March 4, 2024

The Metal Den

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San Francisco Bay Area metal masters MACHINE HEAD have released Unto The Locust via Roadrunner Records in 2011. How does it compare to their most acclaimed album released in ’07 entitled The Blackening? Point blank, this reviewer is beyond impressed by the new collection of tunes – though, to be fair… it’s not their last album. What amazes me is how much ‘negative reaction’ this new CD has already received from the American metal press the past week or more. They are up in arms charging that the band has begun to follow the metalcore trend (really now?) and departed from their heavy as a cinder block groove-thrash sound that made them the ass-kicking metal assassins that we know and love. Is this The Blackening 2? No. If that’s what you signed up for… I tell you what, peeps… go listen to The Blackening album!

I can guarantee the critics who are tearing up “Unto The Locust” have never actually played an instrument. This reviewer does play music – have for over half my life, and I can tell all of you that MACHINE HEAD produce some of the most technical metal music on the goddamn planet. Without a doubt, I feel “Unto The Locust” is one of the top three releases of the year, right there with the gems turned in by DEVILDRIVER and ANTHRAX.

The CD was recorded at JingleTown Studios in Oakland, California with front man Robb Flynn handling producing chores. This dude is so intense, and you will feel every bit of that when you hear these tracks exploding out of your speakers. Lead guitarist Phil Demmel continues to amaze me with his ‘shred-your-face-off and then shit down your throat’ abilities. Cat is an utter beast on these rippers, jamming one sick riff after the next – and man oh man, are there some insane solos! Demmel is easily one of the top ten best metal guitar players alive. Yeah, though this album works on different levels compared to the more over-the-top brutality of “Blackening”, I feel it still manages to deliver an even more emotional and pissed off MACHINE HEAD than ever before. I fully believe this band is clearly the next in line to Metallica’s throne because they simply know how to write what I call “The Big Epic Metal Song” better than just about any band going today.

The mixing duties were both handled by Flynn and Juan Urteaga (EXODUS, SADUS, TESTAMENT) and let me say that the overall production quality is stellar to the point of sheer sonic bliss. The kind that makes your mouth open in complete awe at points. I simply love the opening cut “I Am Hell (Sonata In C#)”, a song essentially split into three parts. It’s both haunting and a total face smasher. What a great way to start an album… draw them in unsuspecting with softness – and then kick the shit out of them once they’re in your embrace. Now if that isn’t love for your fans, I don’t know what is. You can hear as much (or more) heart and or emotion from this group in the first three minutes of this album – and depth in lyrical content – as you can from any mainstream rock act. Tori Amos thinks her music is more emotionally powerful than the metal genre, does she? Well, I would dare the woman to try and sing any one of the powerful rockers offered up on the brilliant Unto The Locust. She would come to learn that there’s indeed a whole lot of skill – and passion- involved in the design of metal music.

MACHINE HEAD unloads one megaton blast after the next with standouts “This Is The End”, the thrash-tastic “Pearls Before The Swine”, and my personal favorite “Locust”. Flynn’s vocals throughout sound fierce enough to win points from even the most jaded extreme metal listener. Wait a minute. That’s me I am talking about, isn’t it? Well, I don’t have much more to add but that MACHINE HEAD is pound for pound one of the best heavy music acts in the world and with each new release only gets better and better. The music critics who are trashing such a legendary force will only spawn a meaner MACHINE HEAD next time out… and I for one can’t wait to hear the bloodbath of sound that emerges from these bad asses on the follow-up to the near flawless “Unto The Locust”.


[starreview tpl=16]
MACHINE HEAD – “Unto The Locust” (CD)

(Roadrunner Records/2011)

01. I Am Hell (Sonata In C#)
I) Sangre Sani
II) I Am Hell
III) Ashes To The Sky
02. Be Still And Know
03. Locust
04. This Is The End
05. Darkness Within
06. Pearls Before The Swine
07. Who We Are