Review Summary: While it initially comes off as too forced and pretentious, "Bloodstone and Diamonds" is ultimately quite a rewarding record
During the making of “Bloodstone and Diamonds”, Machine Head found themselves in a strange position. With the entirety of the mainstream metal world shifting from Master of Puppets towards Black Album, from complex, multi-layered metal themes towards straight-forward, song-oriented ones, Machine Head, who are responsible for two of the most ambitiously technical records to gain success over the last ten years, seem to be on the verge of becoming irrelevant and anachronistic once again. A position which worsened after the Avenged Sevenfold bashing, (a fiasco really, since Flynn sounded condescending and jealous), given that now Machine Head had to move as far away from the bands that influenced them as possible. Not an easy task, especially when one takes into account that the name Metallica seems to pop-up all the more often every time a new Machine Head record is released.
So what were they to do?
This has always been by far the most difficult question you could ever ask Machine Head. When it comes to talent, Machine Head are very hard to match, but when it comes to logic, calculation and system, this is really where they drown in panic. With “Bloodstone and Diamonds” however, they reached a whole new level of indecision and awkwardness.
Machine Head aim for a simpler in structure and more effective in power record, an album with more songs and a little less music, trying to keep up with what seem to be today’s new standards. They also try very hard to highlight all the elements that have given them a scent of originality over the years. As a result, the album is packed with innumerous harmonics and endless legatos, as if it’s things like these that make Machine Head special. In addition to toning up their originality, they also make an effort to add some of their trademark ambition to music that is actually much simpler. That’s how the strings over the thrashy aggression of “Now we Die”, the constant build-up in the dramatic “Sail into the Black”, or the choirs in the edgy “In Comes the Flood” feel like. The same goes with “Game Over” where Machine Head stutter while circling around an amazingly catchy chorus, with something of a punk vibe. Yet the core of all these songs is surprisingly direct and ultimately effective, and this is where you feel that Machine Head’s mania for the ambitious is unnecessary; all of the aforementioned songs are quite amazing once you get over the illusion of grandeur in which they are dressed up.
Greatest proof of this provide songs which seem to be a little more honest, like “Night of the Long Knives” and “Take me through the fire”, both of them featuring tremendous choruses and very beautiful guitar work. Three surprises are also to be found here; “Imaginal Cells” is something of a soundtrack really, “Damage Inside” is an acoustic lament and, most notably “Beneath the Silt” sounds as if Down swallowed the whole sludge metal scene while they were listening to Meshuggah.
Overall, “Bloodstone and Diamonds” feels like a record made by over-thinkers. It should have been more spontaneous, groovier and down-to-earth, as is the actual basis of each and every song in it. Instead it comes off as a little too forced and pretentious. Whether this ruins the whole effort is actually a matter of taste and tolerance towards well intended pomposity, yet, for those willing to dig a little deeper, it certainly is a rewarding album.