Review Summary: A great return to form for a band that got lost in the corporate grind.
Machine Head was at what seemed their lowest point at the end of their "Supercharger" tour. The album didn't sell well at all, so Roadrunner cut funding and dropped the band. Lead guitarist Ahrue Luster wanted to go in a more melodic direction and he left. So with no label support or a permanent replacement to Ahrue Luster, how did Machine Head pick themselves up, dust themselves off, and say to hell with mainstream? Well, as a three piece they created "Through The Ashes of Empires."
The band at this point –
Robb Flynn – Lead Guitars/Rhythm Guitars/Vocals
Adam Duce – Bass
Dave McClain – Drums
Let me start off by saying the for the most part the musicianship is vastly improved over the last few releases. Almost every song has a killer solo, or drop to your knees chorus, or pounding ear bursting drums. What Machine Head has done in a nutshell, is amplify the heaviness to 11 while keeping the melodies on 10. So while the heavy parts of this album are heavy, the softer parts are soft enough that fans of “Burning Red” or “Supercharger” can still enjoy the record.
The album itself starts out with the Machine Head classic "Imperium." What a killer song. It has fast parts, slow parts, soft parts, loud parts, heavy parts, melodic parts, and everything in between. This is what a Machine Head song should sound like. This song is enough to buy the album. Let’s see how the rest of the album shaped up.
"Bite The Bullet" starts out with a pounding drum part and then Robb comes in with wah wah guitars. Then the song really gets going with soft verses and heavy chorus. That is the major theme of this album. Like I stated, the heavy parts are heavy, but the soft parts are soft. “Elegy” is a very interesting song with whispered Tool-like verses and a very beautiful climax in the middle. “In The Presence of My Enemies” has an epic opening with slow tribal drums. Then all hell breaks loose and this one is a head banger for sure. “Vim” is another faster paced track that will have any fan of earlier Machine Head grinning for sure. The album ends with “Descend the Shades of Night” which is a breathtaking track. It is softer, for sure, but still is heavy at the same time. I couldn’t think of a better way to end this album.
But with all those great songs, there are a few downers. “All Falls Down” sounds like a B-side off Supercharger. It is heavy, but it is still too Slipknotish for the record. The same goes for “Wipe the Tears.” Another problem I have is Robb’s vocals. They are good, hell maybe even great, but he comes off as trying too hard to sound like he did on earlier records, while still being accessible to fans of Disturbed. It doesn’t work too well. Also his vocals are too high in the mix and therefore you can almost hear him touching the mic. But again, these are modest little annoyances that aren’t album breaking.
So in conclusion, I can’t help but feel this should have been their third album. It does everything for me that a Machine Head record should. It is really heavy, and almost all metal fans would enjoy it, but it still has enough hooks and enough choruses to keep the casual Disturbed, Slipknot, or Korn fan listening. Is it without failure? No. It is a reinvention? No. Is it classic Machine Head? Yes. And that is the angle fans should come towards this record with.
Much better musicianship over the last two records.
Every member shines through.
Robb Flynn tried too hard to sound evil.
The vocals are too high in the mix.
Almost all the songs sound like Machine Head have made them before.