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Machine Head – The Blackening

Discussion in 'Metal Reviews' started by TheWyvern, Apr 15, 2007.

  1. TheWyvern

    TheWyvern Member

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    Machine Head – The Blackening
    Roadrunner Records – No Barcode – Out Now
    By Dan Fisher

    [​IMG]

    Okay, which member of which committee thought The Blackening would be a good name for a metal album? When I heard this was going to be the name I chuckled and thought someone might be having a laugh on the internet. But, um, no, it seems that Machine Head have called it that which leads me to believe the L.A. smog has finally binded to the molecules in Rob Flynn’s head, rendering him incapable of good album name decision making.

    So here it is finally, Machine Head’s new opus. This is an album that boasts trademark concrete riffs, Flynn’s fine roar, as well as some interesting new twists that rear their ugly heads throughout. Let me say right off bat that this album divides me in many ways but mainly I need to address the main burning question: ‘are Machine Head still relevant?’ I have agonised over this and my short answer is ‘Yes, but only just.’ Let me explain.........

    This album has clearly brought Machine Head’s sound into the noughties. There are excellent moments where the band retain all the things the fans love while pushing boundaries artistically. My favourite ‘new facets’ include the classically inspired guitar breakdown in ‘Aesthetics of Hate’, the savage time changes in ‘Wolves’ and the ambitious epic production on ‘A Farewell To Arms.’ I really enjoyed hearing these new ideas blended into the sound so successfully. A recent spate of bands seem to enjoy throwing more time changes into one song than Paris Hilton has outfits. Having said that, I still think there is work to be done as some tracks such as ‘Halo’ are boring and progressive for progressive's sake.

    Another problem I have is that Rob Flynn seems to want to do everything in the band. On the album sleeve he is credited with songwriting, lyrics, guitar work and producing. Admittedly this probably keeps things close to the original sound of what he envisaged but it exhausts you creatively if you do everything yourself. I feel this is evident in his uninspired vocals that repeatedly fall on the beat and don’t challenge or excite the listener very much at all. Similarly the guitar work features bargain basement riffing. Don’t believe me? Try humming a guitar line from the album in your head. Although as a whole the song often works, the individual riffs sound bland.

    One beam shines through all of this though and that is the plain fact that Machine Head sound like Machine Head again. Gone are the gimics, the faddy meanderings of the late nineties. It seems that after several years in the wilderness, Machine Head have grown the fuck up. They are by no means the finished article however. In fact, they have just made it harder on themselves to deliver next time. But, if I know a certain driven guitarist/singer/producer, he wouldn’t want it any other way.

    Official Machine Head Website
    Official Roadrunner Records Website
     
  2. Tom Strutton

    Tom Strutton Member

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    Good job Dan, I agree with about 95% of your thoughts. I knew I could rely on you to write a review of The Blackening that didn't pander to the current trend of Machine Head idolisation. I don't agree, however, that "Machine Head sound like Machine Head again". If by this you are referring to the pre-Burning Red albums then this is perhaps misleading.

    Burn My Eyes and The More Things Change were superb albums in a league of their own, both absolutely stunning. Machine Head have never recaptured the sound of the early days, and I am inclined to put this down to the belief that Logan Mader was integral to the early sound and that his departure didn't do the band any favours. Hands up, I will always compare every new Machine Head record to Burn My Eyes, and I can't help but note that even if Dave is a good drummer, he hasn't yet made a contribution to equal Chris Kontos's stunning drums on Machine Head's debut.

    The Blackening is just what I expected from Robert Flynn and co. - the sound of a band trying too hard to prove themselves, as if they are trying to make up for crap released in the past. I am sorry to say that it seems as though they feel they need to 'compete' with today's uber-bands, unlike the mid 90s when they were essentially peerless and they sounded like they KNEW it.
     
  3. TheWyvern

    TheWyvern Member

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    I agree that they do sound like they are trying a bit too hard but what I perhaps didnt really make clear is although they have played around with certain ideas, the real reason this is a solid album is the writing contains all the things that Machine Head do well. The result does sound a little like a band caught like a rabbit in the proverbial headlights: does it move and risk being squished? or stay still and risk the same?
     
  4. Meridius

    Meridius New Metal Member

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    Thank you two. I've been struggling with this album and hadn't it realized it felt like they were trying to be Machine Head instead of relaxing. I think the prior album is a bit stronger because the song writing seemed more focused.

    As far as Chris Kontos's contributions, I remember reading a long time ago that Rob Flynn pretty much wrote the drum parts and Kontos just added a few fills here and there. Kontos also didn't play on the More things Change. So maybe it's Flynn's lack of drum involvment that you might be talking about as I would assume Dave is writing his own parts.

    I read a review that praised the crap out of it and I was excited to get the new disk, but I have to say, I am a bit disappointed. I've been giving it a spin every now and again to see if it'll start growing on me, but nothing has catched. I think I'm looking for some anthem type hooks that Machine Head was known for that seem to be absent from this album.

    That's just me, color me not all that impressed.
     
  5. Tom Strutton

    Tom Strutton Member

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    Glad, it's not just us :)

    Apologies for being unclear - I was specifically referring to the fills when I praised the drumming on Burn My Eyes. The patterns themselves are not spectacularly individual. Also, even if Flynn did write the patterns, (something I can't confirm) you can still hear Kontos's stamp all over the it by way of his fluid style.

    Dave is also a great drummer, but his work on The More Things Change didn't make me sit bolt upright in amazement.

    I love The More Things Change. Machine Head have NEVER sounded heavier than on Ten Ton Hammer. Aesthetics of Hate isn't heavy....It's just angry. I WANT HEAVY!!!
     
  6. Meridius

    Meridius New Metal Member

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    I'm in total agreeance with you. I loved the straight forward heavy songs. Why do people think that becoming uber-technical is the way to go?

    Other than Burn My Eyes, I haven't really heard any of Kontos's work. I was just stating what I had read. But I have to agree, the drumming on burn my eyes, regardless of who arranged it, had a lot more force behind it than Dave's does. I think Dave might finally be coming into his own. Just write a song that's straight forward, has energy and is angry. People can't mosh to 10 minute opus's that go all over the place. I thought that was the point of Machine Head. HEAVY FUCKING METAL!

    Maybe I'm wrong...
     
  7. Eyesore

    Eyesore Member

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    I never knew humming was just as hard—or easy, apparently—as playing guitar.

    Interesting. :rolleyes:
     
  8. niglet

    niglet whoa totally rad

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    same same
    no matter
    bands like this are done
    nice review
     
  9. vessal1

    vessal1 vessal1

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    I think the blackenening is a great buy! with all these predictable metal/thrash bands like -chaimaira, killswitchengage, and others the new MH record was more unpredictable than I thought. while yes some of the riffs sound like theyre borrowed from the old vio-lence days I was impressed that these guys really tear it up. not every song is killer but its still nice to hear a band NOT caught up in thrashing so hard, playing so fast, or whatever the next band is doing- it sounds like theyre doing it THEIR way.
     
  10. Tom Strutton

    Tom Strutton Member

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    ^ well, yes, they certainly are doing it THEIR way. I think that's the problem - their way, IMHO, is a tired, cheap and tacky way. Machine Head have resorted to using song length as a gimmicky device to ascribe value to a piece of work.

    I can see how many people will derive pleasure from The Blackening, and I appreciate it is not my place to tell them they are foolish for doing so. If people want to listen to an album that sounds like it was written and performed by an angry adolescent with an inferiority complex, it should be no business of mine. I'll gladly leave them to it and put on something a liitle more refined and sophisticated.
     
  11. TheWyvern

    TheWyvern Member

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    I think Machine Head should have a Rockumentary DVD put out: Clenching The Scared Buttock Cheeks of Dissent: A Tale of One Band's Slide Into Irrelevance
     
  12. challenge_everything

    challenge_everything Active Member

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    The billboards near my house say:

    "The best metal album ever? See for yourself"

    A bit of an overstatement going by these reviews???
     
  13. Russell

    Russell __

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    Since Dan would probably never post this himself, I should mention he is a hell of a guitarist, so is not speaking from lack of experience. I believe his point - which you seem to have missed entirely - was that the guitars were not memorable, not that they were badly performed. Whether a riff is hummable is, in fact, a good test of this (and entirely unrelated to the technical difficulty or otherwise), and since memorability is important with music like MH's, it is an important factor.
     
  14. ConvergeNerd

    ConvergeNerd Member

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    Their best work yet. I've heard some call this album overrated. How? The songwriting is flawless. Back to their roots. No, even better than their debut, dare I say it. I have yet to hear an album more essential to the NWOAHM than this.

    9.5/10
     
  15. ryknows

    ryknows New Metal Member

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    ^ ^ ^ ^

    i agree this album is amazing, not quite on par with brn my eyes but a great album none the less, solid songs, packed full of great riffige, loving the leads as well..epic shit \m/
     
  16. Alasdhair

    Alasdhair Creator of Crumpet Metal

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    I'm stuck mid-way between the "This is the best album in the entire world" and the "This album sucks" camps... There are some very strong tracks on this album, most notably "Now I Lay Thee Down" which is my favourite track from the album, but "A Farewell to Arms" just drags on and on... I mean, it's a step in the right direction, just not quite big enough... I expect bigger things are still to come from this band, they just aren't here yet. 6/10
     
  17. combustion07

    combustion07 Weed and Metal baby!

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    I'd give this cd about a 4/5.
     
  18. harvestofsorrows

    harvestofsorrows New Metal Member

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    im seeing these guys in october. The CD's about a 3.5/5
     
  19. Tbass17

    Tbass17 New Metal Member

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    Machine Head have become one of my favorite bands not only on their albums but also live. They never cease to amaze and 'The Blacking' shows them at their height of musical ability.
     
  20. TheWyvern

    TheWyvern Member

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    yes they are playing to their ability. Thats kinda the point, is their best really good enough? I personally feel that it's very much open to debate and therefore an interesting subject to talk about.
     

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