Review Summary: Machine Head prove they hadn't used up all their creative juices on their famous debut.
Following up 'Burn My Eyes' was never going to be easy for Machine Head. Their debut album had been nothing short of a bombshell. A metal classic of the 90s in the eyes of many, reaching those standards would be some feat, but they couldn’t live on ‘Burn My Eyes’ for ever.
So the successor had a difficult birth to begin with. After the album of such magnitude that was their debut, with ‘The More Things Change...’ people were wondering what sort of album would come next. Have the band bottled it, cracked under the pressure? Unfortunately, Machine Head - Robb Flynn in particular - almost did just that. An interview with Kerrang! years later revealed he was in turmoil around this period, with drugs and personal demons almost taking him over, and he even says at times he felt like he should quit music altogether.
The album did get released however, and the anger he built up during that time is plain for all to see. He shouts his way through the record, drawing from his damaged childhood to his aggressive now. Whether it's anger at his political leaders “Your law’s the flaw/ Upon this nation/ Your lies despised/ By generations,” in ‘Bay Of Pigs’ or personal offenders “You stabbed me in the back over a sliver” in 'Blistering', Flynn lets loose his feelings giving the album genuine honesty. They may not be the work of the established poet, but they certainly do their job.
Musically, it seems little has happened in the three years since their debut. It’s more of the same, with the heavy pummelling assault of guitars with Flynn barking out from the front. Flynn occasional delivers a splash of clean singing, as is seen mainly during the chorus of ‘Ten Ton Hammer’ and the slower numbers (relatively that is ), ‘Violate’ and ‘Blood Of The Zodiac.’ But even his clean singing here has a rough edge, and if you were to criticise his clean vocals, they could be said to be a bit forced and whiny at times meaning his growl is certainly stronger. But there are no major problems vocally here, just like with ‘Burn My Eyes.’
Like the vocals, the rest of the musicianship is a continuation of what has come before. People may say its unadventurous and playing safe, and this is certainly true, but it’s hard to find many faults even so. In terms of crushing guitars, some of Machine Heads best work is on here, the opening seconds of the first track ‘Ten Ton Hammer’ prove that, with bassist Adam Duce and new drummer Dave McClain hammering away in the background, showing off their talents. There is room left for variety too, with wailing guitar effects, ‘Take My Scars’, ‘The Frontlines’ and changes in pace, ‘Down To None’, ‘Violate’ means things don’t get too repetitive, on what at first could initially look like an album that falls guilty of that. Thrash metal’s roots are prevalent on this album too, with ‘Struck A Nerve’ and ‘Bay Of Pigs’ having a hardcore punk side to them, but both ending with terrific, full-on metal finishes.
This album is unfortunate in the sense that is is often forgotten, whether it be because of the focus the band’s debut got, or it is wrongly lumped with the following two albums which were a disappointment to many. In truth, this album was playing it safe after ‘Burn My Eyes.’ There is little difference between the two, and maybe it would have been nice to see some more new aspects. But the songs themselves are probably on the whole just as good as that on ‘Burn My Eyes,’ its just of course that, they weren’t revolutionary. But not every album has to be a revolution, some can just be a damn good headbang, and ‘The More Things Change...’ desipte how dark it is, is certainly that.
‘Ten Ton Hammer’