Machine Head

support Scamp
author AP date 27/07/09 venue Train, Århus, DEN

The announcement that Machine Head would guest the small venue of Train in Århus went largely unnoticed, and so tickets were still available on the door when I arrived. Not surprising as such, considering that Metallica were simultaneously playing their fourth show in Copenhagen and much of the Danish metal fanbase had probably gathered there instead. Nonetheless, watching Machine Head in an 800-capacity venue was an opportunity I was unwilling to miss, even if it meant three hours of lone driving each way.


Once again, support for this occasion came from the much hyped up Scamp who seem to open for just about every international metal band playing in Denmark, provided it's heavy enough of course. And once again the band's set began half an hour before the scheduled 20:00, leaving most attendees with but a glimpse of their show - which in this case was not a huge loss, rest assured. Scamp will always be there to entertain Danish concert-goers, and the band's experience is certainly beginning to shine through. What is still missing however is a level of technical prowess which would allow the band to accompany its twisted, polyrhythmic music with an equally frenetic live show. Sure, the music itself is always interesting to listen to, but when you'd rather sit down and have a beer and a conversation and let the music be in the background, there very clearly is something wrong. One song (out of the three I have the opportunity to watch) is as much as can keep me interested. Checking the time, waiting for the legends to come on.


Machine Head

Watching Machine Head shred through a dream come true setlist standing just a few metres in front of you is an experience difficult to put in words, but I shall try nonetheless. It is a rare and fantastic opportunity to experience one of the greatest metal bands of our time in a crowd-friendly (with the exception of the brutal, unforgiving security personnel for which Train is infamous), intimate setting, which is why the 800-capacity Train was unsurprisingly packed to the brim with grizzly metal dudes. It is Machine Head's first time in this city and to honor that Rob Flynn reciprocates with a welcome gift, "Down to None", a song the band has never before played live.

Gestures like this, not to mention beer-throwing contests and just constant interaction with members of the crowd create a warm, special atmosphere in which the superstars become ordinary musicians whose only purpose here is to ensure that every soul in the room feels like he is a part of something unique, something intimate. Before treating us to the aforementioned gem, however, the band obliterates everything with a fifteen-minute nonstop barrage of some of the band's heaviest material with "Imperium" opening the set and followed by "Ten Ton Hammer" and "Beautiful Mourning". Already during these three pieces we remember just why Machine Head are regarded with such respect: they compromise nothing, they are simply metal as fuck. No bullshit, no acrobatics and plenty of profanities speak for themselves, but the monstrous volume (which is nonetheless crystal clear) ensures that even the ballads carry more weight than a freight train loaded with solid lead. Nothing like the Unforgivens and Nothing Else Matterses of a certain other so-called thrash metal band.

Machine Head plays with rare professionalism whilst still maintaining a constant connection with the audience, remembering to thank us for the riotous response, the horns, the headbanging and the many moshpits that form during the band's faster tracks (like "Aesthetics of Hate"). Every comment sounds sincere and convincing, so that no one is left without the impression that these four dudes are enjoying every moment of the show as much as we are. The atmosphere is ecstatic. And when the stage bathes in red light during the touching "Burning Red" we receive a glimpse of this band's softer side, which those of you who are familiar with the band (who the fuck isn't?) are essentially what make this band's music so gripping. The transitions between quiet and loud, and the masterfully executed progressions in the band's lengthier tracks are so seamless they send shivers down my spine. These boys know how to write music.

The main part of the set ends in yet another explosive trio with "Seasons Wither", the much-loved "Halo" (during which Phil Demmel and Rob Flynn turn to face each other to play the beautiful harmonies and of course the solo in a way that, were it any other band, would feel a little corny) and "Struck a Nerve". It is then time for an encore and the highlight of the evening with "Descend the Shades of Night" (one of the best songs this band has ever written if you ask me) and of course the obligatory "Davidian", before which Flynn ensures that everyone knows when to scream "let freedom ring with a shotgun blast!". As such I have absolutely no complaints, but had the band been given a little more time, "A Farewell to Arms" and "Clenching the Fists of Dissent" would have been welcome additions to an otherwise fantastic setlist.



01. Imperium

02. Ten Ton Hammer

03. Beautiful Mourning

04. Down to None

05. Aesthetics of Hate

06. Old

07. Bulldozer

08. The Burning Red

09. Seasons Wither

10. Halo

11. Struck a Nerve


12. Descend the Shades of Night

13. Davidian

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