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.