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This album is overrated by many and underrated by others. I can safely say I’m middle ground. While it isn’t bad, and it definitely is Machine Head’s best album (to date and probably till the end of time) and shows the potential the band initially had before they stripped themselves of it – it suffers from rabid inconsistencies and poor songwriting.
Absolutely everything is simplistic here. The ultra-fast, sonic riffs of Vio-lence are completely missing, and the band also sounds haphazard and tired. The solos, whenever they occur are absolutely nothing to scream about. The drumming is decent but underwhelming. Vocally, Robb Flynn has a hardcorish bark but his inefficacy doesn't detract from the music here. On a lyrical level, this is quite a different MH from modern MH. The lyrics here employ a ‘tough as nails’ image quite different from the ‘I hate you, I hate you’ mallcore nonsense MH palms off as ‘lyrics’ these days but in the end these lyrics aren’t any more intelligent than their new stuff.
The album starts off very well. Davidian is a half-thrash classic (hah!) with some ultra-heavy riffing, simple but effective song structure and a thick, raw underlying groove. Old is faster and pretty much follows in the same vein but is spoilt by that awful clean chorus. Even ‘A Thousand Lies’ is decent although it is excessively repetitive. ‘None But My Own’ is where the album sinks, what were they attempting at with this? ‘The Rage to Overcome’ is another oddball song. Then, ‘Death Church’ and ‘A Nation On Fire’ go all slow on you. I know variety makes the music better, but it only serves to ruin things when you can’t manage it. ‘Blood For Blood’ returns to the old sound and is a decent track. ‘I’m Your God Now’ is an attempt to break into the mainstream and sounds incredibly lame. ‘Real Eyes, Realise, Real Eyes’ is a completely unnecessary instrumental. The closer, ‘Block’ is much faster than the rest of the album and is in the same league as Davidian and Old though admittedly, it isn’t as interesting.
In conclusion, this seems to be quite a confused release. While it seems keen to stay in the Pantera half-thrash camp, it also meddles dangerously with Biohazard-esque riffing and there are also moments where the band goes entirely mallcore. Therefore one can say, Robb Flynn left Vio-lence for their own good as his haphazard, strange ideas certainly didn’t fit into a band of that style and would have ruined the fondness with which they are remembered today.
Verdict : Definitely MH's best, though that isn't saying much.