Burn My Eyes, the debut album from Oakland California’s Machine Head came out the summer before my senior year in High School. I’ll never forget the first time I heard them, spending a Friday with my friends at our favorite place to park our cars, light a bonfire and throw back some adult beverages — even though none of us were really adults yet, but that’s besides the point.
On this particular November evening me and my buddies were standing around the fire listening to Pantera’s Far Beyond Driven blasting out of my Ford Ranger’s speakers, for like the umpteenth thousand time that year when another buddy with a much better system then me showed up. He was like, you gotta check out this band.
About halfway through the album’s opener “Davidian,” I made up my mind that I would be heading to the record store the very next day to pick the cd up. Machine Head was the perfect mix of the groove of Pantera and the sheer power of thrash metal titans Slayer.
In 1997 they released their follow up album, The More Things Change…, not as good as their debut, but it would be hard no matter what to match up to a debut album as great as Burn My Eyes was. On this album they started a little bit of experimenting with slightly longer songs and bits of prog influences here and there.
Then in 1999 came, The Burning Red. I admittedly liked this album when it came out, and their cover of “Messege In A Bottle” was actually pretty good, but looking back over a decade later, with its Ross Robinson infused Limp Bizkit style nu-metal influences I can’t believe I actually liked that album as much as I did.
Then came 2001’s Supercharger. Just complete garbage of an album, It just sounded like they were trying their hardest to break out and get mainstream popularity so hard on this album. I gave up on them, and so did their label (thought it was probably the label that pressured them into making such a god-awful album.)
Then just when I, and many other metal fans left them for dead buried in nu-metal mediocrity, Machine Head found themselves free of the pressure to try to write for a certain audience after the fiasco that was Supercharger and had started writing for themselves. They came back and in a huge way with 2003’s Through the Ashes of Empires and 2007’s The Blackening, two of the best metal albums ever.
That brings us to the present day and Unto The Locust. When I first heard the advanced mix of “Locust,” the albums third track, that was released earlier this summer I was scared. Had Machine Head taken a step back? Well upon listening to this album, my initial fears were way off base. The album mix of “Locust,” is far better then the version released back in June. And as far as the whole album goes, the almost 4 and a half year wait since the release of the Blackening has been worth it.
Unto The Locust, sounds very much like Machine head, but at the same time sounds almost nothing like their previous effort. There are in fact elements of both The Burning Red and Supercharger era material on this album, but not the hip hop infused nu-metal crap. The sense of melody that Machine Head found in that era, which fits in nicely with their modern sound.
The album’s opening track “I Am Hell (Sonata In C#),” is just fucking epic. It starts off hauntingly with Gregorian style chants and then breaks into brutal Machine Head riffage, followed later by monster solos and winding down with some acoustic guitar and even some cello.
“Be Still And Know,” the albums second track, opens up with a riff reminiscent of Iron Maiden and then leads into that classic Machine Head groove, interlaced with some awesome Robb Flynn / Phil Demmel guitar interaction. The guitar solos on this track alone are amazing. A total head banging anthem.
Next comes “Locust,” as previously mentioned, with a much better mix and final mastering then what was released earlier this summer. This is the track that at times is the most reminiscent of the material from their nu-metal infused third and forth albums, but not in a bad way.
The album’s fourth track “This Is The End” opens up with a classical guitar piece that reminded me instantly of Master Of Puppets era Metallica. As a matter of fact at times Machine Head on this and The Blackening make me think of what Metallica may have sounded like had Cliff Burton not been lost in that tragic bus accident.
Track five, “Darkness Within” is going to take some time to grow on me. Its not a bad track, its just different. Robb Flynn actually has a pretty good clean voice, but the way he uses it in this track is a little on the annoying side. It opens up very reminiscent of a Foo Fighters song, which while I like that Dave Grohl helmed band, its not what I expect on a Machine Head release. It’s a catchy song though and the guitar work is great, I have a feeling that after a few more listens this track will grow on me.
“Pearls Before The Swine” opens up with a classic thrash style riff and then breaks into Machine head groove mode. This track is a little different, the only way that I can describe it is that it is almost three different songs merged into one.
The album closer “Who We Are” is like a heavy metal Pink Floyd song, starting off with a children’s choir. Yes you read that right, a children’s choir. An odd choice for a metal album, but it works. Now its not the best track on the album, but it is not a bad song and is far better then any of the crap the band produced during the Ross Robinson/Johnny K produced years.
Unto The Locust has pretty much greatly surpassed my expectations. With apologies to Anthrax, and the great Worship Music, this album is probably the heavy metal album of the year. Despite clocking in at under 50 minutes, with a mere 7 tracks, this album is just plain epic sounding.
Machine Head have cemented them selves as true Heavy Metal legends, and probably the best metal band out there right now, bar none.