Review Summary: From strength to strength
It is hard to come up with a worthy successor to two critically and publicly acclaimed albums, especially for a band like Machine Head who is already at a late stage in its musical chronology. Perhaps too many original ideas have already been used. Perhaps the respective ages of the band members don't allow for the creative energy needed to write exciting music. But, against the odds, Machine Head deliver again.
What's been interesting about Machine Head lately, and this album in particular, is that, in contrast to most other of the more popular American metal bands who are highly specialised in a certain metal subgenre or movement, Machine Head take a more holistic and universal approach to songs. Bloodstone & Diamonds has allusions to the band's debut Burn My Eyes, with its implementation of a fast, thrashy tempo, and industrial-sounding natural harmonics on Killers & Kings. The track Beneath the Silt is pure Pantera worship. Other tracks feature low-string pedalling interspersed with melodic bursts on the higher strings, producing a melancholy that is the hallmark of melodic death metal. The guitarwork in Eyes of the Dead reaches levels of near Baroque-sque ornamentation.
Vocally, Robb Flynn confidently shifts gears between pissed off thrash barks, soft crooning, and melodramatic soars. And each of these dabs into distinct musical territories are successfully and precisely executed. Clearly, Machine Head knew what they were doing, and this variation not only represents the musical versatility that the band possesses, but also serves to avoid the trap of genrification which turned many promising bands into one-trick ponies (Lamb of God, anyone?). Ultimately, Machine Head have founded their very own mould of metal, and they dwell in it with confidence.
The variety I mentioned could have easily become counterproductive and diluted the record, but Bloodstone & Diamonds manages to retain a high degree of focus throughout its 12 songs. The aimlessness and meandering that blighted The Blackening have been rerouted and channelled into a more meaningful purpose. There are no 9-10 minute songs here, but even the ones that exceed average lengths don't fall in a position where they overstay their welcome. On the contrary, said songs manage to achieve a certain grandeur and "epic" feel which few modern metal bands have the capability to grasp without crossing into prentiousness.
There are a few minor flaws which are actually pretty crucial, considering that their avoidance could have turned this album into another classic. The first is the overproduciton in some parts. Robb Flynn and Phil Demmel have shown in the past that they are men who love to mix a wide variety of guitar effects. However, at some points these effects are abused and overused, leading to a detached sound that loses its impact and immediacy. Sometimes it works and fits well with the aforementioned desire for a more theatrical sound. In a few places, however, it doesn't serve the music well. Unto the Locust got its epic feel through composition and being unassuming. On Bloodstone & Diamonds, the band simply tried too hard here and there, leading to overproduction.
The second flaw is the presence of Damage Inside, which is just a poor track, a filler that is almost like an unpleasant reminder of the brief trespass into nu-metal territory that was Supercharger.
And finally, the final song, Take Me Through the Fire, albeit good, just doesn't serve as a satisfying closer to the album, leaving me a bit unfulfilled as a listener. The album could have been slightly restructured, so that the buildup that happened throughout its beginning and midpoints found a good resolution, but it feels instead like the last numbers on the album are its weakest.
Still, Bloodstone & Diamonds is a logical and satisfying addition to the Machine Head catalog, and solidify the band as the flagship of modern American metal: a status which the band has actively sought and deservedly achieved with its clever string of recent albums.
- Killers and Kings - for harkening back to Vio-lence and Burn My Eyes days
- Night of Long Knives - for its huge chorus and overwhelming melodies, juxtaposed with its intense thrash parts
- Eyes of the Dead - for being the best song on the album
- In Comes the Flood - for being unashamedly over-the-top
- Game Over - for its anger and intensity, as well as lightening up a bit compared to the seriousness of the rest of the album