Review Summary: What do you get when you blend the groovy riffs of debut album Burn My Eyes and the dazzling leads of 6th album The Blackening? You get 2003's Through The Ashes Of Empires...
2003's Through the Ashes of Empires was a brand new wave of life for metal act Machine Head, after releasing two highly criticized albums in The Burning Red and Supercharger beforehand. Although not as good as their debut, Burn My Eyes, this is easily Machine Head's most emotional album; never before had they managed to portray feelings of hate, pain and anger so well, and nor would they in their next two albums.
An example of the anger that Machine Head put into their music is found straight away in the first track, Imperium. It starts with a quiet and clean chord slide, slowly building up the tension with a layer of clean guitar on top, before exploding into some pounding drums, and then eventually, the verse. Packing in more 'f***s' than a Dutch brothel, this song is a prime example of the hatred and anger Machine Head portrays. It also has some of the best guitar and drum work that Machine Head have ever produced, and in my opinion, is indeed one of the best songs on the album.
Another song which thrives on emotion is Left Unfinished. Robb's lyrics tell of his hatred towards his real parents, and his appreciation towards the parents that raised him. Featuring his most twisted and tortured wails and screams, this song manages to be head-crushingly heavy but deeply emotional at the same time.
To contrast with the anger and hate, we also have the more mellow side of the album (well, one song). Elegy features 'hushed' vocals from Robb Flynn in the verses and a sing-a-long-type-chorus (this style of chorus can also be found on Days Turn Blue To Gray also). There is nothing amazing with this song - no astounding guitar riffs, no pounding drums, no thundering bass - just a calm, almost soothing track. This, however is not a good thing; in my opinion this is the first filler song.
The album continues with another emotional track with In The Presence Of My Enemies, including one of Phil Demmel's finest solos for the band, the sing-along anthem of previously mentioned Days Turn Blue To Gray, and another filler song in Vim (although admittedly the drumming for this song is superb). The eighth track, All Falls Down shows off the slightly 'nu-metal' side to Machine Head, and then we have the third and final skip-able track, Wipe The Tears.
And then we come to the ending track, Descend The Shades Of Night. This song is a little bit of a departure from the usual style of Machine Head, featuring an acoustic guitar opening and verses, with barely any 'shouted' vocals. Even if his singing doesn't sound too great on the ear, it bleeds with emotion. The solo in this song is one of my favourite Machine Head solos in their whole discography, and is easily their most emotional. After the solo comes Robb's melodic vocals again, before launching into the only shouted vocals on the track, screaming "Free me!" The best way to describe this song in one word would be 'epic'.
Through the Ashes of Empires was the album to kick Machine Head back into the frontline of metal, and would later prove to set the stage perfectly for the following album, The Blackening. Although not as good as Burn My Eyes, and by no means a perfect album, it's still excellent, containing some of their best songs and solos. Ultimately, without this album, we wouldn't have Machine Head as we know it today - we would have the hideous, embarrassing and ultimately terrible 'nu-metal side' of Machine Head.
* This album bleeds with emotion
* Some of the best solos they have ever recorded
* Punishing riffs
* Varied tempos and overall mood of songs
* A bit too many filler tracks
* Robb's singing is a little cringey at times
* Left Unfinished
* In The Presence Of My Enemies
* Descend The Shades Of Night