Machine Head
Unto the Locust


2.0
poor

Review

by Benjamino Jackanory USER (56 Reviews)
February 22nd, 2013 | 17 replies


Release Date: 2011 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Unto The Locust tries and tries and tries, and somehow still manages to tread water for a whole album

The Blackening is regarded as one of the greatest heavy metal releases of the 2000s, and a great many would not struggle to see why. Whilst it was most definitely not flawless, the album struck a caustic balance between heaviness and musicality in which it seemed the two would eventually destroy each other. What ultimately happened was a marriage of melody, anger and poignant instrumentality that very few will question as an outstanding entry to the genre, which also stood head and shoulders over their other releases. Producing a follow-up was always going to be a challenge, but many (not least the band’s rabid fanbase) held out hope that the band would be able to make something that equalled, if not surpassed, The Blackening. But now in the cold light of after-release clarity, it can be plainly seen that Unto The Locust is a wet firecracker; an unsatisfying and wispy fart in lieu of a promised glorious explosion.

Retrospective is a funny thing. When a band produces a critically acclaimed album, all eyes linger on them for what they’re going to make next. When the new release drops, there’s always a chorus of decidedly too eager (considering they didn’t seem to exist until Machine Head required a crusader or 3000) voices that pipe up and claim the band has bettered their previous effort. Yes, rejoice, for the saviours of modern metal have returned! However, wait a couple of weeks, and things will go suspiciously quiet, and all of the post-release affectionate sentiments in the world can’t cover the embarrassment of new-found irrelevancy. The unfortunate sentiment, ‘the customer is always right’ has resulted in some of the worst musical atrocities in history being released and making unfathomable amounts of money, but the problem with Unto The Locust, regardless of the initial reaction, is that it’s too self-aware. For the whole length of its running time, it feels like it’s teetering on the edge of Blackening-esque memorability, but it never gets there. With an outstretched hand it grasps for the status it so desperately aspires to, but doesn’t seem to realize it hasn’t progressed an inch during the whole album.

I Am Hell (Sonata In C#) starts off with a mantra-like chanting and soon advances into a simple riff and the dulcet tones of Flynn as he declares the song’s title with admirable bile. So far, so Machine Head. As soon as this fairly enjoyable section is over, however, the song segues into an awkward and uninventive riff accompanied by Flynn attempting to sing at the same tempo. It feels chaotic, as if the song itself were unfinished. The chorus, which Machine Head are usually very competent at crafting for live occasions, feels shoehorned in and lacks the punch and underlying sense of reverence found on earlier releases (‘Halo’, ‘Davidian’, even ‘White Knuckle Blackout’). Second track ‘Be Still And Know’ is the strongest on the album and manages to illustrate how a simple riff can be used to create a grandiose effect. The chorus and bridge section are pleasantly ambiguous, straddling comfortably between hope and hopelessness, both in tone and lyrical theme. Despite it being the strongest song on this release however, it doesn’t come close to matching the quality of songwriting found anywhere on The Blackening.

Songs such as ‘Locust’, ‘Darkness Within’ and ‘Pearls Before The Swine’ are pure fodder, both in their writing and lyricism, with lead single ‘Locust’ being a notable example of this. All of the riffs feel like leftovers that didn’t make the cut on The Blackening, and the repeated interlude of Flynn screaming ‘suffer unto the locust!’ is clearly intended to make teeth rattle and bones vibrate. Instead all it does is feel stale and uninspired. It is on such songs as these where Machine Head really start to sound like a poorly drawn caricature of themselves, with all the meaningful religious and political themes eschewed to make way for faux-philosophical meanderings. A perfectly respectable decision in theory, but in practice, the end result is one of indifference and almost total irrelevance. ‘Who We Are’ is a woefully average sing-along exercise that is somehow utterly ridiculous but quite listenable, making use of a children’s choir to sing the intro, and predictably descending into an anthemic, insipid crowd-howler. ‘This Is The End’ probably demonstrates the thrash sensibilities of the band best, with a crushing drum beat, impressive solo, and nice usage of clean vocals. The song itself, however, is repetitive and only memorable for this reason.

Across the 50-minute runtime, there is little on display that feels in keeping with what listeners know Machine Head is capable of, and in terms of their previous album, there’s nothing on here that can hold a candle to it. It’s a 50-minute exercise into what could have been; at once on the verge of the strikingly memorable sound the band at one point tailored, but at the same time not making any sort of advancement towards it. With songs of this length, a band as reputable as this, and even their lead singer producing, that’s pretty poor.



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user ratings (735)
Chart.
3.8
excellent
other reviews of this album
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Comments:Add a Comment 
johnnydeking29
February 22nd 2013


9231 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I disagree; this slays the Blackening easily
Review came across as somewhat pretentious, didn't pos or neg

Digging: Kayo Dot - Coffins On Io

PumpBoffBag
February 22nd 2013


327 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

I know a lot of people prefer this, I can't see why myself.
sorry about the review coming across pretentious, not my intention at all. Thanks for not neging for that though

XingKing
February 22nd 2013


10849 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I think this album is only slightly less impressive than the Blackening and a worthy follow up

RevenantBlue
February 22nd 2013


136 Comments


A couple of grammar and spelling issues: "With an outstretched hand it grasps for the status it so desperately aspires to, but doesn’t seem to release it hasn’t progressed an inch during the whole album."

I think you meant "realize" instead of "release."


"For the whole length of its’ running time, it feels like it’s teetering on the edge of Blackening-esque memorability..."

The first "its" shouldn't have an apostrophe.


Other than that, it's a pretty good review. A little stuffy, but pretty good.

PumpBoffBag
February 22nd 2013


327 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

corrected, thanks for pointing those out.

I'll work on the 'stuffy' thing too, didn't realize this came across so pompous

JS19
February 22nd 2013


4326 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Pos'd - and I definitely agree with this as well.

Digging: Gates - Bloom and Breathe

BigPleb
February 22nd 2013


37038 Comments


Pos, great review.

I have to say I agree with the points made, for the most part.

Digging: Kayo Dot - Coffins on Io

DirtBagDan
February 22nd 2013


582 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Good review of a good album.

johnnydeking29
February 22nd 2013


9231 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

sorry about the review coming across pretentious, not my intention at all. Thanks for not neging for that though

Well, maybe I put it wrong; in my opinion you generalized too much and statements like "Retrospective is a funny thing." felt kinda awkward. However, having read it again, I can see that I was pretty harsh; the review was clearly well thought-out and articulate, but the first two paragraphs felt kinda stiff and slightly aimless. Being a bit more concise in your future intros defo wouldn't hurt, otherwise good job

ViperAces
February 22nd 2013


12466 Comments


didnt really like it too

YUJOS
February 22nd 2013


940 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0 | Sound Off

Good review man. Album was a big dissapointment.

Digging: Blut Aus Nord - Memoria Vetusta III - Saturnian Poetry

NeoSpaz
February 22nd 2013


4519 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Nice review, I dug this a lot. but hey, we all have opinions.

PsychicChris
February 22nd 2013


217 Comments


I could never get into The Blackening but I haven't exactly bothered with this either.

NeoSpaz
February 23rd 2013


4519 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

bother with this.

PumpBoffBag
February 24th 2013


327 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

@johnnydeking29 ahh right, I see what you mean. I felt that an album as important as this within the genre merited a little backstory and context, particularly since for the rest of the review I intended to slam the album to fuck. I guess it's just the way I chose to write it, but cheers for the critique, I'll watch that in future

and thanks for the other feedback guys, much appreciated


DirtBagDan
February 24th 2013


582 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Yeah this is a great album and a good review.

LaughingSkull
April 18th 2014


221 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

lol



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