I can’t believe the depth of this album. Rich, complex….not your average metal. Brutal and beautiful..like football.
Bay Area metal masters Machine Head are back with The Blackening, a glorious follow up to the critically acclaimed Through The Ashes of Empires. An evolutionary album, The Blackening features Machine Head staying true to their roots with some of the heaviest riffs ever recorded while incorporating many beautiful, melodic choruses. Produced by Robert Flynn (Machine Head vocalist/guitarist) and mixed by Colin Richardson (Fear Factory, Cradle of Filth, Bullet for My Valentine), The Blackening marks Machine Head’s strong return to the forefront of the metal world. A heavy, technical album that, while rooted in 90s metal, pushes the boundaries of hard music well into the future with songs like ”Aesthetics of Hate,” ”Halo,” ”Now I Lay Thee Down,” ”Beautiful Mourning” and more. Machine Head are Robert Flynn (vocals/guitar), Phil Demmel (lead guitar), Adam Duce (bass/harmony vocals), Dave McClain (drums)
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What a killer CD. That makes two in a row for Machine Head. This CD is filled with heavy riffs and some great guitar harmonies. Robb’s voice sounds great here. From growling & screaming to actual singing & soft vocals. This is also possibly the best Dave McClain has sounded since he joined MH so long ago. The drum work is awesome. All & all a great CD. Production is top notch. The best song is “Wolves”.
My only small nitpick is that we didn’t get the DVD & bonus track(cover of Metallica’s Battery) like Japan & the UK did. I imported from Amazon Japan. Its a region free DVD for those who are curious.
Nowadays, it seems like just about every modern-metal band is trying desperately to escape being tagged “metalcore” (a genre that is supposedly on its way out). Most haven’t yet succeeded in doing so, but to some bands, “metalcore” is nothing more than a quickly fading object in their rear-view mirror.
After releasing their debut, “Burn My Eyes” (which is groove/post-metal landmark), in 1994, Machine Head began experimenting with their sound by releasing a series of mediocre and uneven albums which were substantially softer, and even arguably nu-metal-ish. As a result, the band lost a large part of their fanbase. But then, in 2004, they stormed back onto the scene with a triumphant return to form, “Through The Ashes Of Empires.” Unfortunately, heavy metal (and the metalcore genre, in particular) was at the peak of its popularity that year, so some fans thought of “Ashes” as just a trend jump. But now, three years after that, the Oakland-based quartet have released their sixth studio effort, “The Blackening,” an album that leaves mere “metalcore” and “groove metal” in the dust. In fact, throw out all of the categories, because Machine Head are now in a class by themselves.
“The Blackening” sounds like a mix of old and new. Frontman Rob Flynn (who was once in a Nineties thrash band called Vio-lence) draws a bit from his own past by filling these songs with intense tempos, excellent riffs, and killer solos which evoke the Bay Area’s glory days. Plus, “The Blackening” recaptures much of the same raw energy, emotion, visceral impact, and iron-fisted aggression as 2004’s “Through The Ashes Of Empires.” But in no way is this just a simple throwback album, because it expands a great deal on Machine Head’s sound, musicianship, and songwriting skills. T hese songs are friggin’ epics — they range from just under five minutes to over ten and a half minutes long, and are, musically, a lot more complex, meticulous, and multi-faceted than anything MH have ever attempted. (Flynn plays a big part in the band’s growth by frequently showing off his surprisingly strong singing voice and intelligent, inspiring, often politically-charged lyrics.)
Every track on this record is a winner; it’s darn near impossible to find a single dud or weak moment anywhere on here. Whether opting for brutal and straightforward or more restrained and slowly-building songs, Machine Head almost always make sure the music bristles with intensity and unpredictability. Opener “Clenching The Fists of Dissent” begins quietly and slowly, with mysterious acoustic guitar strums, but in not too long, a breakneck tempo change kicks in, launching the listener into a river of furious riffing. The guitarists (Phil Demmel and the above-mentioned Rob Flynn) toss in a pair of superbly ripping solos near the end, too. Then, an explosive barrage of thick, hefty, churning guitars and hard-hitting drums back Flynn while he bellows “F you all!” from his gut, thus signifying the made-for-moshing beginning of “Beautiful Morning.” The next track, “Aesthetics of Hate,” boasts a quick, bouncy drum beat, and a wealth of great guitar melodies and harmonies (including a fairly long solo section), before ending with a dark and spine-tingling spoken-word passage where Flynn repeats “May the hand of God strike them down” several times. “Aesthetics of Hate” is also of note for it lyrical content because it is a livid tirade against a journalist who wrote an insulting article about Pantera/Damageplan guitarist “Dimebag” Darrell Abbott only a week after his tragic murder in 2004.
Elsewhere, “Now I Lay Thee Down” and “A Farewell To Arms” both have quite a bit of clean, proper singing (in fact, the latter track even features some supple, even borderline-sweet crooning), thus making them probably the record’s two most melodic and restrained cuts. “Slanderous” and “Halo” are also of note because they sport heavy, propulsive riffs, catchy, adherent grooves, and wailing solos. And, lastly, track seven, “Wolves,” takes the cake for being “The Blackening”’s biggest highlight. This song is over nine-minutes of sheer awesomeness! Most of it is super fast and heavy (with an absolutely blistering thrash guitar lead, deft, thumping drums, and four wild, careening solos); but somehow, the song also always manages to be super catchy, and it includes a very memorable and powerful chorus (“Unleash the wolves!”) that ranks right up there in greatness with the chorus from “Davidian” (the world-renowned first track on 1994’s “Burn Your Eyes”).
“The Blackening” is an opus that practically has “greatness” written all over it, and all metalheads should fall in love with it very quickly. In addition to being the best heavy music release of 2007 thus far, this album is doubtlessly MH’s most godly, epic, masterful, brilliant, intricate, expansive, exhilarating, and realized work to date. It silences every doubt and answers every question skeptics have ever had about Machine Head. Yes, they are still relevant; yes, they are still inspired; yes, they can still shred almost anybody’s musical pants off; and yes, they are still fully capable of making a killer album that is sure to go down in history as a classic. Now only one question remains: how in the world will they ever top this one?!
For me, Burn My Eyes was the Machine Head album that was the basis for comparison for the rest of their work. This is now changed, as The Blackening is not only Machine Head’s best album, it is one of the best metal albums I have ever heard.
It’s amazing that a band can go from making a sub par album like Supercharger to making a great album like Through the Ashes of Empires. I was glad of their return to form with that CD, but the Blackening is even more than a return to form. It is a reinvention. They’ve taken the great riffing and precice timing of Burn My Eyes and imbued it with a tone that is both brutally angry and chillingly haunting at the same time. Many of the tracks have slow, melodic passages with amazing bass lines, acoustic guitar parts and a chorus of background vocals and then lead into riffing so brutal you almost forget you are listning to the same song. Also, as with BME and TtAoE, they intermix modern style riffing with catchy style riffs that are definitely 80s influenced, making them a metal band that anyone can love. The guitar solos in these songs act as more than just talent showcases for the artists, they flow with the song and with some songs they are the best part.
1) Cleching The Fists of Dissent: Wow! Possibly my favorite song on the album and maybe my favorite from the band (though Imperium is hard to top). The intro to this song reminds me of ‘Fight Fire with Fire’ on Metallica’s ‘Ride the Litghtning’. It starts out with a mellow acoustic passage and then bursts into a brutal riff with angry vocals and lyrics to back it. This is an epic track, clocking in at 9:36 with not a second wasted. (I particularly like the part at about 6:30 ‘FIGHT! FIGHT! FIGHT!) 10/10
2) Beautiful Mourning: No slow acoustic intro here, this song wastes no time as it starts with a nice fast, galloping riff. I liked this song but didn’t think much of it until it got to the chorus, which is actually more than halfway through the song. The chorus is a great blend of heavy guitars and over the top volcals and lyrics that you can’t help but sing along to. Great track. 8/10
3) Aesthetics Of Hate: Perhaps the most easily accessable song, I could see this being a single. It is also the angriest, being a retaliation of an anti Dimebag Daryl article written after his death. It reminds me of ‘Seasons’ era Slayer, it has a very 80s vibe to it with catchy riffs and hooks and a good angry vibe all around. The solo sections are great as is the slow tempo section with the reverbrating vocals (May the hand of God strike them… DOWN……) Another great one. 8/10
4) Now I Lay Thee Down: There isn’t really a bad song on this album, but I think this may be my least favorite. It has more of a commercial feel to it than the rest of the tracks and is slower in tempo. It does have some faster, angrier sections, as everything does on this album, but overall it’s not my favorite tune. 6/10
5) Slanderous: Wow, another crushing track. I don’t know how they managed to come up with so many great riffs for this album. This song is great all the way through, with the usual blend of modern riffs and old school riffs that make this band great. There almost seems to be a little bit of an Iron Maiden influence in this song. Great, great stuff.
6) Halo: My favorite track after the first. This one is epic (at 9:03) with so many different sections and also not a wasted minute. The choruses, the riffs, the solos, everything is great. 9/10
7)Wolves: Another epic, very heavy track. The riffs didn’t catch me as much as with Halo, but this is a brutal song, almost Halo part II. Another great one, of course. 8/10
A Farewell to Arms: Man, this album doesn’t cease to amaze. This song is another epic and the longest of them all at 10:12. Like the first track, it starts out with a Metallica style slow tempo into and busts into the amazing, brutal riffing. A fantastic closer to this masterpiece of an album. 8/10
I can’t stress enough how amazing this album is. Five stars is not enough. You can tell that the band put all they had into this album, as it bleeds with passion, anger and soul. It has definitely made it into my top 10 metal albums of all time, up there with Metallica’s Ride the Lightning, Slayer’s Seasons in the Abyss and Anthrax’ Persistance of Time. Metal is alive and can still be as great as it used to be. This album is proof. Machine Head, you have just become legend.
It’s been a long uphill battle for Machine Head in the 14+ years they have spent in the music business. Sure, they got off on the right foot with the acclaimed Burn My Eyes, but after that, things seemed to get hazy for the group. In 1999, they teamed with Korn/Limp Bizkit producer Ross Robinson for Burning Red, which, despite being a great album in it’s own right, set the stage for the next few years of the bands career. By 2001, Machine Head had slowly slipped into nu-metal territory, and of the worst kind, and thus, we got Supercharger, which is undeniably the band’s worst effort. Thankfully, they got things right and in 2004, Through the Ashes of Empires saw the light of day and saw Machine Head turning once again to the sound that made them in the first place, while embracing all the musical experiments on the previous four albums.
So what’s the point in the history lesson? To understand why Machine Head’s return to form has been so triumphant. “The Blackening” is hands down, without a doubt, the best thing Machine Head have done since 1994. One listen to the opening epic, “Clenching The Fists Of Dissent,” and you’re opinion of Machine Head will be forever altered. I’d hate for this review to be just mindless hype, but everything you’ve been hearing so far is true. “The Blackening” is a masterpiece. Opening and closing with songs that push past the ten-minute mark each, “The Blackening” is a bold statement from a band who have finally stopped giving into label pressures, stopped trying to mimic everyone else’s style, and generally, just stopped caring what anyone thinks. “Now I Lay Thee Down” is about the most conventional the album gets, but even that’s a stretch. Even the shorter tracks, such as “Slanderous” push Machine Head over the edge as far as musicianship goes. Phil Demmel and frontman Rob Flynn play off each other almost as if their minds were one. Despite metal’s tendency to show off, Machine Head’s work on “The Blackening” is not. Every little sound they add to the stew just makes it all the more powerful, all the more memorable, and all the more musical.
It’s only March, and yet I believe 2007 has it’s best metal album already. It’s going to be a long time until someone comes along and tops this — and coming from a band like Machine Head, who have been so inconsistent in the past — who would have expected it? Great for them, though. I don’t think anyone will question them ever again. Machine Head have proven that there are second chances in this business and more importantly, have delivered a pure-metal album that is just about perfect.