Review Summary: Catharsis manages to divide with an overlong testament to regression.
I’ll give credit where it’s due, Machine Head have built a trademark out of their name. Robb Flynn and co. have carved out their own little niche within mainstream metal, dropping head-banging hits along the way, while defining their own signature sound easily identifiable within a number of seconds when any of their songs play. To be fair, that’s quite an achievement, proving that a twist on the old formulaic structure can do all the world of good and even land you a few new fans along the way. Unfortunately, Machine Head’s 2018 offering sheds light on the fact that Catharsis
highlights a band not content with their sound, willing to throw away a building success on a lack of direction or theme. One mention of Machine Head’s greater works inspires nostalgic lines from their no frills debut way back in 1994 (“Davidian”) or even to the group’s [arguably] best in The Blackening
’s abrasive technicality. Tracks like “Halo” or “Ten Ton Hammer” provide a sense of excitement for both long and short time fans, without simply becoming overbearing or contrite. Catharsis
however tinkers with many too many same-y soundscapes, and while most may reminisce with Machine Head’s “nu-metal” days, listeners can’t help but feel like this proud vehicle of mainstream groove metal has become confused, misplaced and uninspired enough to continue with their own sound. Instead, Machine Head borrow stylistic choices from the likes of Slipknot and Trivium with cheesy rapped nu-metal and run of the mill filler like tracks found on albums that simply don’t have enough quality material for a full-length.
That goes without saying that Catharsis
isn’t a ‘complete’ write off. Despite the records sheer length and fifteen tracks, Machine Head manage to pull off a few fleeting moments of typical groove metal joy… only the average listener will need to sift through an hour and fourteen minutes of middling metal. With early singles like “Beyond The Pale” displaying a soundscape better recognized from the group’s Burn My Eyes
days fans could be forgiven in thinking that Catharsis
was a back to roots record, hearkening back to the mid-tempo head-banging days full of accessible, easy to follow metal. The track’s ever-present hooks found in the chorus certainly engage in a live setting, but the track itself lays early doubts that Machine Head will come back to the sounds that made The Blackening
the band’s opus, or engage a level of atmosphere Bloodstones and Diamonds
sounds like a venting album for Robb Flynn’s lyricism. Rather than focusing on sweeping ethereal motifs of life and death, Flynn engages a cliché punk vocal phrasing often built on simple rhymes and spoken word that lacks meaning (see a laughable “Triple Beam”). Sure, nine albums in Machine Head could be forgiven for making that “one” average record that scratches heads of die-hard fans and haters alike, but Machine Head had already released Supercharger
to that effect. At its core, Catharsis
is forty minutes too long, too overbearing and licking the edges of completely unnecessary. Trim away the albums bulk, while keeping Catharsis
’ “better” tracks and fans may have found a highly enjoyable EP.
Overall it’s hard to defend a band I’ve personally been a fan of since hearing “Davidian” way back when. Catharsis
simply shouldn’t exist in the form of clapped introductions and quasi-acoustic tracks. Gone from Machine Head’s 2018 release are the hard-hitting, head banging semi-thrashed highlights worthy of mention in any discussion of the band’s musical prowess. Gone from Catharsis
is any truly enjoyable moments that justify fans blind devotion to a band set on making the music they wanted to. Machine Head have dropped the ball, dropped the quality and conformed to angst driven deliveries of an almost laughable nature. This isn’t the record Machine Head needed; it’s also not a record that 2018 collectively needed – listeners could have done with a longer wait time between albums, ensuring that at least some of these tracks could have been reworked properly. Catharsis
is a politically charged cringe-fest, so out of context for everybody “not Robb Flynn” leaving the mainstream metal community to wonder if Machine Head can actually come back from this in any passable manner.