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.