 ...

    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)
    ...

  • Slaytan (3.5)
    Machine Head's The Blackening proves that number 7 really may be lucky......

    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 
Professor
April 28th 2010



15 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

First review and a big "hello, glad to meet you" to all Sputnik users.

Yeahtoast
April 28th 2010



2041 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Hell to you too professor! Excellent review of a classic album.

Professor
April 28th 2010



15 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Cheers Ytoast! Classic indeed.

Professor
April 28th 2010



15 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

I think I'll do a Rush or Opeth album next

AliW1993
Contributing Reviewer
April 28th 2010



7326 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

good review, good album, but not a 5 imo

BigHans
April 28th 2010



26455 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

The riff in Beautiful Morning burns houses down. Great first review.

maidenpmcc
April 28th 2010



1424 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Good review professor and welcome to Sputnik. I wouldn't consider this a class album but a 3.5, it's quite overrated but that's my opinion.

If your considering reviewing an Opeth album, which one would it be?

Zipzop5565
April 28th 2010



402 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

The songs are too long

BigHans
April 28th 2010



26455 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Do Watershed. It only has about 15 reviews already.

taylormemer
April 28th 2010



4916 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Please don't review Opeth.

Yotimi
April 28th 2010



6472 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Good 1st review. Still like Burn My Eyes but not so much anything else they've done. (Although this is a million times better than the Burning Red)

Digging: Millie and Andrea - Drop The Vowels

Emim
April 28th 2010



26618 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Really really good review, especially for a first.

I love this album, it gets waaaaayy too much hate around here.

Dryden
April 28th 2010



12928 Comments


not a 5

Greggers
April 28th 2010



2375 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Good first review

LepreCon
April 28th 2010



3922 Comments


Good first review, you argued your points well and if I hadn't already listened to this you would have definitely made me want to. Not a 5 but a good album nonetheless

Digging: Overkill - White Devil Armory

FadeToBlack
April 28th 2010



10914 Comments


not a 5 [2]

Greggers
April 28th 2010



2375 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

not a 5 [3]

MoosechriS
April 28th 2010



4951 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

awesome review dude of a classic album

IGotShotInTheFace
April 28th 2010



444 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Such a good review, such a good album, might up this to a 5 as soon as I hear it again a couple more times.

IGotShotInTheFace
April 28th 2010



444 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Listening to this now because of you XD

AESTHETICS OF HATE!!! I HOPE YOU BURN IN HELLLLLLLLL!!!!



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