Review Summary: The more things change...
So... where to begin with this？
I might as well start with that fact that Catharsis
isn't the album that you were expecting it to be. Based on two of the five singles released, a lot of people were certainly worried that Machine Head were delving into territory that they shouldn't touch. Whether it be the folk-inspired, politically motivated 'Bastards' or the rap-ish intro in 'Kaleidoscope', it became clear that this was not the Machine Head that people wanted to hear. Granted there's nothing wrong with experimenting in an attempt to break out of your usual sound. But for Machine Head, it seems as though most people were content with what they were constantly releasing since 2004. Simply put, if Supercharger
and The Burning Red
taught us anything, is that diversity is not their strength, perhaps even their biggest weakness. But even so, Robb Flynn was willing to take that risk. So much so that he sent out "warnings" to his fans that Catharsis
was going to be a much different beast altogether.
The ironic thing to me is that Catharsis
should've been the album that Machine Head needed. As much critical praise as their last four albums got, the issue of being too consistent was starting to creep up. Granted they started to branch out, at least in tiny bits, on Bloodstone & Diamonds
with the melodically-heavy opener 'Now We Die' and the more morose and atmospheric 'Sail into the Black'. But even then, their detractors still called it nothing more than "another Machine Head album". And had they released "another Machine Head" album, it would've been its biggest flaw. They deserved the chance to break the mold a bit for a second time, as the last time they did it felt more like a cash-in to the nu-metal craze that swept the nation for so long.
Thankfully, to a relief...somewhat, there are really only two rap-heavy songs on this album, 'Triple Beam' and 'Razorblade Smile', and yes, they both suck. Both tracks are more or less throwbacks to their nu-metal days but are thankfully short in context to the rest of the album's 74-minute runtime. In the meantime, we all know about Dropkick Murphy's bullshit of 'Bastards' and the cringe-worthy intro to 'Kaleidoscope'. The only other track that kills the flow throughout the whole record is the acoustic-pop driven 'Behind a Mask'. While far from the worst song on the record, Robb's overall vocal delivery is awkward throughout and the instrumentation is lazy and uninspired. As for the lyrics, we all know that they're bad. Heck they're down right awful at times, from the politically-charged 'Bastards' to the lyrical line 'Razorblade Smile' about "eating pussy" (Rob you're fucking 50 years old, grow up). Yet I do have one small, albeit kind of meaningless, defense for this. I mean let's face it, we're just assuming that Machine Head's lyrics were any good in the first place. Machine Head has had a reputation of crap lyrics from the beginning. I'm not just talking about in The Burning Red
. Just look up 'Imperium', 'Aesthetics of Hate' and 'Clenching the Fists of Dissent' and tell me that some of those lines don't make you cringe. While it's not an excuse for some of the lyricism on Catharsis
('California Bleeding' probably being the worst offender in general), this is something that most people should be familiar with. Granted, on here much of the lyrics are blunter than what we're normally used to, and thus it's more glaring.
But being honest here, those are really the only negatives to Catharsis
. Get rid of about five or six songs on here, and you have yourself a really solid Machine Head album. 'Volatile' starts off the album with the band's signature heaviness we've come to love over the years as Rob screams out "Fuck the world" while the title-track, 'Hope Begets Hope' and 'Screaming at the Sun' showcases Machine Head at their most melodic. Something that we never really knew much about Machine Head is just how creatively catchy their melodies can be. I'll even admit that 'Kaleidoscope' has good chorus if just for how memorable the melody is. Yet, even as melodic as those songs are, they never manage stray too far away from the usual sound. They're very much "Machine Head" songs to the core and will most likely keeps the fans listening. But when it comes to the perfect blend of melody and heaviness, the song that manages to nail that is 'Heavy Lies the Crown'. With its immense build-up towards the first verse all the way to the shear heavy-groove of the final bridge, the song is a relentless epic that justifies its near-nine-minute length. As for the instrumentation itself, it's nothing really particularly different than what we're used to, but that's totally fine as Machine Head is one of those bands that can get away with. Phil Demmel and Flynn's guitar work are nothing short of exceptional, even on the worst tracks, and the same thing goes for Dave McClain with his drumming. Meanwhile Jared MacEachern has more than earned his keep with his bass work as he deepens much of the groove on songs like 'Beyond the Pale' and 'Psychotic'. He even manages to get his own small bass solo on "California Bleeding'.
is certainly going to be an album that will divide their fans for years to come. But it's not so much as what Machine Head has brought to the table on this album, but as what they will bring in the future. Many questions are going to be raised about whether or not Robb Flynn will continue on this charade of his "experimental" phase on the band's next album. One thing for sure is that this is far from the worst album that Machine Head has conjured up, as bold a move as it is. While it does showcase some of the lowest points in their careers, it also gives us some of their most challenging and most interesting at the same time, for better or worse. It's certainly a departure from their usual sound, but some of the risks that were taken on this album are certainly something that they could look more towards in the future. Regardless, there's still plenty of familiar material on here to keep the audiences coming, even if they have to sift through a pile of shit in the process.