Machine Head

Unto The Locust

Written by: AP on 25/10/2011 23:03:09

Many people undoubtedly wondered how Machine Head could ever surpass the brilliance of "The Blackening" on future albums, the "Supercharger" era nu-metal debacle still fresh in their memories. On that album the band forged a perfect balance between raw, unapologetic power and giant walls of reverberating melody, and established a status as one of the most respected and revered metal bands of our generation. Not surprisingly the expectations for their latest opus four years in the making, "Unto the Locust", have been a mixture of eager anticipation and looming dread.

It turns out that any such fears were completely unfounded as soon as "I am Hell (Sonata in C#)" sets the table with its blinding speed, blanketed fury and eye-widening technicality. Main man Robb Flynn was never afraid of combining the unbridled aggression typically associated with thrash with a big anthemic chorus and allowing his songs to flow in whatever direction feels most organic, and evolve into all-encompassing progressive behemoths. This song is a prime specimen of his songwriting prowess, and like every other song on the album, it only gets better as the minutes clock in. In fact that statement can be ascribed to the album itself as a whole, as "I am Hell (Sonata in C#)" is for all intents and purposes but a humble beginning to an album in which even minor faults are few and far in between.

Rather than writing a safe sequel to "The Blackening", Machine Head live up to their reputation with an album that sounds more like its successor. Both "Be Still and Know" and lead single "Locust" resemble the more melodic outtakes from it to be sure, but bode riffs that have twice the thickness; leads that soar twice as high; and singalongs and calls to arms that are twice as empowering and memorable. Until, that is, "This is the End" ascends from a beautiful acoustic intro to unleash an astonishing tremolo lead backed by deafening blastbeats, building up to an absolutely monumental chorus citing the words "this is the end / this is the end of chasing dreams gone by / everlong is this goodbye and this / this is the end / this is the end of our respect denied / stand with us or stand aside".

But even so it is not until "Darkness Within" that the full extent of Machine Head's capabilities becomes apparent. Quite frankly it may be the best song the band has ever written; a heartbreaking account of Flynn's struggle to deal with the pressures of simultaneously being the head of a family and one of the world's most beloved metal bands. This snarling epic features a level of fragility, and showcases songwriting on a hitherto unparalleled level; its bare nakedness and cathartic quality are certain to make "Darkness Within" not only a fan favorite and live staple on par with, if not more so than "Davidian" and "Halo", but also a modern classic in its own right. It is Machine Head's personal "One".

The only downside of its magnificence is that it eclipses the following two songs, "Pearls Before the Swine" and "Who We Are" to some extent, but only in the same sense as "Master of Puppets" and "Reign in Blood" cast a certain shadow over "...and Justice for All" and "South of Heaven". The former is one of the heavier songs on the album, casting a spotlight on the equally impressive talents of four-string maestro Adam Duce and virtuoso skinsman Dave McClain, and as such it is sure to strike a chord with fans that list "Imperium" and "Left Unfinished" among their favorite songs, while the latter comes across as one of the most couragious songs Machine Head has ever written, featuring Flynn's children providing some unusual guest vocals in another tribute to his family and a reflection on the tough decisions he faces every time his band is set to embark on another extensive touring cycle.

"Unto the Locust" is a stunning display of heavy metal, both in the contemporary sense and in line with many of the albums we consider immortal classics today. It cements Machine Head's status as one of the finest metal bands in existence, widens the gap between them and the countless other metal bands that can only dream of writing music as convincing, heartfelt and hard-hitting as the seven songs featured here, and is likely to find its way into the top tier of many an albums-of-the-year list. It certainly looks like it will crown mine.

10

Download: I am Hell (Sonata in C#), Be Still and Know, Locust, This is the End, Darkness Within
For the fans of: Chimaira, DevilDriver, Metallica, Pantera
Listen: Myspace

Release date 27.09.2011
Roadrunner Records

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