With their first concept album, and first to feature Waclaw “Vogg” Kieltyka can Machine head match the heights of “The Blackening”?
As far as Machine Head go, most people will say that “Burn My Eyes” and “The Blackening” are peerless, and by far the best in their back catalogue. And songs like “Davidian“, “Imperium“, and “Clenching The Fists Of Dissent” are among the best opening tracks on any heavy metal album, so this new opus from Robb Flynn and his merry men has a lot to live up to.
“Slaughter The Martyr” does not disappointment as an opener. A ten minutes plus opener at that! Starting slow and moody with clean vocals, you know this is going to build up, then let loose, much like the aforementioned “Clenching The Fists Of Dissent” (off The Blackening). When the riff finally drops, you will likely do as me and my son did – look at each other and go “OOOFF!!!” – Exactly what we were hoping for!
This track has several movements within it, much like a piece of classical music, and it never gets stale or boring. The riffs are sublime, and the clean vocal interplay between Flynn and bassist Jared MacEachern is the best I’ve heard from any era of Machine Head.
The next track has already been released by MH, but “Choke On The Ashes Of Your Hate” is an absolute balls to the wall, out and out raging thrasher. If you have not already heard it, fasten your seatbelt, and make sure you have clean underwear for afterwards.
“Become The Firestorm” keeps the tempo and fury up. Blast beats and the classic MH pinch harmonics abound. But we also get some plaintive clean vocals that add to the drama of this track. Blistering solos from both Flynn and Vogg further add to the brutality. Then to give us a little respite, we get the first of 3 short interludes between tracks. “Overdose” starts with the sound of a heart monitor, and someone flatlining, before we here its due to an overdose.
At this point, I have to say that I do not have lyrics to read, so how this and the other interludes play their part within the overall concept, I will have to wait until I get my physical copy!
The New Extreme Metal Anthem?
Originally released as a stand-alone single, the mighty “My Hands Are Empty” has massive anthemic hooks. From the choral clean vocal intro, to the dagger sharp riff that underpins the main verses of the song, this has all the hallmarks of being a new anthem for all extreme metal. Both my son Iwan, and myself cannot wait to hear this live when we go see MH next month, hoping that we can be part of a whole MEN Arena singing along to those choral parts. Shivers down the spine moment… As a single, this was an absolute killer track, but within this album it becomes a bonafide classic.
“Unhallowed” starts of with plaintive clean singing, before a great fat riff with more groove than the Grand Canyon bursts forth. This song carries a lot of shifting emotion within it, from sorrow, to anger, to defiance. Another that in the live setting could be one of their most dynamic songs to date, going from slow and moody to outrage as the track moves on.
Now the next track is unfortunately not a cover of the Skinny Puppy classic. This “Assimilate“, is another of these little interludes between tracks that will be important bridges between the various parts of the album story that Flynn is telling.
A Triptych of unheard gems..
We know that a good number of the songs on “Of Kingdom And Crown” have already been released. But now we have 3 brand new songs to enjoy.
First up is “Kill Thy Enemies“, running straight in from the interlude, this one drops with a slow chugging groove of a riff. Unsurprisingly, with a title like this, Flynn’s vocals are as angry as a pissed-off Honey Badger, snarling and spitting out the lyrics. Clean vocals play their part in this one too, adding a great bridge that brings us to some stellar guitar solo work from Flynn and Vogg, before the song finishes with that big riff returning.
“No Gods, No Masters” is another angry hornet of a track, interlaced with emotional clean parts. The chorus is another potential live favourite, with a sing-along Whoooahhwowaow! part. Again like the previous tracks, this one evolves as it plays, adding spikes of fury to proceedings.
A track entitled “Bloodshot” has got to be an absolute belter, yes, It most certainly is! Firing on all cylinders from the first second, its is laden with those pinch harmonics that are so much a signature sound of MH. This one could quite easily sit on either “Burn My Eyes” or “The More Things Change“. This song was written for the mosh pit, and walls of death! However, like the other faster tracks on here, it does not eschew a good melody, retaining its brutality throughout.
Another filthy round of musical savagery hits you next with “Rotten“, again a song that would not sound out of place on their phenomenal debut album. This one has all the subtlety of a turbo-powered dump truck running you down, then reversing over you just as fast… Another cracking guitar solo is to be heard here as well. Bloody marvellous!!
We now reach “Terminus” which is not the final track despite its name! This being the final one of the three interval tracks.
An epic beginning, an epic ending…
All good things must come to an end, and here Machine Head do so with one of their best tracks to date. “Arrows In Words From The Sky” was epic when the released it as a single. Within the pantheon of musical genius shown on this album, it reaches greater heights. Dripping with emotion from beginning to end of its nigh on 6 minute running time, it waxes and wanes between clean and harsh vocals, gorgeous melody, to evil chugs, and some of the best guitar work from any MH release. It is a perfect ending to this magnum opus, one that leaves you wanting more.
I cannot wait to have the lyrics to hand for this one, as I’m sure the story will become clear, and add even more to what is already possibly the album to top “The Blackening“. The whole package is perfect, from the vocals, guitar solos, and fantastic production. Overall, I cannot praise this enough. Flynn writing from other than his own perspective has allowed more freedom in the make up of the songs, each of them containing all the things we love about Machine Head.
If Carlsberg made albums, this would be it! Genius, masterpiece, The Jewel in The Crown, Album of the year!
01 – Slaughter the Martyr
02 – Choke On The Ashes Of Your Hate
03 – Become The Firestorm
04 – Overdose
05 – My Hands Are Empty
06 – Unhallowed (Watch a live version here https://youtu.be/Xz99iio6RdM )
07 – Assimilate
08 – Kill Thy Enemies
09 – No Gods, No Masters
10 – Bloodshot
11 – Rotten
12 – Terminus
13 – Arrows In Words From The Sky
- CD £10.99